Presented By The Friends Of The Porpoise @ WRV https://www.waveridingvehicles.com
Video and all photos and words below by Dalton Smith / NPI Productions https://www.npiproductions.tv
This was a very impromptu trip to say the least and I didn’t find out I was heading down there until about a week before the trip. Olympic hopeful, Rachel Prseti had been training mercilessly to make the team as well as trying to qualify for the womens tour. She’s got some great connections and has been steadily taking advantage of the surf in various portions of the world as they open up. She honestly has spent more time in the water during the pandemic than many people because of her ability to safely navigate country to country. And she’s been on fire in and out of the water trying to attain these precious goals she has set for herself.
This Dominican republic trip was 100% committed to Rachel training in a new environment and new waves to broaden her horizons. I have been documenting her surfing for about five years now and it’s safe to say she’s definitely stepping into some bigger shoes. We did a video earlier this year that you guys ran and I think that got her fired up looking in the mirror and seeing her growth! Her mother Myriam contacted me for the trip and really had no goal other than to push Rachel and capture everything we can.
Not gonna lie, people psyched me out pretty hard about visiting the island. I was told all sorts of horror stories but I have had many great experiences in some very wild places and I knew that there had to be more to the story. Rachel and her boyfriend Dylan Groen from Portugal had already been down there about five days with moderate swell and a couple surf sessions in the Sosua region. Upon my arrival we tapped into some smaller but rippable waves at a pretty widely known spot called Encuentro that was bone base for them during the week.
We got plugged in with a place called Carambola Surf house and these guys are definitely dialed with this island. We did not stay with them during my portion of the trip but they were our guides taking us to explore into some uncharted territory. They were equipped with a pretty gnarly jetski and a few local guys that knew the territory so that was a huge advantage from google earth and wild guesses.
The waves got pretty tiny mid trip so the lifestyle images of Rachel in the red bikini were from this amazing little beach called La Preciosa which is the opposite of Playa Grande. There was some really fun wedgy Shorebreak, some nice outside Reef break and one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Rachel capitalized on the beach break and then we score this awesome little lifestyle session and just kept the energy moving even when it was small.
On day three we did a tow in session with some small mid break and these guys invited us to go on a boat trip at the end of the week. Story of my life but the swell was supposed to fill in the day I was supposed to fly out… Nothing crazy but some solid overhead to double overhead swell was inbound and the direction was supposed to shift more out of the north which this side of the island favors.
We woke up at 4:30 AM on Friday morning of this week then headed to the Surf house to meet up with the crew about 30 minutes away and followed them with the ski to the Marina we would launch at another 45 minutes further down the coast line. We pulled up to this marina and the rain that was supposed to hit was nowhere in sight. The sun started burning off this light fog and it was a beautiful set up as local fishermen pulled in from their overnight trips.
Extremely heavy moment was when our guide pointed out a group of fishermen who were being brought back in from flipping in the channel overnight. Apparently these guys have been fishing offshore for a few days and did not anticipate this swell so as they came into the channel they were capsized in the dark. Thankfully everyone was saved and there were no losses other than all of their fish. Needless to say this gave me a slightly eerie feeling as the fishermen were literally in the clutches of their wives and children as they got to land and we headed out to sea.
We start making our way out of the marina and it’s this insane mangrove tunnel that opens up to a beautiful bay with white water walls on the horizon. I literally had no idea where we were in reference to the island, how this wave worked or how big the surf was actually going to be. As we get into the beginning of the channel I realize it’s a break between sets and the driver guns it. We navigate over a couple rollers but then we encountered a couple wide swinging sets that were wedging in front of us. I see this peak coming right to us and all I hear is “oh shit” as we blast off the top of this thing and get air for like two seconds straight. I’ve been in some wonky boat situations, but not knowing anything about the landscape or wave made me a bit eerie.
We finally get to the outside and Rachel, Dillon and one of the local guys start gearing up. They drop everyone in the lineup and we position for the first waves to start rolling through. I had zero scale for anything until Dylan caught his first wave and it was a solid frothy one that stayed open and gave him a pretty nice barrel section. I’m not one to claim wave size but it was definitely hefty in comparison to the waist high Surf from earlier in the week.
Dylan had brought his step up but Rachael really needed some extra board under her feet so you can actually see him giving her a push right before she takes her first wave. She got one that shouldered off and kind of got the blood pumping but it was shifty and slow out there. A set starts to wedge up and Dylan pushes Rachel into this thing and it got kind of weird but walled up for this beautiful off-center framing as she drops in. She really wanted to pull into this thing but it was not quite happening and she took the lip directly on the head.
Dylan swings into the one behind her and gets a really beautiful almond barrel and at the end and you can see him look over to Rachel to make sure she’s good. The very next frame she pops up, jumps on the ski and has the biggest smile on her face. At this moment we had only 15 minutes left in our hour window to make it to my flight but the rain was about to dump so we pulled the plug.
From there it was straight hustle mode, drive back to the condo, grab the bags, get on the plane, edit and email ESM!!!
While I was editing these images on the plane, and even though they’re not culture changing Surf Photos, they hit a very special place for me. I remember watching the Young Guns 2 video as a kid and dreaming about those blue waves and taking photos from those boats. I would read all the magazines and drool over the perfect barrels and deep blue water – so when I took these images and looked at my camera it took me back to the beginning of this entire journey.
We easily could have gotten skunked on the entire last day but it came together perfect and really solidified itself for a great new experience on a new island. Very excited to adventure back here again one day soon and continue following Rachel on her journey!