Sunday, April 22, 2018

Surfing Lessons with Bud

After surfing at Pleasure Point on our own, I setup a two hour two-person private lessons with the Surf School of Santa Cruz. I had to re-schedule a few times (due to high surf), but finally settled on Sunday, April 22.

We arrived a bit early (the lesson was scheduled for 10:00am), arriving around 9:20am (before the shop was open). The owner was there soon and we picked our wetsuits. I had a 3mm Billabong while Alex had a 4/3mm. The owner suggested 9' ft boards to start with for both of us. We loaded up the van and headed to Pleasure Point (a couple of blocks away)

At first, we were shown the proper surfing technique on land and did many practice pop-ups.

We were given the following surfing instructions:
  • Pop-Up
    • Stand up by first putting the right knee down and then the left leg up
    • Keep the legs far apart for balance
    • Keep the knees bent
    • Arms should be separated for balance
    • Watch where you are going
    • Wherever you look, there you will go naturally
  • Paddling
    • Keep the nose from sinking
    • Keep the legs together
    • Kick for additional speed (when trying to catch a wave)
  • Speed when on a wave
    • Accelerate by moving forward
    • Slow down by moving backward
  • Small Waves
    • Move forward to get speed quickly
  • Larger Waves
    • To avoid going too fast (and falling off), move back quickly
  • Right of Way
    • Surfer riding the wave closest to white water has the right of way
We caught many waves and had a great surfing. I had many long rides and it was fun to ride the same wave with Alex. We did much better with the longer, foamy boards than we did on our own the week before.

After we finished surfing, we returned all of our gear and stopped by for some pizza at  Pleasure Pizza for a slice of Popeye (spinach, feta, tomatoes) and Santa Barbara (mozzarella, artichoke, parmesan). Alex had the Pepperoni slices.

We also stopped by the downtown RipCurl store to pick up 4/3mm Dawn Patrol wetsuit for Alex in medium and two 8' Wavestorm Surfboards at Costco ($99/each). We were told by our surf instructor that they were a good deal for beginners learning to surf.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sharks vs Ducks Stanley Cup Playoffs

When I was offered to attend the Sharks vs Ducks Stanley Cup Playoffs (Game 3) for free, I jumped at the chance.

As I have never see an NHL playoff game live, I was not quite sure as to what to expect.

I arrived a bit early - around 6:30pm - and found some nearby paid parking for $15 under the I-880 bridge. I walked to the SAP Center (there were some periods of heavy rain). I quickly got inside and tried to find some food to eat. I did not like most of the choices and eventually settled on a burger.

As 7:30 pm game time was approaching, I found the elevator to take me to 4th floor and the box where my seats would be.

There was plenty of burgers, chips, wine, and beer in the box (I could have skipped ordering food earlier).  The Sharks fans were in force and very loud. I was one of the few people NOT wearing a Sharks jersey.

Our box was full of food and have multiple TVs to see the action closer! There were sliders, sandwiches, cheeses, dips, and lots of other snacks. I liked the chocolate covered marshmallows. The salad was alright.

It was fun to watch Sharks absolutely destroy the Ducks 8-to-1!

There was a "mandatory" fight between the players.

I enjoyed the playoffs and hope to see another NHL game in the future.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Surfing Pleasure Point

After surfing in Sayulita Mexico, Alex and I decided to try surfing in Santa Cruz. I found a well-regarded surf-sport called Pleasure Point in Capitola and a nearby shop to rent gear - RipCurl (on 41st avenue). The rental prices are a bit high - $25/board and $20/wetsuit.

We rented two NSP 60 fishes and a wetsuit for Alex (I had mine own) and walked downhill to the Cliff Beach surf spot. The surf looked rather high - 4-6 feet, but we were eager to try out the new boards.

The ocean water was a bit cold - especially on the exposed hands and feet - but I got used to it after a while. Paddling into the surf took some practice on the shorter fishes. Balancing oneself was definitely more difficult.

My first focus was to learn duck diving. Due to their buoyancy, my board was difficult to duck dive and I ended up doing eskimo rolls instead. They were also much more difficult to get planing - perhaps were were not ready for the shorter boards.

We spent a few hours trying to catch waves and avoiding being overwhelmed by some of the huge monsters barreling down. I had a couple of rides but I was never able to stand more than a few seconds (before falling).

After surfing, we stopped by for a slice of pizza at the local Pleasure Pizza (which served thick crust pizzas). It looked a lot like Pizza My Heart in Los Gatos - complete with hanging surfboards and surfing photos. The pizza is quite different from the thin crust version in Pizza My Heart but still delicious.

We also stopped by for a quick bite of ice cream at the Penny creamery in the nearby.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rhythms of the Night - Savia

In the late afternoon, we took a short taxi ride to Vallarta Adventures, where we boarded boat #4 for the one hour sail to Las Caletas, for the Rhythms of the Night - Savia dinner and show.

When we arrived on shore in Las Caletas, we saw a few people dressed in interesting costumes.

Drums were being beaten, calling us to dinner (I presume).

We were guided to our table for three, after which we got in line for the buffet. There were many delcious items, including many salads, fish, meats, and desserts. All were delicious and expertly prepared.

I filled up my plate and went back for second and thirds!

There were wondering musicians walking around and singing and playing for us. It was very nice and romantic. Here is a short video recorded on my Canon G7x Mark II:


I did not know that portable harps existed or that they could be played so well!

After dinner, the bell rang and called everyone to the show. We did not purchase priority seats but were still able to get fairly good viewing of the show.

I recorded parts of the show with my Canon G7x Mark II. Here is a video of this recording:

The show reminded us a lot of Cirque du Soleil, with lovely acrobatics, dancing, fire throwing, and numerous other stunts. We really enjoyed the whole Mexican Mayan pyramid scheme.

There were many interesting costume, some from the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Overall, the show was fantastic and we would gladly see it again.

On the way back to Puerto Vallarta, we were entertained by our crew with lip syncing performances of popular American bands. It was such a great ending to our Puerto Vallarta vacation.

Jet skiing and boogie boarding in Nuevo Vallarta

When we were finally able to find a working ATM (not especially easy in Mexico), we took some additional money out for jet skiing.

Here is a GoPro Hero 4 silver video I recorded of our jet skiing in Nuevo Vallarta, off the beach of Villa del Palmar Flamgos hotel:

On the beach at Villa La Estancia, the cost was $1100 pesos for 30 minutes (or $ 60 USD per 30 minutes). Last time Alex jet skied at Lake Tahoe and he really enjoyed it. This time at Nuevo Vallarta, we also had a fun jet skiing session.

Alex and I took turns riding the jet ski on the beautiful Bay of Banderas. Afterwards, we rented two boogie boards to surf some waves.

We enjoyed catching the small waves on the beach.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Swimming with Dolphins

Inna was looking forward to swimming with dolphins in the wild, and she scheduled a half-day session with Mexican Ecotours for Tuesday, April 2. We departed our hotel at 7:50 am for the Puerto Vallarta Marina, where Ecotours is located.

When we arrived there, we checked in and were given snorkeling gear. In addition, we were also shown videos about dolphins and whales in the area. At around 9:00am we boarded the boat (they were a total of 6 of us plus 2 crew).

Melissa (our guide and marine biologist) explained some of the main features of the Bay of Banderas and told us about the many different kinds of dolphins and other marine animals that leave there. We motored for about an hour when we encountered a small pod of dolphins. Since one of the dolphins had a rope on his dorsal fin, Melissa called in for help, to see if someone could help to rescue the dolphin. We stayed in the area for a bit, until help arrived, and then continued on to another area where more dolphins were spotted. Inna and the rest of the passengers went for a swim, to see if they could encounter the dolphins but I stayed on the boat.

Inna did not encounter any dolphins and we proceeded to another snorkeling spot, off the coast. When we arrived there, the water was fairly rough with low visibility (quite murky). I didn’t think one could see anything in it.

After picking up our snorkelers, we headed back to port, arriving around 2:00 pm. Since we ate some sandwiches on the boat, we were not hungry (though there were many interesting restaurants just around the corner). We returned back to our hotel and stayed partially in our room – as it was extremely hot outside.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Surfing in Sayulita

In the morning, we decided to skip breakfast and head for the famous surf town of Sayulita. It was known and a hippy heaven with lots of surf and yoga shops (at least that’s what we were told). Alex and I had plans to surf on the beach (though the surf forecast promised small waves).

The taxi ride from our Villa La Estancia Beach Resort and Spa in Nayarit took about 40 minutes at a cost of $300 pesos (about $17 USD).

When we arrived, we were quite hungry, so we decided to get a quick breakfast and the nearby breakfast joint called ChocoBanana.

Alex and I had a real home-made Mexican breakfast bowl, while Inna selected a delicious Mexican omelet.

She also tried chai with milk but it was too sweet. Alex drank the Mexican hot chocolate, made with real chocolate. After breakfast, we headed through the downtown to the beach.

On the beach, we rented an umbrella and three chairs from a Mexican lady vendor – there were dozens of vendors offering chairs, umbrellas, pineapples, nuts, etc.

Since the waves were small, I decided that we should try stand up paddle boarding (SUP) first. The first surf shop - Lunazul - was out of SUPs, so we proceeded to the one nearby (Stand Up Paddle Mexico). We rented two SUPs at $190 pesos per hour (per board).

Here is a GoPro Hero 4 silver video of my SUPping at Sayulita:

The first board I tried was too small for me, so immediately exchanged it for a larger, 10'6" model. Eventually, Alex also swapped his SUP for a larger model. The 10’6” SUP worked well for me.

After spending one hour stand up paddle boarding, I took a rest break, while Alex continued to try surfing the small waves. There is a small part of the beach, which is extremely rocky, and both Alex and I were cut up on the rocks, when we surfed there. I returned both SUPs to the Stand Up Paddleboard Mexico shop and everyone rested a bit under the umbrella. After another hour, Alex finished his paddle boarding and looked a bit tired.

By this time, the beach was overflowing with beach goers; I have never seen it so crowded! Being a bit hungry and thirsty, we tried some fresh coconuts and peanuts on the beach from local vendors. They were quite delicious! Alex still wanted to surf, so I decided to rent a couple of surfboards, while Inna went around exploring the town.

I rented two surfboards at the Lunazul Surf School, and we were off surfing. We were immediately doing much better and I was able to surf 4 waves. Alex also was able to catch a few waves and was much happier with his progress. After about an hour, Alex got stung by a jellyfish, so we decided to stop, and returned all the gear to the shop. Lunazul staff poured some vinegar on Alex’s hand and it helped to heal the irritation. By this time, Inna returned and we decided to eat dinner at Sayulita, before returning to our hotel.

We walked around looking for open restaurants, but many were closed (despite showing as Open in Yelp). Inna finally settled on an organic restaurant named Ino Laboratorio Gastronomico and we sat there.

We ordered some drinks and chips with guacamole & salsa for our appetizer. The chips and salsa were really amazing! Inna ordered Chicken with Mole sauce for her main entree, while I selected the Lamb. Alex selected a Margherita pizza with pepperoni. All of the food was fantastic and relatively inexpensive.

My ribs were so delicious! Alex raved about his pizza being one of ten best he ever ate. Inna also commented on the mole sauce being so delicious!

After dinner, we stopped across the street at the Wa Kika ice cream shop and tried a couple of unique Mexican flavors, like jack fruit (which I really liked).

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Enjoying Las Caletas Beach Hideaway

After eating a breakfast at the nearby El Patron Mexican restaurant in Villa del Parmar Flamingos, we boarded our taxi for the short ride to Vallarta Adventures in Nuevo Vallarta (a 15 minute taxi ride).

After checking in at Vallarta Adventures lobby, we purchased the additional flyboard activity for Alex  ($39 extra) and waited for our turn to board boat #6 for Las Caletas Beach Hideaway. The boat first travelled to Puerto Vallarta to pick up additional passengers, an then traveled another 45 minutes to Las Caletas. (The boat ride each way took 90 minutes because of a stop in Puerto Vallarta).

We were entertained onboard with the fun crew of Boat #6 – Alan and the gang. We also were offered plenty of margaritas, rum punch, and soft drinks. We arrived at La Caletas at around 12:30 pm.

We were scheduled to have lunch at 12:30pm, followed by a number of scheduled activities. We were seated at a table and had a nice selection of Mexican specialties, including multiple salads, chicken, beef, fish, guacamole and chips.

The guacamole and chips were especially delicious! (Much better than our hotel’s!)

After lunch, we rushed for the 1:30pm Encounter with Animals. Inna, Alex, and I all got to experience a squirrel monkey on our shoulder.

In addition, we also held Macaws and small parrots.

We took turns holding birds and monkeys.

After these encounters, we headed for the beach, which had multiple activities setup. There was kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and lots of swaying hammocks.

Here is a GoPro4 silver video of our kayaking, paddle boarding, and other fun:

At first, Alex tried the SUP, while Inna and I tried the sea kayak.

There area to paddle was quite limited, so we were bored of this activity quite quickly (There was also a long line to get these). Nearby was the fly-boarding (which Alex had reserved for 3:30pm); it looked lots of fun.

Finishing with these beach activities, we headed for the Teen Adventure Cove. There were a couple of very unique, somewhat extreme activities available for Alex and I: the Blob, Zip-line, Step Up, and the Slide ‘N Fly water slide.

Alex tried the Step Up activity first. In this particular event, he has to step up on narrow tree stumps up to a soaring height. Alex started out fine, but stopped two thirds of the way through, as he was scared (despite wearing a harness). Eventually, he overcame his fear of heights and made his way to the top.

Finishing this, we decided to try the zipline as the extreme water slide was closed (due to low tide). The zipline started at the top of a cliff and finished on the water. Unlike most ziplines, this one was moving really fast. Alex went first, followed by me. I hit the water fairly hard – it was a like a huge jolt – and was quickly unhooked.

Here is a video recording of Alex's descent on the zipline:

The next activity was the “Blob”. I didn’t ‘really understand it, until I saw Alex get thrown up into the air 10-15 feet. He said that it was quite scary! It was my turn to go next and I jumped onto the inflatable tube and crawled to the end.

Here is a Gopro Hero4 Silver video of Alex trying "The Blob":

Then, one of the other operators jumped onto the other end. I didn’t know what to expect and was completely surprised by the sensation of being thrown upwards into the air like from a canon!

Here is a GoPro Hero4 video recording of my encounter with "The Blob":

I did an inadvertent back flip. It was quite an unusual experience.

Finishing these activities, we rushed to the beach, for Alex’s fly-boarding session at 3:30pm. In fly-boarding, the jet ski provides waster thrust to a small device that one wears on one’s feet, that allows one to fly over the water. Alex quickly figured it own and was able to fly around quite well. He almost looked like the Green Goblin from Batman.

Here is a short video of Alex's flyboarding:

Finishing with fly-boarding, we decided to get some rest in the multiple hammocks on the beach.

We rested there until Boat #6 came back to pick us up (They were about 30 minutes late). The ride back was fun and entertaining, as the crew of boat 6, did many lip sync impersonations of popular bands, including ZZ Top, Wham!, Prince, and Bruno Mars.

We returned home quite late – around 7:30pm. We were quite tired but exhilarated from our Las Celetas trip.