Rincon is located on the west side of Puerto Rico and is a favorite weekend destination for both islanders and visitors. A large population of US expats enjoy the laid back island life and a bohemian vibe. It’s a mecca for surfers. Shirtless men with long-hair coast through the streets on log boards between when they aren’t catching ocean waves.
The Corona Pro Surf Contest is the Association of Professional Surfers of Puerto Rico’s 2nd event of 3 for 2016-2017, which determines the APSPR Men’s and Women’s champions. This year, a field of more than seventy-five contestants include competitors from the US, the Caribbean, Central and South América competing for cash prizes and bragging rights.
While organizers hope to get high surf and challenging conditions that northerly swells throw at Domes Beach this time of the year, the waves are less than ideal. The crowds, however, are exceptional.
Ample female curves stretch scant bikini straps. Men rock chiseled, tattooed torsos. People tote loaded coolers pass a line of idling cars. New arrivals are corraled into a rolling cattle field and park at trecherous angles to eachother. The party atmosphere at quickens pace, meandering from edge of town to a frenetic pace close to Domes.
The energy is electric. Flesh is packed tightly along a narrow sliver of beach, under tents, and in chairs. Bodies splayed on sandy towels restrict navigation. Most people are stationed for the day with family and friends. The old and young mix without division. Everyone is family. The only place to stroll in a straight line is along the water’s edge where the ocean breaks over foot. DJs alternate thick base lines and upbeat dance riffs from their vaulted podiums and the crowds pulse along.
For food and drink, go to the Surfer’s Village. A makeshift marketplace is set up to feed and loosen up the crowd with icy tropical cocktails.
Hamburgers sizzle on a grill, wafting a fatty vapor across the market but it’s the pinchos that I am after. Pinchos are kebabs: marinated, skewered meat cooked over an open fire. In Puerto Rico, they are traditionally chicken or pork.
I join the line to get myself one, and like most things on the island, it moves at a leisurely pace. But it is well worth the wait and they’re only $3 a pop. The skewer comes fresh off the grill where hundreds of them spit juices over the angry coals. Each bite sends juice over my chin: garlicy and well-seasoned, with a hint of citrus. The meat is tender and seared perfectly. Someone has supplied a bottle of sriracha at the counter, which is not so traditional, but a much welcomed addition.
Pineapples are hand drilled, filled with fresh pina coladas, and topped with coconut shavings. I pick up a cup full of the sweet golden pineapple core. It is juicy enough to quench the fire from the sriracha on my pincho without a beverage.
We watch what we can of the surfers, but the waves are weak. After the winners are brought to the stage and announced, we amble back towards the car to beat the crowd or at least some of them.
Next stop: El Major de Rincon. This is an open-air restaurant with a packed bar. Seats open up at the bar while we wait for a table. I sip on passion fruit juice while my friends drink Coronas and Mojitos.
Fish tacos, burritos, nachos, and ceviche.
Mahi Mahi, Shark, Wahu, Stingray, Conch.
I get the Mahi tacos and a Lion Fish empanadilla. I have heard about the invasive Lion Fish becoming a delicacy in the Carribean, and I can’t wait to try it. I’m down on my quota for fried food this week, so I happily greet when the crisp flaky pocket of seafood goodness. The meat is mild and delicate mixed with simple seasonings wrapped in a bubbly brown crust and crimped at the edges.
The Mahi tacos are also spot on. I order the grilled version, topped with fresh greens, diced tomato, and crispy tobacco onions. A creamy cilantro aoli brings creaminess to the salinity of the fish and a bite of acid from a lemon wedge. I only wish I had two more.