Paddleboarding in Jamaica and St. Thomas



Joe Pike
Author Joe Pike tries his hand at paddleboarding with Sandals Resorts in Jamaica.

From Jamaica to St. Thomas, beach resorts are getting caught up in a paddleboarding trend. And it looks like it’s here to stay.

Last month, I was the first reporter to cover Sandals’ new addition to its already robust list of water sports. Paddleboarding was officially rolled out during my stay at Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island in March. The remaining Sandals resorts in Jamaica followed suit. The activity debuts in Turks and Caicos this month, and will ultimately hit all Sandals resorts.

Royce Hanamaikai and Todd Caranto, co-founders of California-based Pau Hana Surf Supply, along with Josh Schwartz, president of Watersports Direct International and water sports consultant for Sandals Resorts Inc., hosted Travel Agent and water sports directors from its other Jamaica properties, training us in front of a crowd of onlookers that had gathered. Like the Sandals’ water sports instructors being trained with me, I was instantly hooked.

Paddleboarding is part kayaking, part surfing. The board is sturdy, so balance isn’t an issue. You kneel on the board to start with, then stand up and use both hands to grip the oar, paddling on either your right or left, depending on which way the wind is blowing. And as you paddle, you get a whole new perspective of the shoreline.

Along with Hanamaikai and Caranto, Schwartz says he had been trying to bring the sport to Caribbean resorts for a couple of years. When finally Sandals decided to take it up, Caranto says the company evaluated several board manufacturers before zeroing in on Pau Hana and the Big EZ Hawaiian boards.

“We were literally going door to door and seeing if there was interest,” Hanamaikai says. “When we came here, there was instant interest and we knew we had a winner. Everyone here was really open to the idea. I just knew the hotel had a great sense of water sports and what their guests would enjoy. From there, everything just went really smoothly, and now, we plan on having this activity at every Sandals resort that wants it.”

Paddleboarding Pioneers

On St. Thomas, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort has also expanded its complimentary nonmotorized water sports offerings to include paddleboarding.

And it’s been very popular with guests at Bolongo Bay—even first-timers. Representatives of the resort told us that guests are surprised at how quickly they become comfortable on the boards.
As with all of Bolongo Bay’s water sports, instruction is always complimentary along with the equipment. Guests can receive individual lessons from the activity coordinators and be paddleboarding in no time.

In addition to paddleboards, Hobie Cats, kayaks, windsurfers, aqua tricycles and snorkeling gear are also complimentary at the resort.

Agents should get in touch with Concierge Laura McMurry (800-524-4746, [email protected]).

The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas is a paddleboarding veteran of sorts, having introduced the activity in April 2010. And it quickly became one of the most popular water sports among guests of all ages. Most guests seemed to catch on to the sport easily in the calm waters of the property’s surrounding bay.

Paddleboarding is offered at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at no extra cost, in addition to many other complimentary activities and services. However, lessons cost $25 for 15 minutes.

The program and classes are supervised by Paul Stoeken, an Olympic windsurfer and a member of the Ritz-Carlton’s water sports department. For more on paddleboarding instructions, contact him at 340-776-9463, visailing [email protected]

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