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Puerto Rico’s Pioneer Wave Riders

By Eddie Pitts
You know how it goes. You meet a couple of old guys on the beach and they say: “We used to surf a lot back in the day.” But all you see is a couple of old guys and you are thinking to yourself… Right!  Next you are listening to them talk story and now you are thinking, hummm these guys know what they’re talking about!


I met John Kinstle & Mike Hamilton, (the old guys that actually did rule the waves in Puerto Rico in the late 60’s & early 70’s), on the beach at the Poles. We spoke for a while when they mentioned their 8MM Puerto Rico Surf movies that were converted to video. Well I for one was ready to check it out. After reviewing the clips I offered to do an edit and story for them on 911 Surf Report which they agreed to.

John Kinstle had been on the island for about one year ahead of Mike Hamilton and turned him on to Surfers Beach, Tabletop, Jobo’s, Wilderness, Crashboat, & Gas Chambers. Wilderness was on the base but was restricted. Later John, (who was the Ramey AFB Surf Club President) asked the base commander to open it up for the surfers which he agreed to do. Word had spread of these famous breaks and soon the public flocked to these spots. John states: This was an era that we had the base surf breaks all to ourselves from 1969 to 1973 until the base closed. No cell phones, no internet, NO LEASHES. If you lost your board it was likely to get trashed.


One day in 1973 Steve Smith and Mike Hamilton drive down to Wilderness, it was like 18’ to 20’ and closing out so they decided to go exploring for smaller surf. Mike takes this dirt road that led to a small ranch. Cattle on the right, house on the left. Mike asked an old local guy if they could surf out front. No problem but keep it to yourself! They went to the end of the path and made a right where an opening in the trees and bushes revealed HEAVEN! Perfect 4’- 6′ hollow righthanders were sweeping across the reef. They ripped the place for two hours and thanked the old guy when they left. Mike came back the next day with his wife when she noticed a WELL near the beach. That’s when she named the break “Wishing Well”. The name has stuck to this day!

Surfing Puerto Rico in the early 1970’s, take a look at the video screen shot above. It says so much, the board, the car, and the era. No leashes, no thrusters, no internet, Surfing Puerto Rico in the early 1970’s, it was a good time to be in PR! If you enjoy surf nostalgia, please take a moment to check out this trailer of Surfing in Puerto Rico in the early 1970’s and the full-length film, (bottom).

Watch the Trailer version, (below) by Mike Hamilton, John Kinstle & Friends!
Watch the FULL LENGTH version, (below) by Mike Hamilton, John Kinstle & Friends!

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