Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cabarete Reef Video

OK, first of all...I've found that the GoPro camera makes the waves look A LOT smaller than they really lie. So this video isn't really that rad and doesn't do the Cabarete reef wavesailing any justice. Here is an example...check out this still photo I captured from the GoPro footage -

Note the size of the whitewater against the windsurfer behind me. This was after the wave built up and broke. The whitewater is about chest high to that sailor (and I'm on that same wave) but the waves before breaking were getting up to head high that day and that wasn't the biggest day that week. You would never know this by watching the helmetcam footage alone. Also, that sailor in the picture was a lot closer to me than that shot indicates. That's a result of the wide-angle lense. You'll see in the video he comes in from upwind of me on the same tack and makes a downwind move on the wave and scoots down behind me. We barely missed each other but the video makes it look like he was far away.

Anyway, I'm not trying to build it up so much except to prove a point about the GoPro camera not depicting the real size of the waves, swell, chop, and distance to other sailors. Even my past GoPro lake sailing footage makes the lake look totally flat when in reality there was some decent chop. In this Cabarete video there is a clip of me jibing on an ocean swell face. The swell was pretty big but you can't tell at all in the video. I'm not complaining...just an observation. The last half of this video is a complete run out through the reef, past it into the big blue ocean, jibing, and coming back to catch some waves. OK, enough about's the dang video (3 1/2 minutes)...enjoy because it really was fun out there!

Cabarete Reef from WaterTurtle Productions on Vimeo.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Final Thoughts on Cabarete

We're back home and rested. Some final thoughts on Cabarete and a few final pics:

- Sailed 5 straight days mostly on 5 meter sails. On the 6th day it was very light so I took my daughter out on a big board and we played around, plus I went for a SUP paddle. The final and 7th day, the wind came straight onshore at around 15mph and was very overcast which wasn't very inviting so I passed and hung out with the family.

- Overall, great windsurfing spot as I mentioned earlier if you like bump & jump, big ocean swell, and onshore reef wavesailing. On small swell days, it can be fairly flat on the inside. With big swells, there can be quite a shorebreak. The reef (coral) was about 4 ft deep at its shallowest below the waves so it was generally safe to ride aggressively. On the biggest day of the week, the waves were reaching well overhead and I hear they can get bigger on larger swells. In my last post, click on the reef windsurfing pictures I took from long distance. Notice the height of the waves compared to some of the sailors. Although I paid some dues, the waves were user friendly and didn't thrash you too hard if you fell as they sort of crumbled on themselves instead of throwing big tubes. The interesting thing was doing the wavesailing so far from the beach instead of right there at the beach. I'm a reasonably skilled windsurfer but I don't have a lot of wave experience. So it was a good and fun challenge for me and it gave me more confidence for attacking the waves again in the future.

- Yes, Cabarete is a very big kiting place. However, most of the kiters were concentrated well west and downwind of us at "kite beach". Click on one the kite pictures from my last post and you can see how many kiters were out there. Kite Beach also has their own large reef to play in which I understand is pretty shallow. There is an unwritten rule that kiters aren't supposed to play at the reef where the windsurfers are. However, that rule was broken consistently by about 3-4 kiters each day. It wasn't really a problem for me since I'm used to windsurfing around kiters but one did get in my way on a wave...he fell and I had to go around him and miss the last half of a nice wave ride.

- The weather was great. Low 80s during the day, and around 70 at night...very comfortable and not overly hot. The water felt great. We had a couple of showers at night and on the morning of our departure. There were some mosquitos and no-see-ums so you needed to have the bugspray around at night but it wasn't too bothersome.

- The one big negative in my opinion and something I wasn't aware of - the beach vendors. Every day, every hour, there was someone coming up trying to sell us something....fruit, hair braiding, massages, wooden carvings, newspapers, cookies, etc. The same people over and over coming up to us. At first I was real irritated but after a couple of days I settled into the "irie" island vibe, relaxed, and we started striking up friendly conversations (thanks to my friendly wife) with them and got to know a few of them. And yes, we bought some stuff including a beautiful handcarved wooden waterturtle. Still though, I wasn't a big fan of the constant barrage each day.

- We arrived on the last day of Semana Santa (April 12th), a very popular holiday in Cabarete. It had been a week long celebration that included parties all day and night on the beach with restricted windsurfing access because of the crowds. We were warned about this by Vela which is one reason we arrived on Sunday versus that Saturday. We talked to some folks who arrived on Saturday and they said there were thousands of people on the beach and they partied very loudly well into the wee hours of the morning. There were 5 concert stages being taken down on Sunday and Monday after we arrived. Although there was an effort to clean the beach after the celebration, there sadly were many trash remnants that remained the entire week we were there.

- The food was mostly good - LAX, Voy Voy, Cafe Pitu, Pomodoro, Onnos, and La Casita were all good. We stuck to all the restaurants on the beach within walking distance. They all had seating on the beach so you could sit there with your toes in the sand. However, unless you had the local Dominican chicken dish every night (120 pesos = about $3.50), it wasn't nearly as cheap as I was led to believe. The Presidente beers were about 90 pesos apiece. Aside from the inexpensive beer and local fare, many dinners ended up costing almost as much as other islands we've been to. This was mostly due to the 16% tax they put on the bill. Many of the bars/restaurants turned into live music spots or discos at night and there was consistently a young crowd there to party until very late.

- Cabarete Palm Beach Condos was a nice place and family friendly. There were other families there. Of course, the kids loved the pool which was a saving grace at times. It was mostly quiet except you could hear some thumping music late on Wednesday night coming from down the beach at one of the bars.

- Vela was awesome. Great equipment selection and great atmosphere for just hanging out to eat/drink as well (Voy Voy). They also had great beginner equipment and SUP boards/paddles. The staff was friendly and knowledgable. It was less than 5 minute walk from Palm Beach Condos.

- We did not rent a car, nor did we do much exploring which is a big departure from most of our trips. We told ourselves that unless the wind didn't blow, we were going to just stay at the beach. There are many other things to do there such as surfing, mountain biking, hiking, canyoneering, waterfalls, river kayaking, wakeboarding, national parks/forts, etc but we didn't do any of that, except for the one morning of surfing with my daughter. It was a small regret that we didn't do more exploring but we sure did relax. If I hadn't sailed 5 days in a row, I'm sure we would have done more. And it was nice to be able to walk everywhere...all the restaurants and shopping right there. Its recommended not to venture too far into the interior of the Dominican Republic as there isn't much in terms of infrastructure or medical help and its supposedly not safe after dark.

- I have friends who went there in the early 90s before there was much there and it was much wilder. It is still a little bit of the "wild west" there...which is appealing to some folks I suppose. There were shotgun wielding armed guards placed at certain spots (outside banks and some hotel entrances) and I noticed some prostitution. However, we felt very safe at all times.

- Although Palm Beach Condos supposedly had "filtered" water, we brushed our teeth with the bottled water that was provided and kept our mouths shut when showering. We also tried to stray from iced drinks and raw leafy vegetables, although that wasn't foolproof. Both Kris and I had some minor stomach aches and one of our kids had a 3 hour bout on the can but it passed after that. We met a family whose 14 year old had spent 2 days sick and throwing up. You just have to be careful what you eat and drink there like you would in any other Latin American/Caribbean country. We proactively packed prescription medicine for treating bacterial issues in case we got it real bad.

- There were many French and German people there. We met a few Canadians and Americans, including some very nice couples from Washington, Minnesota, and Colorado that I think may now come and vacation in the Outer Banks based on my recommendations. Most of the locals knew some English. It wasn't too hard to communicate if you knew a few key Spanish words and were good at using your arms and hands :-)

As you can tell in the pictures, its a very beautiful place. Overall, a great vacation and highly recommended if you liked what you read and saw here and can deal with some of the things I pointed out.

I'll post the GoPro helmetcam video of the reef windsurfing in the near future.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Waves Got Bigger

Cabarete morning 4/15/09 update - I got worked pretty good on Tuesday as the waves at the reef were bigger than Monday and it was another windy day. They were getting over head high. I went for a swim after getting separated from my gear but "no problema" as I just relaxed and got to my gear, waited for the big sets to rumble on my head, found the lull in the sets and waterstarted. I was however, also able to catch some good ones and have fun out at the reef despite the bigger wave size and my inexperience in them. I had my GoPro helmetcam with me for part of the afternoon session and thought I had some great footage of a complete ride out through the reef, jibing out in the open ocean, and riding waves back in....but for some reason the clip stopped before I even got to the reef. I need to figure out what's going on with my GoPro...its being fickle on me.

In the morning, we went to Playa Encuentro, the surfing beach a few miles away. I paddle surfed while my daughter had a surfing lesson. She wasn't a big fan of the coral reef bottom (as opposed to our sandy bottom beaches back home). But she persevered and caught a few small waves. I caught one good wave before I went in to help her out.

Vela Windsurf is top notch...great equipment and they even had some super glue for me to apply to the one dang blister on my hand. The food at their adjacent bar/restaurant (Voy Voy) is also very good...we ate at their Dominican buffett last was delicious.

Room With A View

Still working on my duck gybes...not there yet

On the new Neil Pryde Firefly 5.4 sail and JP/Australia 101 Freestyle Wave board. I liked the Firefly...nice power. I tried and didn't like the Combat wave sail..not enough power for me. I think I'm just used to having more power from all the lake windsurfing.

The Locals

The surf camp at Playa Encuentro

My daughter surfing

me doing a little bit of stand up paddle surfing

Monday, April 13, 2009

We're here...Cabarete

Made it to the Dominican Republic...and was already windsurfing a couple of hours after we got off the plane on Sunday in light 15 mph wind. Sailed 2 hours today on 5.7 in stronger winds.

The windsurfing is great here if you like bump & jump, big ocean swell, and side-on waves/wind. This is probably the closest type of conditions we have back home in coastal oceanside NC/SC when its windy so I'm getting some pretty good practice for those rare (rare for me) ocean days back home.

Taking my daughter surfing in the morning. I have the whole family here with me and we're enjoying it, albeit quite different from other places we've been...I'll explain later....gotta go. Here are a few pics:

Warming up...this is in front of our place...nice grassy area and palm trees for shade -

One of the locals getting ready to launch into one those crazy freestyle moves I can't pronounce. The local kids were out in force today and were pulling off some serious freestyle moves -

Like my purty purple sail with the twinkle? -

A half mile in front of me is the reef where the onshore wind waves are....lots of fun out there riding waves backside and jibing on wave faces -

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Death Cab for Cutie & Cold War Kids

Death Cab for Cutie and Cold War Kids rocked Davidson tonight. Sorry...we missed opening band Ra Ra Riot. Great show but if you go to a concert at Belk Arena, get on the floor out front...the sound is so much better there.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Post work sesh & "local" wavesailing update

Got in a post work sesh today. Gotta love daylight savings time. Was fully powered on my 5.4 and my 100lt board (I'm 200lbs in wetsuit and harness) in WNW 20-30mph wind.

Here's Tommy coming in for a smaller board & sail...the wind was picking up -

Donald on a speed run -

Last Friday, Sullivan Island Dave reported nice side-off down the line wavesailing in light winds and waist to chest high waves on his 5.3 and SUP board at Isle of Palm, SC.

On the same day, Alan and Donald trekked down to Kure Beach/Fort Fisher/Corncake Inlet for some solid wavesailing along with local Brian on 4s/5s. We all love Hatteras but this spot is 2 hours closer than Hatteras and easily can be made in a day trip. Here's Donald smacking a nice wave - great shot taken by Alan that I lifted off the Charlotte Windsurfing web site. Go there and click on Donald's wavesailing photo to see some more pics. Also check out the forum section for some great pics taken by Donald.

Going to Caberete, Dominican Republic next week. I think our place has wireless internet so I hope to be posting fairly regularly with some updates.