In my travels, I’ve met a lot of jaded ex-patriots. They moved to a country 10 or 15 years ago, and it turns out that whatever attracted them to this land also attracted other people. Between the influx of other ex-pats and tourists, the place has changed, and they’ve likely made a living on that (or at least tried to). But they’re still bitter.
Owner of 321 Takeoff School of Riding Waves, Marcus Boehm, a German who moved to the Dominican Republic over 20 years ago, is not jaded at all. In fact, he's the exact opposite. He’s the guy who should be flipping real estate in the hills while his employees handle his surf school. But instead, he’s still out in the blazing sun, teaching people to surf and loving every minute of it.
Each year, he runs a contest called Master of the Ocean, where watermen compete in surf, kitesurf, windsurf and SUP. He speaks passionately about the locals he employs, as well as the surf.
“So many waves. It’s a choice to surf with other people in the Dominican Republic,” he said of the lack of crowds.
He gives the beginners in our group a tutorial on the beach and then takes them out. His lessons don’t have a time limit. You’re done when you’re exhausted.
Boehm was one of the first surfers to really set up shop in the D.R. He still runs his surf school -- and everything else for that matter -- with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm. This week, he happens to be hosting a surf camp of young Dominican girls.
As he explains it, going to the beach has not always been part of Dominican tradition. And teaching kids to swim was something that only families who were well-off enough to have spare time could do.
Hence, many locals don’t feel a connection to the ocean, even though they live on an island surrounded by warm, blue sea. And when people feel a connection to the natural surroundings, they are more apt to protect it and keep it clean. This is Boehm’s way to give back to a people and a resource that have allowed him to live the life he wants.
We didn’t expect much surf in June. The swell turns on later during hurricane season and stays more consistent in the winter. But there was a one to two-foot wave coming through, enough for a log cruise, or the young Dominicans to throw up some spray.
Wind is an issue, but according to Boehm, there’s usually a wave somewhere in the D.R. And today was a fun introduction.
Because the wind is so relentless, the Dominican was a world-class windsurf destination. When that sport began to drop off, kiteboarding came along and brought back visitors from around the globe.
We saw dozens of kites out when we stopped into Extreme Hotel in Cabarete for lunch. Thought the name suggests there might be a cheesy “Dan Cortez suite” the concept is anything but.
They cater to surfers and kiteboarders, but also have a full gym focusing on cutting edge fitness, a circus training facility, pool and yoga studio (that happens to face the ocean). Half of the food served at their oceanfront Casa Mami restaurant is produced at their own aquaponics garden (fish fertilizing crops; interesting stuff) and a farm they own in the nearby mountains.
Everything is based on health and community. After lunch, we enjoyed a yoga class with Marissa to loosen up from the morning surf and took turns getting schooled on the trapeze.
And again, everyone we come across continues to be extremely enthused. Zero jaded.
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