When you live in the Riviera Maya your weekly activities tend to be quite different from those of my small hometown of Burrillville,Rhode Island. Friday night I received a phone call around 10:00 p.m. from a good friend of mine,Diego. I have known Diego for about 6 years now; he is one of the locals down here residing in the beautiful gated community of Puerto Aventuras. Puerto Aventuras was the very first place I landed when chartering a 75ft sport fishing yacht to Mexico (but that is a whole other story in itself,maybe next week’s blog).
Puerto Aventuras real estate is unique because it has the only full service marina from Cancun to Belize,bringing a large diversity of people to the area. Overlooking the marina are brilliant Colonial style condos topped with spanish style rooftops that give the marina a very homey yet majestic feel to it. Diego has lived here his entire life,from kindergarten through high school and he went to the School of Puerto,one of the best schools you can attend in the Riviera Maya. He was born predominately speaking Spanish but there he learned how to fluently speak English and French. From the age of 8 years old,all Diego did when he had time off from school was surf. By the time he was 20 he had traveled all throughout Central America hitting every secret surf spot that was virtually impossible to find unless you knew someone who knew someone and that someone had better be a local.
Anyway let me get back to my story,so Diego the “Surf King” gives me a call and it went something like this,“Ryan! Swell coming in at 6 a.m. Have your board ready at 5:30” click. Now I should bring you up to speed with my surfing background,this will only take a second … My surfing experience consisted of me going out one time … by myself … in the shark infested waters of New Smyrna Beach Florida and did I mention it was during Hurricane Katrina? Yea let’s just say it didn’t go so well. But I am always up for a challenge,so I agreed to go.
5:30am rolls around and as expected Diego is standing in front of my condo ready to go,enthusiastically bouncing up and down. I grab my board and we head straight to the jetty. On our way out there,Diego explains a few important details to me. First,to get into the water we have to hop over a sequence of giant boulders to reach the end of the jetty. Next,the only way into the water is to jump off of a 10 foot ledge with surfboard in hand. Finally he says with a big smile on his face “watch out for the reef”. “The reef I ask?” “Yea,the reef is about 8 inches below the water.” I replied with silence “ …….”. Still I proceed to keep my head and just follow Diego’s lead.
Finally we reach the end of the obstacle course made up of boulders,stretch for 5 minutes and get ready to take the plunge. First Diego goes without hesitation hurling himself off of the ledge effortlessly. His confidence gave me a sense of security so immediately without thinking I jump in right after. Splash! I hit the water and instantly hop on my board thinking to myself “that wasn’t too bad”. Next we start paddling. I always thought paddling was the easy part of surfing; well guess again,it isn’t,especially with a big swell coming in. Diego powers ahead as I follow closely behind. At last,after a good 10 minutes of non-stop paddling,we are out of the channel. Diego sits up on his board comfortably as if he was sitting in a chair. I find the maneuver a little bit more challenging,flailing my arms and legs around frantically just to try to keep afloat. As I finally get into the right position,Diego and I just sit there still as can be. Neither of us are speaking we are just sitting there,staring at the horizon captivated by the incredible deep red and orange colors of sun as it rises above the water. I look directly down below and can see the brilliant reef through the crystal clear aqua blue water. Something then catches my attention and at the corner of my eye I spot two adult spotted eagle rays gliding through the water right in front of me. And at this very instance,this feeling of peace and tranquility comes over me,I forget totally about catching a wave or the dangerous razor sharp reef directly below my feet … I feel totally and undoubtedly at peace.
As I’m sitting in a daze absolutely forgetting where I was,I faintly hear Diego yell. I look up and there Diego is … 6 feet above me on his board riding this giant wave and coming directly at me. As he comes carving the wave I see this giant smile on his face as if he had just hit the lotto. At that instance I felt like I finally understood surfing and what it was really all about.
I realized this without even catching a single wave…..