For the most part, I play a behind the scenes role at Darby Communications. My day consists of crunching spreadsheets, making personnel decisions and guiding the ship into the future. Fortunately, last week I had the distinct pleasure of vacating the office and accompanying our very talented Cory Van Auken to Puerto Rico for a press trip, you know…to lend a hand. ;) This amazing trip, hosted by the very innovative Johnson Outdoor Watercraft, reserved nothing for the imagination. It had it all – a remarkable Airbnb, epic kayak fishing, mangrove exploration, paella for days and best of all – superb people. It was an honor to be a part of this exceptional trip and I thank Johnson Outdoors for having the vision (and the patience) to resurrect what I believe is the most important work we can do – and that’s investing time into building relationships.
The trip roster consisted of journalists from coast to coast; we had two powerhouse outdoor writers in from Northern California (@lesliehsuoh, @thegearcaster), we had our expert fisherman from Cape Cod (@kevinblinkoff), we had our adventure travel expert from Nashville (@theadventureblog), and our emerging outdoor writer from Asheville (@welchm13). They travelled long and far to experience the best that Puerto Rico has to offer, especially from a kayak. Day 1 began early with a departure time of 5:30 am. With the Shimano rods packed, our van descended through central PR in route to Patillas for the best Caribbean fishing the area could offer. After receiving instruction on the Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal and the new Old Town Topwater PDL, we rigged our boats for a big morning on the water. We pedaled (so efficient...I’m definitely a convert...why not use your largest muscle group to cover some area?) out across the reef and worked the waters around the break. These remarkably stable boats held their own in the swells and never once did I fear capsizing. I was amazed at the maneuverability and the joy of pedaling, which provided me the freedom to swiftly cruise around the break and explore the reefs. I tried fishing from the kayak too. As beginner’s luck would have it, I pulled in a Lizard fish on my 3rd cast. No documentation, but the experience has tempted me to get a rod! Barracudas, Tarpon, Groupers, Snook, you name it, our crew landed it!
Food in Puerto Rico is tasty and our guides knew exactly where to take us for the most authentic Mofongo and Paella on the island. Lunch beachside was one of those special "pinch me" moments where we all toasted to the success of the morning and our incredible guides, Jose, JJ and Ernesto for sharing an insider’s perspective with us. After the food coma ensued, we set off for a remote area of the island called Punta Santiago to learn more about the ongoing efforts to rebuild post-Maria. Sister Nancy and her team at PECES shared with us what it was like to live through Maria and how the rebuilding efforts are coming along. She encouraged us to share with our communities back home that Puerto Rico is very much open for business and ready for tourists. The resiliency of Puerto Ricans was apparent around every bend in the road – people of all generations working together to repair homes, schools and the general infrastructure.
The second day of our trip began with a tour of the historic Old San Juan. With its Spanish influence on full display, the brightly colored buildings, cobblestone streets and ornate architecture was a joy to tour. This historic city was quaint, lively and definitely worth a repeat visit. I was captivated by the memorials and amazed to learn that the island was under siege by the British and Dutch over 200 years ago. With the assistance of a remarkable fortress, the Puerto Ricans held their own back then as they do today.
The afternoon took us to Fajardo, a picturesque coastal town on the eastern side of the island. Here, we pedaled through a mangrove forest to Laguna Grande, one of only five bioluminescent bays in the world. Once the sun set the pixie dust waters came alive. These tranquil inner coastal waterways were home to some of the best fishing on the trip. The volume of fish caught was epic and our crew was all smiles. This was a magical afternoon and night complete with exceptional street fare and our customary Don Q mixer. I think it was after midnight by the time we all called it a day.
To Johnson Outdoors, Leslie, Amy, Michael, Kevin, Kraig, and our kickass hosts, JJ, Jose and Ernesto, thank you for the great adventure and fond memories. Truly a spectacular way to do business, but more importantly what a stellar way to spend some time with amazing new friends. Until the next Mofongo!
#pedalnotpaddle #adventureliveshere #mofongofordays #oceankayak #oldtowncanoes #naturefirst #astralfootwear #aquatech