2008 Puerto Rico Winter Jam
Hi fellow jammers,
I went to the Puerto Rico Winter Jam and followed it up with a trip to
Disneyland, where I’m writing this. Not that I was victorious in PR,
but I did have a super time. It’s now my son’s school winter break, so
here we are. I want to share some thoughts of my first visit to a
Puerto Rico Jam.
In late January, it had been raining in California since Christmas and
I was beginning to feel housebound, unable to get out and jam on the
wet ground. So I got the bug to travel to Pipo’s Winter Jam event. I
contacted him about a bed at the Pipo lodge and he set one aside for
me. My reservations were made the same day and the anticipation set in.
It wasn’t until the weekend before PRWJ, that it stopped raining
enough for me to get in some beach jam practice at Dillon Beach with
Tam and Mike Esterbrook. So I felt pretty rusty when I arrived in San
Juan. After eight hours of air travel from the left coast, I was
picked up Wednesday evening at the airport by Pipo and Toddy Brodeur,
who’d gotten in the day before. We made a stop at the grocery store
for supplies, the gas station for gas and scoped out a flat and hard-
packed beach in the dark for the next day’s play. We started to notice
a frequent pattern of people on the streets and stores greeting Pipo,
everywhere we went. Hanging with Pipo is like hanging with a Hollywood
celebrity. Everybody knows and loves Pipo!
Post-midnight we found ourselves at a night club with a Latin singer.
Pipo recommended a Puerto Rican rum special. I’m not a big alcohol
consumer and was going to get an iced tea, but I decided to simplify
our order and make it three Pipo specials. We watched as the bartender
seemed to be crushing sugar and many unknown ingredients with a mortar
and pestle and finally adding the rum. It turned out to be tasty,
indeed. Pipo ordered a burger unfamiliar to us, while Todd and I
ordered a safe Amercano burger. Toddy was going to order french fries,
but that wasn’t part of Pipo’s lean-n-mean diet. Pipo suggested fried
yuca instead and we consented easily. The burgers hit the late night
hunger spot, the yuca was fabulous and we kept wanting more every
following night. It was at that time, Toddy pointed out that one
should always take the Pipo recommendation and you’ll never go wrong.
I quickly adopted that attitude.
There had already been a beach jam the day I arrived, which produced
the footage for the PRWJ Valentine which Pipo composed and edited the
next morning. It’s at
case you missed it. Let me point out that the sound you hear in that
video is not the surf and waves, its the WIND!
Thursday afternoon when we arrived at the beach, I was stunned by the
wind. In Puerto Rico, it’s all about the wind! I have a simple wind
meter that is standard equipment in my freestyle bag. I was able to
gage how Puerto Rico winds matched up to California and other stylin’
sites. It was the strongest wind I’ve ever played in. In California,
I would usually give at these wind speeds. But here it is expected.
The base windspeed all weekend, as read on my meter, was 12MPH and up,
gusting up to 15-18. I never saw anything of 20MPH though, at least
by my meter.
There were already Puerto Rican jammers playing when we arrived, PR
players are amazing having no trouble handling the strong wind. They
keep their bodies wet and the disc wet too. They guide and slide the
disc all over all parts of their bodies, arms, legs, and backs. Pretty
cool. They’re power brusher jammers and play well in these conditions.
They had a game like I’d never seen in my 30 years of play. I was very
humbled by them.
Old-time 80-molds and Hi-Rig discs were the discs of choice for their
slight extra weight. I grew up on these so that was comfortable. But
in no time at all I was able to get the disc to fly backwards over my
head and land 30-40 feet away. Nobody laughed, but I was feeling like
a beginner. Watching Pipo and the locals, I quickly learned that a
flat wind angle was necessary. But once you attained that angle the
disc would float in the air beautifully. Pipo was doing 3-4 spins to
every kind of catch you could imagine. I watched as much as I played
the first day.
I observed all the players that were new to me. Tito Mex is an eye-
catcher. The way he guides the disc up and down his arms, around his
back is a sight to see. He has a unique skill. Coqui (cookie) is an
intense air brusher and powers into turbo rolls from his brushes. He
puts roll sequences together in the wind, like on one else. But the
most fun part of playing near him when he rolls and brushes, is the
little “whooo” sound he makes as the disc slides across him. It
definitely brings out a smile in those nearby. Bostonian “Pops”
Scannell is closing in on 60 and still pulling off his trademark
moves. Being a veteran of past Puerto Rican jams, Steve knew how to
handle the winds. Anne Goh was playing very well, holding her own with
the guys in the winds. Her skills are ever improving.
Pipo was making regular trips to the airport bringing in new arrivals.
Alfonso Lopez from Columbia, South America arrived and jumped in with
what were now two jams of 3-5 people. At 1.91 meters, Alfonso has a
huge reach and doesn’t let the disc get over his head. I quickly found
that playing clean-up, behind him was an unfruitful proposition. Not
much gets by him. Alfonso was stretching his skills and quickly
figured out how to play these winds. Late in the day, recent Jam Camp
graduate Geoff Gregory from Orlando, arrived at the beach after a day
at work in PR. Geoff arranged a sales trip to PR to coincide with the
Winter Jam. Nice job. Geoff is a solid, go-got-it player who nabs a
lot of good catches and seemed to have experience in these winds too.
Pipo’s childhood friend, Tito Andino, arrived from Florida late. We
played until dark, as we did every day.
Pipo took several of us to a pleasant restaurant with outdoor seating
where everyone enjoyed some excellent food and drink. Pipo’s beautiful
girlfriend, Jeanie joined us after work, just as we were finishing up
dinner. Alfonso, Geoff, Toddy, Jeanie and eventually Tito all went
back to Pipo’s place where we gathered in the Z-machine room. This a
well-lit, open room with rubberized mats on the floor and the stated
device in the corner for practice. We indulged in Z-machine challenges
as well as lessons in difficult moves from Toddy. This went on for 2-3
hours until we were all sweaty again and was late again. Afterwards we
cooled down watching freestyle videos until 3-4AM
On Friday morning, Tito Andino, who stayed up late with everyone that
night before, was really feeling ill. We departed for the beach that
day with him still laid up in bed, with what turned out to be a 24
illness. This day we went to the beach near our sponsor hotel. One
interesting feature of this hotel was that they had four poster beds
and hammocks on the beach, that you could lounge in and have drinks
served. The wind was roaring as usual. More new faces appeared at the
beach. Lilianna Cruz from San Juan, joined with Toddy and Anne in the
first jam of the day. Lili is obviously a regular wind jammer, who has
no trouble brushing, rolling and passing with the best of the locals.
She’s a welcome addition to anybody’s beach jam. Lili’s presence was
tempered with visits to the hospital to be with her ailing mother.
Thoughts of her mom, who had bypass surgery on Monday, were were with
everybody all weekend. Jams broke out with Pops and Alfonso, and later
Toddy, Anne Tito Mex, and Pipo. Geoff Gregory showed up after work
again. His wife Nanette (also Jam Camp grad) and mother-in-law flew in
to PR to join us for a quick vacation. Tito Andino appeared late in
the day, having been nursed back to health by Pipo, to indicate that
he was feeling better again. My play was gradually improving as I
struggled to deal with the wind. At the end of the day, we relaxed at
a restaurant right across the street from the beach hotel. Pipo and
Jeanie then took us out for a walk through a typical Puerto Rico
Friday night multi-block street party. There was live music, drinks
and throngs on people mingling on the streets. Puerto Ricans find
every reason to party that they can.
Saturday there were new faces at the beach again. I met Emmanuel (?),
our tournament videographer, . He happens to be a big Apple Computer
fan, so I hit it off with him immediately. Alan Martinez from the
nearby Dominican Republic was now with us. Ricardo “Ricky” Guzman is
another new avid jammer, working on all his hot moves. Ah, the speed
of youth. He joined the early jam with Pops, Pipo and Tito Andino, who
was now back among the living. Sunday was chosen to be competition day
so that Lili could be with us, so Saturday was the last day to work
out your wind game. By now, every time when I headed from beach rest
spot to beach jam spot, my attitude was that of going to do battle
with or fight the wind. It was challenging, but after a few days, I
was getting it. A second jam formed with Toddy, Tito Mex and Anne.
Jeanie showed that she’d learned to jam in the wind while hanging
around Pipo, and I joined with her and Alfonso in a third jam. Later
in the day, I think the winds actually dropped down to 10-12 MPH and I
was almost playing my regular beach game at last. Evening dinner was a
large gathering for Mofungo, a Puerto Rican plantain, and choice of
seafood or chicken.
Sunday was official competition day. Seven teams were formed and
played in “whenever your ready” order. We cordoned off a section of
beach to play on and to protect the players and care-less beach
walkers from each other. Jeanie kept a four minute time watch for each
team, and I’ll bet all seven teams played consecutively in about 30
minutes. Great format, no judging pressure or shuffling. There was a
short mob-op competition of two teams, Americans vs. Caribbeans, again
four minutes per team, 5-6 players per team. The general opinion was
Caribbeans won this easily, playing clean and surpassing the Americans
in catches. Pipo had a friend with a long lens digital still camera
come and take pictures as well. He liked to focus on player facial
expressions as well as the disc play. His pictures of people showed an
amazingly interesting viewpoint, that I’d never seen before on player
faces. I was amazed by my expressions and how similar they were to
those of others, showing extreme concentration. We grabbed some quick
Mexican food and brew before heading to Pipo’s to change for the
After cleaning up and dressing for a party evening, Pipo played the
video from the day and the house guests judged the play from the day.
The odd thing was that this was the first time, I’d ever judged myself
in a tournament. All judges were faced with the same prospect and
impartially had to count their own drops and evaluate their moves.
Pipo collected the judges sheets and tallied up the scores. (Results
were sent in a separate posting by Pipo). We then headed out for some
major dancing and partying at a San Juan hot spot. There was live
music, with recorded music during band break. All genres of music were
encountered. We camped out at great tables virtually on the dance
floor. Everybody danced and everybody had fun. Even I downed a number
of beers! We came within a song of closing the place down, before we
Monday was a day of departure for some and another day of jamming for
those remaining. The Pipo taxi dropped off Toddy in the morning and
later Steve and Anne. Before heading to the beach that day, Pipo and I
engaged in some geocaching activity. This is a hi-tech treasure hunt
driven by a handheld GPS receiver unit, used to locate hidden caches
all around the world. (See http://www.geocachi ng.com). We had made a
short quick attempt to locate a San Juan cache near Pipo’s house on
Thursday but were unsuccessful. Armed with a new clue from the
website, we made another run at the cache after dropping off Todd and
were successful. The Monday afternoon jam was casual and relaxed, as
by now I had learned how to survive in the wind. Pipo, Jeanie,
Alfonso, Tito Mex and Coqui played until late afternoon. For the first
day, we left before dark. Pipo, Jeanie, Alfonso and I headed to a
Brazilian restaurant for a unique vegetarian pizza with salmon. Always
go with the Pipo recommendation!
Tuesday was my departure date. Pipo seemed to enjoying geocaching and
suggested we try for some more before dropping me at the airport. I
set up my GPS unit with some new cache coordinates nearby in San Juan.
Alfonso came with us. We took a walk through beautiful Millennium Park
near old San Juan. After a third of a mile hike from the parking lot
to the north shore, we located this cache in the rocks at the
shoreline. Another successful find. We ran into traffic and ran out of
time on the way to another cache site and decided to head for the
In summary, it was a tournament I’ll remember forever. I never went to
bed before 2AM. I played for five consecutive days without a straining
anything. Pipo says muscle pulls are nonexistent since the wind and
water are 72-82 degrees. I got personal coaching from Toddy and Pipo.
I loved that. I learned a lot and have new things to practice. I
spent a bunch of time chatting with Toddy and Alfonso. We all spent a
good deal of our morning and late evening in the breezeway of Pipo’s
abode, elevating our spirit with conversation and such. Being in the
company of people who love to do what you love to do is a pleasure.
We’re all looking forward to the next time we can get together. Pipo
takes care of everybody and deals with the language barrier for the
Spanish-challenged. Parties were great. Food was great. Pipo’s house
and company were great. Even my tournament finish exceeded my
Thanks to Pipo, Jeanie and all Puerto Rican jammers who made this such
a special time. If you ever get the chance to attend a PRWJ, don’t
One Happy Jammer,