The Cayman Islands have become my second home. Because the island has a total population less than the student enrollment at University of Florida, it’s easy to make new friends and find a group of people that you have similar interests with. I have really enjoyed the community feel of such a small island. It’s a very social island, where you often see multiple friends while going about the day. A honk or a wave every now and then goes a long way in making you feel like you belong somewhere.
One of my best friends and previous roommate, Max Famiglietti came to visit for 10 days. He was our first visitor so we didn’t quite have a plan when he came, but we did have a massive list of things to accomplish. I ended up working almost the entire time he was here, so he spent more time with Dixie for the first few days, but once I got 2 consecutive days off of work, we hit the To Do List with full force. In just 2 days we:
– Visited Carey, a crazy old man who makes trinkets out of black coral, which is only found at depths under 150 feet, far below the recommended depth of scuba diving, especially in 1982. Carey collected the coral 30 years ago when it was legal and unprotected, after receiving word that it would soon be outlawed to harvest the rare coral. He also has one of the worlds most extensive marble collections, and claims to have the worlds largest panty collection. Carey is an ex-Hells Angel, one of the worlds most intense motorcycle gangs.
– Skated the worlds second largest skatepark, The Black Pearl
– Walked the 4 mile scenic Mastic Trail, and found remains of this abandoned house
– Visited the Cayman Botanical Park and played with rare Blue Iguanas
– Saw the Cayman blowholes, a popular attraction where water shoots out of small holes in the rocky shoreline, like a geyser
– Ate Australian cuisine at the famous Tukka restaurant and fed huge frigate birds by hand
– Scuba dove “The Wall” where the sea floor drops from 30 feet to 5,000 feet
– Rode a bicycle 50 feet underwater
– Saw a dog snapper (fish) bigger than max
– Got the best mudslide in the Cayman Islands at Rum Point
– Visited a little town called Hell, Grand Cayman. We’ve been to Hell and back
– Looked over a 50 foot cliff into the ocean at a secret spot called Pedro’s Bluff
– Went kiteboarding
– Taught max how to do a back flip
– Enjoyed the island’s best happy hour at Dolphin Discovery
– Drove around the entire island
– Snorkeled for conch and lobster, found 5 conch, and 1 lobster, but let it go because she had thousands of eggs
– Had a conch cookoff between Max, Dixie, and I (which I won)
Kiteboarding is a sport that I am very intrigued by, as a result of my loves for sailing and wakeboarding. I was very excited to be involved in a kiteboarding contest called The Rock International Open here on Grand Cayman. Wakeboard Cayman, was a sponsor for TRIO, and we ended up being one of the more important sponsors of the event. Unfortunately for the competitors and event organizers, there was no wind on the contest weekend. Fortunately for Wakeboard Cayman, we had a plan B: Make it a wakeboard contest! I competed in the wakeboard contest and took 2nd place behind Billy Parker, one of the legends and original founders of freestyle kiteboarding. I was honored to share the podium with such an influential athlete.
Getting to spend time with the TRIO kiteboard competitors was absolutely incredible. We share the same passion for travel, adventure, adrenaline, speed, and board sports. I immediately respected the professional kiteboarders for their extreme level of skill in such an awesome sport. One of the craziest things I have ever done with a wakeboard boat was a kiteboard maneuver called a tow up, where you essentially turn the kite into a parasail, and tow the kiteboarder up behind the wakeboard boat by holding onto the handle. We tied 4 wakeboard ropes together, and towed Eric Rienstra behind our boat, to over 150 feet high. When he let go of the wakeboard rope, he fell slowly, supported by his kite. All of a sudden he hit a low pressure region similar to feeling turbulence in an airplane, and free fell for about 40 feet. I thought I was about to witness a new friends death. All of a sudden his kite caught wind again, and he slowly circled down towards the water. Lucky for me, I was the only person around with a gopro, and a DSLR camera, so I have some of the only high quality documentation of the tow up. A week later, a magazine called What’s Hot, the most printed publication in the Caymans, asked if they could use my photographs for the cover of the magazine. Obviously I was stunned, and honored!
Both of the above pictures were taken from 2 different points of view, within seconds of each other. That little black dot is Eric, over 150 feet above the water.
Every week I look forward to two nights: Open gym, and Open Canvas. Open gym is where the local gymnastics center opens the facility to people who want to come and enjoy the gymnastics equipment for an hour, every Monday and Wednesday. Open Canvas is an event that my good friend, JR, setup to promote creativity and free expression at a local restaurant, Karoo. Open Canvas and Karoo are located in a beautiful new mega-complex called Camana Bay, where you can shop at high end retail stores, eat at world renowned restaurants, live in apartments, pull your boat up to the marina, and so on. Camana Bay is it’s own little world of interesting architecture, great food, and regular events. Open Canvas is an opportunity for artists of all experience levels to enjoy the process of artistic creation, by providing painting supplies for those who are interested in painting. It is a social scene for some, and a new hobby for others, like myself. They even recruited Dixie and I to paint on much larger canvases for an up coming event.
Random wakeboard picture. This trick is called a raley, and is one of my favorites because you feel like you’re flying.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with how this trip and internship are going. I love the island, I love my job, I love my girlfriend, and I love my life. I am in a very positive place right now, and I hope that everyone has the opportunity to experience something like this, at one point or another. Not to mention, Gator basketball is ranked first in the country, and the UF Wakeboard Club is ranked 2nd in the country, with hopes to win the 2014 USA Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals in June. Life is more than good. Time flies here, like nowhere else, and I think they even made a road sign for us…