Apart from organizing the Master of the Ocean, promoting the Dominican North Coast and running his surf school in Encuentro, Marcus Bohm has done tons of other things in the 25 years he’s been living in Cabarete.
We had a coffee with him to reminisce on the years gone by, the good vibes and the wide range of social projects he has been and continues to be involved in.
20 July 1990 at 11am
20 July 1990 at 11am, that’s the date and time Marcus arrived in a Cabarete that’s very different and at the same time not so different from today. Back in those days, Cabarete wasn’t anywhere near to being on the map, except for windsurfers. “Cabarete was known in the windsurfer community after it was discovered in 1984 by some Canadian windsurfers. Then the Professional Windsurfing Association organized its World Cup there in 1988 and it became the stuff of legends,” Marcus explains. “Me? I came to Cabarete through a job ad I saw in a windsurf magazine”. He applied and was recruited to come to this Caribbean windsurf mecca for a period of six months to work in a windsurf center. He fell in love with the place and returned to Germany only to pack his sewing machine so that he could come back and start doing windsurf sail repairs, which was a service that was non-existent at the time.
Like father, like son
“When I left my dad said that I wouldn’t be back, same like him when he left”, Marcus reminisces. As an accomplished ski-jumper from East Germany, Marcus’ father got to travel to competitions both in the East and West. At age 19 he decided to stay behind at a competition organized in the west, never to return to East Germany. Meeting up with family meant having to travel to other Eastern European countries. “My ‘escape’ was less dramatic but I also never returned; I definitely prefer this sunny paradise to Germany.”
Cabarete in the early days
When Marcus arrived in Cabarete there was very little in terms of infrastructure. Just an incredibly beautiful bay with lots of wind. The main street was one hole after the other but had fantastic ocean views as little had yet been built yet. “Nobody had cars, and there was only one phone connection in a container set up in the center together with a fax machine where you could make and receive phone calls”, Marcus remembers.
“There were also no surf shops or any repair shops so that is where I saw my opportunity”, Marcus explains. “When I came back with my sewing machine I opened “Cabarete Sail and Board Repair”, together with a Dutch guy. He would repair the boards and I would repair the sails.”
Local kids would often hang out at the shop watching and learning how to repair windsurfing gear. Marcus would also teach them how to windsurf and often gave away repaired gear so they could practice. As they got better and better, he inscribed a couple of the really good ones in the 1991 Cabarete World Cup. Ten years later, one of the kids he trained, Tony Garcia, won the 2001 Aloha Classic.
First surf shop, possibly island wide
A few years later he inaugurated “Cabarete Surf and Sport”, the first real surf shop on the entire island. They would sell last year’s inventory stock from the different surf schools and one of his buddies who was married to an American Airline flight attendant would often fly on stand-by to Miami to bring back boardshorts, bikinis and anything else that was impossible to get on the island at the time. “That shop was great, we had it built in such a way that you could skateboard in there”, Marcus laughs.
Again local kids would hang out at the shop, and Marcus taught them how to surf. Wanting to unlock new opportunities after seeing how good some of these kids got, Marcus got the idea to organize a round of local competitions with all the rules in place so the qualified winners could be sent to the World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach. The Dominican qualifier competitions took place in four beaches around the country: Playa Grande, Playa Encuentro, Playa Barahona and Playa Guibia in Santo Domingo, and eighteen Dominican athletes were sent to the United States.
The advent of kiting
In 1998, a year after Marcus left the surf shop and spent his time happily in a bikini shop he had opened where now the current liquor store is, he saw for the first time kites in the bay. A few days later the kiters were leaving again so together with another guy he bought all their gear. “As there was no time for them to teach me, I had a hell of a time figuring out this new sport”, Marcus laughs. A year later he traded in the bikini shop for 5000USD and a car, and left for Cabo Verde to compete in his first kite competition.
Twelve months and a lot of practicing later he was invited to join the 2000 Helgoland Pro Jam together with his then girlfriend, as they were both considered to be in the top 16 kite riders. As this was a pilot event organized by EuroSport everything was paid for and everyone lived it up. When EuroSport asked the athletes of all the events they had attended that year which event they liked best, they all replied the “Kite Pro Tour in Cabarete”, which Marcus had organized a little while before. So EuroSport offered him the possibility to organize the next Helgoland Pro Jam, together with a lot of travel perks and a nice pay check. “Those were the days”, Marcus grins. “We travelled like rock stars and had great fun. With the money I earned from that gig I managed to pay most of my house, it was great!”.
Red Bull in the picture
In 2002 Red Bull hired Marcus as a consultant. His job was to create buzz and open markets in Costa Rica, St Maarten, Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic. With his laid back personality, fast tongue and many years of experience in all kinds of watersports he was just the man to do it. At the same time he became the advisor to the Ministry of Sports in the Dominican Republic. Some of the athletes he managed to sign up to Red Bull are: Marcos Diaz, long distance swimmer and now Minister of Sports; Pablito Guzman, windsurfer; Susi Mai, kiteboarder; Luciano Gonzalez, kiteboarder, trained initially by Marcus; and Ivan Herrera, surfer turned cinematographer.
With Red Bull behind him, Marcus organized a number of extreme sports events around the Caribbean, including the first ever extreme sports festival on Cuba in 2003. A year later he helped organize Miss Universe in Panama, which meant spending a month backstage with the models, a memory Marcus visibly cherishes.
Master of the Ocean
Marcus had this idea of organizing a watersports’ event, in which athletes would compete in several watersports. He also wanted it to take place in the Dominican Republic as he knew there were so many talented locals who would have no chance in the world to go abroad to compete. “I wanted to create a unique platform where talented locals could show off what they can do within a challenging setting. That meant bringing in professionals from abroad as well”, Marcus explains. “At that time the event incorporated only surf, windsurf and kite as stand-up paddle was still virtually unknown. We added SUP later in 2010, but even so this was the first and still remains the only event that combines all these watersports so that a real universal waterman can be crowned each year.”
With the help of some good friends, knowing the right people and with some help of Red Bull, Marcus launched the first edition of Master of the Ocean in 2003. “Only very few athletes can do all four, but each year we have some really high quality athletes, both home-grown and from abroad”, Marcus comments.
“Over the years we have been integrating youth more into the event”, Marcus highlights. “I am a strong believer in getting disadvantaged youth into sports”. Through this event as well as through other projects Marcus is involved with, including one that is called Happy Dolphins, which teaches kids how to swim and ultimately how to become lifeguards, he is doing just that.
“In 2014, Patricia Hiraldo became part of the Master of the Ocean team, which has changed my life completely”, Marcus highlights. His eyes become a bit cloudy when he talks about his current girlfriend. “She has been very good for the event, and even better for me.” He has nothing but good words for other team members, including Lia Hiraldo, Finja Goetz and Mara Hiraldo.
Right now, he’s already thinking about the 14th edition of the Master of the Ocean, which will be organized on 23 to 28 February 2016, as well as a two-week long Master of the Ocean clinic which will be organized in November of this year. The clinic will focus on all four sports, surf, windsurf, kite and stand-up paddle, with two days dedicated to each sport.
Life in Cabarete
Despite being here for over twenty five years, Marcus still loves Cabarete as much as he did when he came. "The Dominican culture is so cool”, Marcus explains. “They teach us not to sweat it too much.” True to his laidback personality he underlines that he loves colmados [little corner shops] and the fact that you can have everything and anything delivered to your doorstep.
Talking about the town he says that Cabarete has never been better than it is now. “Cabarete has definitely changed as a tourism destination. It has shifted from all-inclusive tourism to a boutique style destination”, Marcus explains. “Now, all the infrastructure is there and the security is in place for the numbers it receives and there is great potential for the numbers to grow safely and sustainably, which wasn’t the case ten years ago.”