Paddling Culebra

Earlier this spring, Will Saylor journeyed to Puerto Rico for a wedding and some waves. With his Carbon Playa in tow, Will ventured to remote beaches to ride the surf and relax, SUP style.

Culebra is a beautiful jewel of an island seventeen miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Two of my good friends originally planned to marry there in the winter, however, the wedding was rescheduled for springtime due to the terrible destruction in the region caused by a series of hurricanes.  

Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, I had seen, read, and heard of the vast damages caused by the storms – but viewing the damage in the flesh and talking with local people about it was a powerful reminder that recovery efforts continue even as the story fades from the news. It was difficult to see the lingering effects of this destruction, yet I hope that my visit helped support local people and businesses while they continue to recover.

After landing in San Juan we took a taxi to the much smaller airport in Ceiba on the east coast of Puerto Rico. From there we hopped a small plane for a twenty-minute flight and arrived in Culebra. The wedding was held at Culebra Beach Villas on Flamenco Beach, which a small collection of homes rented and owned by a local family.  

In addition to being a fantastic backdrop for a wedding, Flamenco Bay offers amazing SUP paddling options. We traveled with the Hala Playa, which was a breeze thanks to the roller bag, as well as Hala’s travel carbon paddle.  After unpacking, I immediately hit the water to explore.

The bay is relatively sheltered from the predominant wind and swells, especially on the east side.  You can find large coral formations to explore and snorkel right off the board. The middle of the bay offers a nice beach break. It provided small, but fun and very surfable waves during our stay.  The west side of the bay offers public access with great people-watching, a couple of food and souvenir stands, and old munitions left from the time when the US military used the island as a base.

On two occasions I snuck away from the group to paddle around the rocky point on the east side of the bay to check out Resaca Beach.  Access to the beach from land is limited – you have to take a long, steep, and rocky trail. Fortunately, my Hala Playa is lightweight and packable and perfect for this type of adventure.

The beach was empty and pristine both times I visited. While Resaca beach is not as sheltered as Flamenco beach, it still receives pretty heavy surf with a strong undertow. The beach is covered in beautiful shells and lined with palm trees. Picture perfect!

Before I could blink, the week was over. Our friends are now happily married, and we packed our bags to head home. I would be remiss to not emphasize how much fun and convenient it was to have the Hala Playa with us on this trip. Everyone, from young to old, tried and rode the board. The young kids on the trip especially loved playing on it in the sand and in the shallow waves near the beach.

We still have so much of Culebra to explore and will definitely be back! Maybe next time we’ll bring a Milligram and explore the bigger surf break at Brava beach, or charter a boat to nearby uninhabited cay Culebrita and paddle a Hala Nass around so I can snorkel the reefs and explore the abandoned lighthouse.  

Will Saylor is a team rider for Hala Gear.

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