SYLVAN McElroy scored on his recent Puerto Rican jaunt. As the tired chiche says, a photo tells a thousand words, judging from this image Tres Palmas could probably deliver a thousand cuts as well. Spotting the charts lighting up the Floridians packed their bags and made the short hop down the Caribbean to the Atlantic Ocean’s own North Shore.
Located to the northwest of Puerto Rico, Rincon’s deep-water trench focuses the swell energy before it unloads right down the reef. Says Sylvan. We were worried it might be too late in the season for large waves but the forecast just went nuts. A storm system coming down from Canada grew in strength near Nova Scotia and sent a strong swell south marching down the Atlantic. The entire east coast experienced large waves and by the time it hit the Caribbean on Friday, March 27, it was going off. I must say coming from Florida, it was the first time in my life I have ever searched for smaller waves to personally surf.
We were there a few days before the swell hit so we got to see and hear everyone talk about the approaching event. A thunderous crash woke me up around 4 am. on Friday. Sixteen seconds later it happened again and I realized the swell was beginning - I could hear Tres Palmas firing from my bedroom nearly half a mile away. At first light this was the view from the hilltop on Highway 413, a spot that later that day would be comparable to a box at a sporting event.
On Friday the swell peaked at 25 plus feet with an occasional 30-foot bomb would coming through. There was a crew on jet skis towing guys in as well as a few dozen guys attempting (some successfully) to paddle into these monsters. The tow guys were having a blast as this unknown surfer sets up for a large wave rolling in at Tres Palmas. The swell was breaking in several sections both right and lefts giving lots of opportunities for both the tow in riders and the brave few willing to charge it by paddling.
This was the biggest swell of the winter and the largest waves they had seen since a 40-foot swell 12 months ago. The atmosphere in Rincon is special when a swell is arriving. There’s a buzz amongst the population. Surfers and non-surfers alike congregate at the beach to watch the show. And nature can throw a good party when she wants to.
Being a resident Floridian photog and surfer, 20 plus feet of Rincon power was slightly more than we’re used to in New Smyrna Beach.
Before visiting we’d heard stories of localism, the ugly side of surfing and how certain breaks could be dangerous to non-locals. This trash can was the most unfriendly local we encountered. What we did find were plenty of friendly people both in and out of the water.
Puerto Rico is an amazing destination for photography. It’s so rare for the conditions to come together perfectly and when they do it’s difficult not to capture some great surfing moments. The hardest part was getting close enough or a good angle. I climbed a tree on the beach at Tres Palmas to have a shot that was a little better than the other option of being further away up on a hilltop.
As the swell dropped we found some little gems starting to work. Here an unknown surfer prepares to pull in at Dogmans. We found this spot, situated between Maria’s and Tres Palmas to be fairly uncrowded. It’s a hollow wave that breaks over a shallow rock reef.
One of the best waves around, Maria’s, a friendly right-breaking reef. Sunset here provides a great backdrop for a silhouetted surf shot and this local adds a twist onto the traditional exit.
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