Jamaica by Kayak: Island Bound

The first installment in the Jamaica circumnavigation dispatch series

Photo by @jamaicabykayak on Instagram

David Munger and David Morgan may have similar names, but they’re trying for something unique: the first-ever sea kayak circumnavigation of Jamaica. We’ve covered Jamaica circumnavigation attempts before, but none have been successful. This knowledge makes the prospect all the more enticing to the Davids, who say they’re prepared to brave Jamaica’s rough waters. Here’s the first post in their ongoing series. Stay tuned for more updates from the expedition on CanoeKayak.com.

By David Morgan

Things you should know: 1) In the morning, I fly to Jamaica as part of a team attempting to become the first to circumnavigate the island by sea kayak. 2) I just noticed on Facebook that the Jamaican Coast Guard posted a few months ago about a huge drug bust on the southern coast of the island … on a beach we were hoping to camp on.

This is often the story with Jamaica. It’s an island torn between images: a beautiful and vibrant Caribbean nation equally famous for its rum-soaked all-inclusive resorts and for being a developing nation with high crime rates. It's this story that caught our attention and kept us pursuing our goal of paddling around the island.

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We are David and David. Munger and Morgan, two young guys that love being outside almost more than anything. We met paddling rivers in college and quickly discovered a mutual love of dreaming about big adventures, cooking food with friends, and drinking good beer. Since then, we've also come to realize how much we believe in the importance of exposing ourselves to new things, and to the beauty and challenges that come along with it. Jamaica and its unique culture seem like they will offer both in spades.

This being my first international expedition, I talked to anyone and everyone who'd been to Jamaica. I heard warning after warning about the potential dangers involved in exploring the country. But in the same breath they often added anecdotes about the kindness of locals and the beauty of the place.

David on the team’s January training trip in Baja. Photo by @jamaicabykayak on Instagram

So we need to find out more, and there is only one thing left to do: Get on the ground and see for ourselves. We want to learn about the real Jamaica behind the stereotypes. As paddlers, we travel at a human-powered pace and make deeper connections to the people we meet and the places we see along the way.

The first exciting challenge? There are almost no sea kayaks in the country. Kayaking is a 'white man's venture' — an unattractive label that, because of Jamaica's history of brutal colonization, confines the sport to tourist resorts.

After months of long nights and emails with locals, we realized that we had to find a way to bring our own kayaks. But with a 40 percent import tax at the Jamaica border and only the meager savings of two 20-somethings just out of college, we were stuck. We needed boats small enough to fly on a commercial airline yet sturdy enough to deal with the heavy surf conditions we expected to encounter. A lot of searching led us to Trak Kayaks. Produced by a small Canadian company, these portable boats have held their own on expeditions around the globe while still meeting FAA checked baggage guidelines. A few emails turned into conversations and Trak joined the Jamaica by Kayak team. We're excited to put their boats to the test in Jamaica's tough waters.

So here we are, set to fly to Jamaica. I'm surrounded by packed boats and overstuffed duffle bags checking in for my flights online and wondering what's about to happen. Stay tuned as we post weekly dispatches here on C&K. Also, follow us on Instagram for daily updates on the trials and triumphs we find in Jamaica.

More from C&K

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