Sandals Resorts across Jamaica are gearing up for a "March Madness" of their own as employees and guests get set to wet their feet in the world of paddleboarding, a new offering by the all-inclusive giant that is sure to be an instant addiction among water sports junkies.
And Travel Agent was on hand to be the first to try it out.
Royce Hanamaikai and Todd Caranto, co-founders of the California-based Pau Hana Surf Supply, along with Josh Schwartz, president of Watersports Direct International and water sports consultant for Sandals Resorts Inc., hosted yours truly at the Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort and Private Island in Montego Bay, Jamaica last week. The three-man crew attracted a large audience as they passed the craft along to myself as well as water sports directors from the other Jamaica Sandals properties.
“The coolest thing about it is seeing all the people who line up to watch. There is always a big audience,” Caranto says. “People are just curious. They see people basically walking on water and wonder what we are doing.”
I consider myself pretty athletic, but balance and water usually make me look like I’ve had too many Red Stripe beers. Just ask the folks at Cap Juluca in Anguilla how my little water skiing lesson went two years ago. But these surfer dudes made me look like a professional in just five minutes. If only golf worked that way.
And like the water sports instructors from the other Jamaican Sandals Resorts that Hanamaikai. Caranto and Schwartz were training the same day, I was instantly hooked.
|From left, Josh Schwartz, Watersports Direct International and water sports consultant for Sandals Resorts Inc., and Royce Hanamaikai and Todd Caranto, Pau Hana Surf Supply.|
So much so that I took up Hanamaikai and Caranto on their offer to be among the first people to ever paddle board down Jamaica’s famous Martha Brae river. Sure, I may have taken a few nasty spills, but in my roughly 16 or 17 times visiting Jamaica, this will definitely be one of my fondest memories.
“The most satisfying thing is seeing how fast people usually catch on to this,” Schwartz told us. “In five minutes, they are doing something they probably never imagined doing in their whole lives.”
The best way to describe the sport is if kayaking and surfing got drunk, hooked up and conceived a child. The board is vertical as opposed to surfing. The board is extremely sturdy so balance isn’t an issue. You kneel on the board, stand straight up and then use both hands to grip the oar, paddling on either the right or left side, depending on which way the wind is blowing that day.
Schwartz says that he, Hanamaikai and Caranto have been trying to bring the sport to Caribbean resorts for two years until Hanamaikai and Caranto literally began knocking on doors in Jamaica when Sandals bit. Caranto says Sandals evaluated several board manufactures and then chose Pau Hana and the Big EZ Hawaiian board.
|Author Joe Pike take his new-found paddleboarding hobby to the Martha Brae river.|
“We were literally going door to door, just knocking on doors and seeing if there was interest,” Hanamaikai told us. “When we came here, there was instant interest and we knew we had a winner. Everyone here was really welcoming to the idea. I just knew the hotel had a great sense of water sports and what their guests would enjoy it. From there, everything basically just went really smoothly and now we plan on having this great activity at every Sandals resort that wants it.”
The program at Sandals is expected to be launched to Sandals Royal Caribbean guests this week. After that, it will be rolled out at the other Sandals properties in Jamaica. The program will come to Turks and Caicos in about a month and then throughout the rest of Sandals’ Caribbean properties shortly after.
“I really think the Sandals brand of water sports is really different than any other water sports offerings at other resorts,” Schwartz says. “And Sandals is really the first resort to officially brand its water sports. Those ‘Sandals' logos on the boards aren’t stickers. That's the real thing. I don’t think any other resort is branding their water sports the way Sandals is. It’s really exciting to be a part of.”