This past trip to Puerto Rico. I saw this definition live and real. People moving in sync. Smiling. Laughing. Little words were spoken. Everyone doing their part. And this was race day. In a sport where the athlete takes on a hurdle. Alone.
Traveling to Ponce, Puerto Rico. The second largest city on the island located in the South, central part of the country. A place loaded with history. And the buildings and structures surrounding the town reveal just this.
Beyond the history and size. The city boasts something else. A bustling community of passionate people. All connected to the ocean. And linking them together.
A Historic Stay.
Landing in San Juan Friday afternoon I made my way across the island. The meandering roads wrap around the lush green mountains, which extend high into the hovering clouds. And as I made my way around the last peak. The Caribbean blue waters peaked their vibrant colors through the green valleys. Moments later I drove through a sign that spelled out P. O. N. C. E. in 30 foot letters extending across the highway.
As I made my way into the historic center of Ponce. I drove around a beautiful square. With people coming and going from shops. Talking with street vendors. A busy, yet inviting scene.
My gps directed me behind a brilliantly colored, yellow building. Ponce Plaza Hotel and Casino. Dressed with the history I’ve heard so much about. As I parked in the garage, every person whose path I crossed greeted me with a smile and a friendly hello. When I asked, in english as my spanish needs a lot of work, where to check in. I was led to the front of the building I just drove by. But this time behind the walls, revealing even more beauty. An outdoor patio with tables, palm trees and an inviting pool. This would be the spot I’d enjoy my morning coffee.
Entering into the building the vaulted ceilings and architectural style grabbed my attention. As it resembled a mix of New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina. A comfortable, yet elegant feeling.
This feeling carried on through the weekend.
Hospitality at it’s best.
After settling in to my weekend home. My phone rang. Docho, a dear friend and one of the key pieces to the Lexus SUP Team, let me know we were going to a pre race dinner. And he’d be by to take me there.
As I jumped in the car, Docho and his daughter Lorena greeted me. We sat down at an authentic italian restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal. We chatted about racing, boards and training. It was the perfect way to spend the night before the race.
After a great night sleep and a cup of coffee I started to make my way over to the event site. The race was just across the bay from where the Lexus Sup Team trains.
Another great friend and the coach of the Lexus SUP Team, Jan Porrata met me in the parking lot. We drove over to the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club where we would grab our boards. We were met there by the rest of the team and Jossette Rovira, Docho’s wife and Lore’s Mom.
This was the moment where the definition of team, mentioned above. Became something I was in awe with. We loaded our board bags and race gear into Jossette’s car. And then paddled our boards over to the site. As we arrived by water and made our way up to the board storage area. Our bags were placed on the ground and ready for us. As I glanced over to the team area, the bright green Lexus jerseys all together below two tents placed at the front row of the viewing area.
As the day went on the hospitality and team environment never faded. A team prayer. Coolers of water, food and cold beer all available. Photos from the race. On and off the water taken by parents. And each paddler received praise as they made their way across the line.
Lexus SUP Team.
Beyond the hospitality and arms wide open welcoming the team provides to anyone who passes by the tent. They also can paddle. From the groms, kids, up to the adults multiple podiums were taken. Not only are these guys true ambassadors of the sport. But they put their work in training.
I was honored to paddle alongside them and share a weekend with them. And this is why I love coming back.