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Rum Cay: The Best Kept Secret of the Bahamas
By Jesse Cors/Liquid Surf and Sail
You can find kiteboarders all over the world. It seems like virtually every ridable place has been conquered and written about either online or in print. Our signature is on every continent and in almost every country on the planet. We have kited exotic places like Alaska, Korea, Cambodia, New Caledonia, and even Antarctica, so it’s hard to imagine that a location with warm water, steady wind, pristine beaches, and long consistent waves with a mix of reef breaks and soft sandy bottom barrels has so far been home to only a single kiteboarder. You heard right: Just one person has ever kited this magical place. That is until now…
A little over three years ago I met Bobby Little, owner of Sumner Point Resort and an all-around waterman. He told me about his island and some insane stories of surfing clean barrels, catching seven-pound lobsters, spearing 30-pound grouper, and kiting butter-flat water that he enjoyed all to himself. He recounted stories of the occasional passing sailboat crewed by a few surfers but never any kiters. I couldn’t believe such a place existed and had so far been overlooked by the entire kiteboarding community, so I pitched him an Idea I had been holding for many years about operating an extreme sports resort consisting of free-diving, kitesurfing, shark feeding, skydiving, surfing, ATV tours, stand up paddleboarding, spearfishing, and anything else that involved a mix of island, saltwater, and adrenaline. Like most great ideas, this one was born over a couple of drinks. About six months later I received a phone call, and in his island dialect Bobby simply said, “Jesse, remember that thing you were telling me about the extreme sports stuff? Let’s make it happen.”
I couldn’t pull off the first trip myself so I called the craziest kiteboarding trip organizer I know, my long time friend Neil Hutchinson, to help make this pipe dream a reality. Before we could drop into this venture we needed a few key elements. First, we needed a jump-plane and pilot. No problem. A few phone calls and several emails later we found what we were looking for out of Skydive New England in the form of a Cessna 206 and a scruffy young pilot named David Hanks. Next, we needed a photographer. I thought hard as I scrolled though my phone book. Bingo! Jason Arnold, pro surfer and renowned underwater photographer. I thought to myself, “Damn, this is easy!” Next, we needed to assemble a group that could not only kite but also knew how to skydive. We all know Kiters that can crossover to snowboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, and fishing, but what about skydiving?
The result was the First Annual Rum Bum Boogie, consisting of ten guys, five girls, a pro photographer, well known skydivers, kiteboarders, surfers, and some just plain crazies. The trip was on! But wait! Having been so caught up and excited we forgot to ask ourselves the all-important question. Is this even legal? Can we just lease a plane, fill it with a bunch of adrenaline junkies, fly out of the U.S. to a different country, and tell everyone to jump out over an island in the middle of the Bahamas? The short answer is no! Apparently it’s completely illegal to have unsanctioned bodies falling from the sky without notifying the Bahamas Civil Aviation department. Usually this involves submitting a ton of paperwork, jumping through a few hoops, cutting some red tape, and reciting the alphabet backwards as fast as you can while balancing a midget sitting on a chair on your head. However, luckily for us Bahamas tourism feeds off promotional events like this and hosting this style of trip which had never been done before sounded exciting to them. A few emails to the Bahamian Aviation Controller Office and Bahamian Tourism plus a signature here and a signature there landed us a waiver excluding the Bahamas Government from being sued if one of us became fish food. Approved!
Our group departed from Fort Lauderdale around 8:00 a.m. and 45 minutes later touched down in Nassau where our layover was to be about an hour but soon turned into two and then three hours. Finally five hours and a few Kaliks (Bahamian beer) later we boarded a twin prop island hopper on our way, but not before truly learning what it meant to be on island time.
Our accommodations consisted of a few beachside cottages punctuated by a restaurant on one end and a two bedroom house on the other. A normal day on Rum consists of a little work and a lot of play, so after waking up some of us grabbed a few paddleboards to go hunt for conch and do a little fishing while the rest of our group took our trusty vessel, Rock Steady, out for a little diving for some lunch. After we loaded up the coolers we would drive the short trip to the airport to jump out of our Cessna in the standard issue Rum Cay dress code: boardshorts, tank tops, and sandals. After falling from 10,000 feet we would land on our private white sand beach, trade our skydive gear for our pre-rigged kites, and hit the water pumped full of adrenaline.
We sessioned in a huge protected salt pond where the ancient relatives of the locals used to harvest salt both for food and trade. We practiced all the freestyle we could handle before heading out to the reef for a little surfing. Lunch was the morning’s catch – fresh-caught conch prepared fresh from the coolers on the beach. As we left our secluded landing areas by boat, we trolled for Wahoo and dove for dinner. Seven-pound lobster and 30-pound grouper are the norm, so much so that you can a catch huge lobster in six feet of water with only a pair of shades, as Bobby proved to us on one of our many water excursions.
As the sun went down the marina would come alive. That’s when the dinner bell rang for the man in the grey suit. While we cleaned our fish and conch we got the opportunity to hand feed a few of the locals. Then someone thought it would be a great idea to skydive into the marina and dip our toes in the water where the sharks were being fed. The crowd issued a unanimous yes. Who could turn down such a genius idea? So we did, landing on a small spit of a sandbar in front of the marina that was a really tight landing. If you undershot you were in the water with the feeding sharks, if you overshot you were in the water with the feeding sharks. That was motivation enough for everybody to make a spot on landing. Afterwards, as if that wasn’t daring enough, we set out to go shark fishing from the paddleboard to see if it would give us a ride. Jason Arnold hooked onto a seven-foot bull that ended up dragging him about 100 yards before taking a bite out of the board and leaving three teeth behind as souvenirs. When the moon came out we set blaze to Rum’s own ‘Burning Man’ that Bobby built out of rebar and stuffed with dried coconuts. The air was filled with stories of the day’s events, and, of course, plenty of rum. The day’s catch was prepared at the Into the Blue restaurant, the chef non other than our host Bobby Little. This was our lifestyle for six days and every day we charged it.
Every day we tried to explore a different part of the island whether it was surfing a new break, diving a new reef, or landing at a new beach. Our final day arrived and we were sure that we had seen everything. The island is only a few miles in any direction after all. Yet, the locals pointed us in the direction of a place called Sandy Point. Properly named, it is a huge point on the southwest corner of the island where fifty yards offshore the ocean floor drops away from 25 feet to 3000 feet straight down. There is no reef, just sand. Bobby showed us pictures of him surfing 15+’ waves at this break where the water was neon Kool-Aid blue from the sun reflecting off the white sand bottom. We weren’t as lucky this day but still were able to catch a few knee-slappers on our SUPs. As we ventured back by boat we all just took it in. There were no words to describe what we had just accomplished. The expressions on our sun bleached faces said it all. We had just experienced a little taste of Rum.
The 2011 Rum Bum Boogie is set for December 8-13, 2011
Rum Cay (pronounced Rum Key), is located 360 miles east of Miami and is home to only 60 full-time inhabitants making this island one of the most remote spots in the Caribbean. The island covers about 36 square miles. It’s only nine miles long by five miles wide at its widest point and is mostly flat with several rolling hills. It’s one of the most eastern islands of the Bahamas. Pretty much anything east of there is Atlantic Ocean until you reach the coast of Africa. The island was given its name by virtue of a shipwrecked West Indies vessel laden with none other than a cargo of Rum! The only town on the island, Port Nelson, has one small store and a few restaurants and bars (there’s even a pool table). These little haunts are fun places to sample laid-back island life while making new friends. If you opt to try one of the restaurants it’s best to call ahead as normal business hours mean little here.
When to Go
The best conditions can be found Fall-Spring with winds averaging 15-20+ knots and waves averaging 5’-15+’.
By Air: Fly to Nassau and connect with Pineapple Air who will take you the rest of the way.
By Boat: Longitude: 23°40’N, Latitude: 74°58’W
Where to Stay
Sumner Point, www.rumcaymarina.com