Sunday, March 9, 2008

World Kiteboard Competition In Playa

The first PKRA (Professional Kite Riders Association) event of 2008 was held in Playa for the fist time from March 5th through March 9th at Mamita’s Beach. The best kiteboarders in the world were on hand and they put on a great show. A variety of wind and weather conditions made each day a little different. I made it down for a couple of hours each day and I can tell you, these young people are amazing! Both freestyle acrobatics and course racing were on the schedule and front row seating was available to everyone on the beach.

The first day provided warm weather and light but consistent winds that averaged between 10 and 14 knots. These winds were not strong enough for a freestyle event but were good enough for a triangular race course event that began at 2:45 p.m. with an average race time of 15 to 20 minutes per race.

The second day provided enough wind for the freestyle competition to be held and possibly the most noteworthy item was that the 14 year old women’s world champion Gisela Pulido from Spain was disqualified when her kite became entangled with another rider’s kite. This 14 year old young lady cannot be more than 80 pounds soaking wet and believe me she was soaking wet all the time.

Day three brought a lot more wind than day two, averaging between 20 to 25 knots. The wind, along with an unusually strong current made it tricky for the riders to stay upwind. The riders would launch out from the beach but would end up having to come ashore after a couple of minutes and run back up the beach with their kites being controlled in one hand and carrying their board in the other. Some of the women had some help from some of the men riders but the entire ordeal looked absolutely exhausting. The high wind and the rough seas provided many a rough spill for a lot of the riders. I was surprised that a few even got back on their boards.

Day four was spent waiting for the wind to arrive. When it did, it was not suitable for competition because it was blowing offshore instead of onshore and thereby made it difficult for the competition to be held close to the beach because of what they call wind shadows caused by buildings and trees close to the beach. Competition was called off at 4 p.m. and the course racing event finale was scheduled for early Sunday.

The weather deteriorated on day 5 and the sun failed to come out for the first time during the competition. Light, early morning winds gave way to northerly breezes around 10 am and the course racing and the freestyle events were concluded. I really don’t know how it all wrapped up or what the final standings were but I’m told there was $40,000 in prize money to be awarded so I’m sure it was important to the competitors. I just enjoyed the show.

There was another kiteboard competition in Playa a couple of years ago but it was not a World Kitebord event. I enjoyed watching it as well but it didn’t compare t this years event. Even though I know absolutely nothing about this sport it was captivating to watch up close. The riders, the international competition, the camaraderie and enthusiasm of young people engaged in a relatively new sport, the staging area where riders and kites all mix together and even the crowds that gathered to watch made this a really memorable experience for me. The pictures can tell the story of this event much better than I can. I hope they all come back next year and do it again! In the meantime, I'm going to buy a better camera.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mahi Mahi, Mangos And Marinade

Our son Matt was down recently for a vacation so he and I decided to do a little fishing. For one reason or another, we ended up in Akumal to begin our trip. We had been in Akumal the day before and had talked with Chino, who would be our guide and arranged to go out the next morning at 9 am. Since Chino lives in Playa del Carmen, I suggested that we would just pick him up at 8 am at his house the next day and we would ride down together.

We arrived in Akumal on schedule, picked up a few snacks and headed to the boat. The bay here in Akumal is something to behold on a calm morning. We walked along the bay for about 15 minutes while Chino and our skipper prepared the boat and the equipment. Chino carefully attached steel leaders and fresh bait to each of the four rods we would be using. He also hand sharpened all of the hooks we would need for the day. The boat itself, called a lancha down here, was a small open boat with an equally small canvas cover to provide some shade. The boat was equipped with a 40 horse outboard which proved to be more than adequate. The lancha was spotlessly clean and obviously well maintained. Nonetheless I was pleased to see lifejackets readily accessible all around.

We had agreed to pay $120.00 for a three hour tour, a three hour tour. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the lancha would be lost, the lancha would be lost. Whoops! Sorry! Too many Gilligans Island reruns. We did in fact however agree to pay $120.00 for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

Actually the bay was perfectly calm as we slowly motored out and Chino pointed out a few small sea turtles as we headed for open water. We ended up only 3 to 4 miles offshore and within easy sight of land and bobbing along comfortably in 2 to 3 foot swells by that time. There were a few other boats within a mile or two of us but no one seemed to be getting much action. Chino let out our lines and we sat back to enjoy the scenery. After about twenty minutes Matt and I both saw an incredibly fast moving streak of water crossing behind our boat about 30 yards out. The next moment found one of the four rod tips dipping forcefully towards the water and we had a fish on! When fishing for mahi mahi, the bait is actually pulled along the surface of the water in full view of the occupants of the boat. If you are watching carefully, you can often see your fish approach and strike. Matt was first in line for a chance to catch something and after about 30 minutes, Chino hauled aboard a beautiful 20 pound or so mahi mahi much to our delight. After putting out our lines again we had another fish on in fairly short order and this time it was my turn with nearly identical results as the first fish.

We trolled around another hour or so without any more action but Chino did spot two absolutely huge sea turtles which he motored slowly over for us to see. I truly thought as we approached that we were looking at two overturned boats. I had no idea they could grow so large. Unfortunately I did not get my camera in time to get pictures.

Back in Akumal Bay, Chino filleted our fish, packed them in ice and sent us home with enough mahi mahi for eight or nine meals (with guests). We grilled some of our fresh mahi mahi on the barbecue that evening after marinating it for about 30 minutes in the following:

2 large cloves of chopped garlic
1/3 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons of basalmic vinegar
¼ cup of fresh lime juice
¼ cup of orange juice

Mince the garlic, add the other ingredients, mix thoroughly and add the fish. I wouldn’t marinate the fish for more than 30 minutes as the marinade will overpower the fish.

This marinade is great with grilled chicken breasts as well and you can add a minced jalapeño or two if you want it spicy. You can also marinate the chicken for a couple of hours if you like.

I also made a very quick and easy mango avocado salsa for the fish:

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 jalapeño chili finely chopped
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 avocado diced

Mix all the ingredients except the avocado and refrigerate. Add the avocado just before serving. This is a very good and simple salsa.

We had a great fishing trip with great results and the price to me was very reasonable. Chino did a great job. If you would like to go out with him, I’m sure I can get you in touch.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What Is A "Vulcanizadora" Anyway?

Got a flat tire on the Jeep the other day. Not totally flat, just a nail and a steady leak. Actually found a Goodyear store out near the highway after a relatively short search time. Although they informed me they could not repair the tire for safety purposes (I had never heard this before), they would certainly enjoy replacing it with a new one for me. I opted for some air in the tire and a further search for a Vulcanizadora (tire patch repairman). After driving the obligatory time required for searching for new things, people or places, I spotted a large, worn out tractor tire with the word “Vulcanizadora” sloppily hand painted around its circumference in large white letters.

The Vulcanizadoras shop was nothing more than a rundown space located between two other equally ramshackle and non-descript buildings. Pulling into the slip, I observed my ersatz tire technician and what I assumed to be his girlfriend in a somewhat sensual embrace. Neither of them seemed to be overly concerned or pleased about my arrival. Although I was parked only a few feet away from them, they paid no attention to me whatsoever. As I waited patiently in my car for some form of recognition, their embraces became more arduous and passionate. Feeling uncomfortable as well as somewhat embarrassed but not willing to go in search of another Vulcanizadora, I decided to wait them out. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity for me to read my Jeep owners manual while waiting. After five or ten minutes of titillating reading about tire pressures, roof racks and engine capacities, I suddenly felt my car shaking up and down. Okay, get your minds out of the gutter, it was not the Vulcanizadora and his girlfriend although at first, I too wondered. It was the Vulcanizadora and his trusty jack. Having spotted the leaky tire, he set upon its repair with great vigor, not bothering to consult with me before he began. Using his pneumatic air hammer to remove my lug nuts and tire with one hand and chomping down a sandwich of some sort with the other, he quickly removed the tire and carried it to his workbench, continuing to eat as he worked. I was never able to determine whether the one hand repair job was an effort to impress me, or merely an act of efficiency or multitasking. Not being all that familiar with efficiency or multitasking here, I chose to believe it was primarily to demonstrate to his girlfriend that he could change a tire and eat at the same time. Expanding on this theorem, one could assume that he could eat and do other things at the same time as well. The girlfriend did not seem unduly impressed and I noticed she began to apply some additional makeup as he finished up the repair.

The entire repair from start to finish not counting waiting time took only five minutes and cost 50 pesos. There was also no worrisome mention by the Vulcanizadora of any safety factors to consider like I received at the Goodyear store. I liked that. The overall experience was not exactly like Les Schwab Tires back home but not bad for down here and oddly enough, on the whole, rather pleasant. As I backed out of the driveway, the Vulcanizidora grabbed another sandwich in one hand and placed his other arm over his girlfriends shoulder. She smiled seductively at him and he winked at me and nodded as I drove away.

By the way, Vulcanizadora is now one of my favorite Spanish words and I say it aloud whenever I see it written, especially when I am eating and “Cupcake”, my wife, is with me. However, for some reason, “Vulcanizadora” just doesn’t do the same thing for her that it does for me!

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