Looking at Dome's Beach from El Faro Park

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Puerto Rico Surf History

Cindie Rice Collection
I've recently come across a great Facebook group, Aviones Boys, that has an amazing collection of photographs of Rincon and Puerto Rico from the sixties to the present. The page is dedicated to Puerto Rican surfing and seems to grow with added posts daily.  Of particular interest to me are the pictures of Rincon in the 1970s, pictures showing, palm lined beaches with very few structures, even the hills above the beaches are incredibly bare of development.  The surf pilgrims in the pictures are staying in ramshackle places and beachfront shacks, climbing the trees for coconuts and catching their own fish and lobsters.  We still do this here in Rincon, but mostly for fun, not for sustenance, the paved roads and well stocked colmados make life a bit easier, but when I hear people complain about the long drive from San Juan or poor cell phone coverage, it really makes me realize how spoiled we are here now.
The 1968 World Surfing Championships held in Rincon was the door that opened to bring the first wave of surfers to the island, but Puerto Rico already had a growing surf culture.  Jorge Machuca is the man most consider to be the first great Puerto Rican surfer and his legend started as a 14 year old boy in those 1968 World Championships in Rincon. He was featured in all the advertisements and articles leading up to the contest and did not disappoint, amazing the crowd and his fellow competitors with moves they had never seen,  floating on waves before anyone knew or even thought of doing it.  Jorge went on to be sponsored by Hobie and surfed around the world, but also influenced a new generation of Puerto Rico surfers including Edwin Santos and Carlos Cabrero.
Around the island, the surf culture has grown and the Aviones Boys group has great pics from Aviones to Jobos to Gas Chamber and Tres Palmas.   Photos showing Maria of Marias beach, cockfighters in Rincon, old pictures of the Rincon town plaza, the nuclear reactor being built, Surfer's Beach in Aguadilla with a sign stating that surfing was "only allowed under the auspices of the Surfer's Club Association by order of the base commander".  Looking at the size and shapes of the surfboards, the shorts and bikinis the people wore, it was a different world.
Nostalgia is often used as an argument against progress and I can see why as I look into the lives of the people who came to Puerto Rico in these days and found a place that was in a time warp when compared to the 1970s US.  The beaches were undiscovered and underused, the locals were kind and eager for contact with others, surfing had already happened in the states but here it was still a novelty, there were only a couple surf shops on the entire island.
Some may see a negative impact on Rincon from these tourists to what Rincon is today, but I believe it's been positive.  I would say most of the Puerto Ricans in Rincon have come to respect the old timer gringos who have been here awhile and made it their home.  The ones who have come and gone have brought their love of Rincon back to the states.  An unchanged Rincon is impossible, but a true appreciation of the beaches and water that are the lifeblood of this town is what these old timers brought and that has remained here and grown.  To the ones who stayed, Cindie Rice of Calypso, Dennis Rich at the Pool Bar and others who have the memories to look back upon, thanks for sharing.

1 comment:

  1. What year did Doña Maria pass away? I was last there in 1969.