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Surf Sisters in Nicaragua

Apr 17, 2009

Author: Steph Wightman

This past winter, the crew of ripping women from Surf Sister Surf School headed down to to Central America for their annual staff trip. Steph Wightman sent us this account of their time spent in the land of waves, volcanoes, bikinis and Reggaeton. Click here to check out the full story and photos.

"Well, we’re back from our sixth annual Surf Sister staff trip. This year we went to Nicaragua, and while our salsa skills are fading as quickly as our tans, our memories of the amazing trip and the people we met along the way are still going strong.

This January, nine of us Surf Sisters spent an incredible two weeks in the northern part of the country with the awesome crew from Surf Tours Nicaragua -- Nic Reid, Angela Smetana, Jordan, and of course Mackenzie, the doggy surf mascot.

After a groggy, Gravol-fueled red eye flight from Seattle, we were met at the Managua airport by Nic, the owner and operator of Surf Tours Nicaragua, and his girlfriend and right-hand gal Angie. Together they shuttled us to our home for the first week, a beautiful house on a pristine, empty tropical beach in the middle of nowhere, with multiple quality surf breaks right at our fingertips. Paradise.

Week one was all about maxing out, relaxing and getting our bronze on while also trying to surf as much as humanly possible. Life is tough sometimes, but we all pulled together to make it happen. That’s what friends are for, right?

Unlike other Central American surf destinations, Nicaragua benefits from all day offshore wind nearly year round, which translates to quality surfing conditions 24/7. This means no dawn patrol scramble to beat the mid-day onshores, which in turn means more time to eat and relax, as you know that you have all day to surf your face off.

As a result of this phenomenon, provided by the two giant inland lakes in Nicaragua, a typical morning consisted of waking up pre-dawn, going down to the beach to do some yoga, then following it up with a delicious breakfast a la Angie and Jordan, usually consisting of fresh seasonal fruit, yogurt and granola, maybe some pancakes, Nicaraguan grown coffee…and mmmmmmm, the list goes on. We’d then spend a good half hour digesting and getting prepared to surf (choosing matching bikini combinations, putting on sunscreen, waxing up boards, deciding which one to ride…these big decisions take time.)
 
Once ready, we’d all pile into the two cars and go surf whichever spot was working, depending on the tide and swell direction. Nic has the area dialed, and thanks to his local knowledge we had the opportunity to surf a variety of different breaks all within about 20 minutes of the house. For those spots not accessible by land, Nic hired local fishermen to take us out in their boats called lanchas, which were an experience in themselves. The boats are beached above the high tide line, and after they’re rolled out into the ocean, they have to punch through the incoming surf, sometimes riding straight up the face of a cresting wave to make it past the impact zone. No simple duck dives like a surfboard. Just full throttle and hope you make it over in one piece.
 
Having surfed until we were starving and physically incapable of catching another wave, we’d head back to fuel up on another delicious meal and then go to a more local spot for a sunset session.

Aside from the fun surf and sun, we were also fortunate to experience the culture and meet locals from the area. Nicaragua is a poor country but a beautiful one, and the people are warm and so welcoming. It feels far removed from tourism-savvy Costa Rica, where you almost see more gringos than locals and everyone’s trying to make a buck. We were staying in a real village where people go about their day-to-day lives pretty much unaffected by tourism, trying to scratch out a living to support their families in a country still recovering from recent civil war. We were the only foreigners that we saw in the area for the entire first week, and I can safely say that nine neon-clad surfer girls speaking broken Spanglish did not blend into the background easily. We had a full audience everywhere we went of people wondering what the heck we were all about.

Nic and Angie are both fluent in Spanish and are passionate not only about surfing but  about the people and culture that make Nicaragua unique, and they made sure that we had the full Nica experience. We took a day trip to nearby Leon to check out the sights and take a tour of the historical colonial city, followed by an amazing dinner at El Lobito and an evening of shaking it at a club where we all fell in love with Reggaeton music and danced as shamelessly as only nine obnoxious gringo girls can to dirty Latin music. I’m not going to say it was pretty, but we owned that dance floor, let me tell you. Thank you, Nic and Ang, for not taking pictures.

Our first week quickly came to an end, but it was just the beginning of phase two, the work week, where we were met by the film crew from Rush HD TV -- Tommy the camera guy, Chris the host, and Paul, or “Paulo Suerte” as we liked to call him, the producer boss-guy.

We changed locales to the luxurious condominium development Grand Pacifica, where we were forced to lounge around the infinity pool and drink margaritas in between surfing and filming. A change of pace from mellow week one, but we adjusted just fine. Grand Pacifica sits directly in front of a heavy world class point break appropriately called “Hemorrhoids.” It’s named for the damage often inflicted on unlucky surfers by the shallow jagged reef that the wave breaks over. Use your imagination and you get the picture.

Unfortunately, or maybe quite fortunately, Hemorrhoids wasn’t working to its full potential. We surfed it only once and it wasn’t quite happening, but it was fun to try and easy to see the amazing potential that the wave has, given ideal conditions. Most days, though, we would drive a few minutes to the beachbreak down the road which was almost always throwing perfect peeling A-frames and, if you were on it, little almond-shaped barrels on the take-off. There were lots of waves for everyone, and we got to practice surfing for the camera and each did some interviews with Chris. A little nerve-wracking, but it turns out there’s a little diva in us all.

There were a few days during the second week when the surf wasn’t exactly co-operating, so instead of bumming on the lack of waves, we took the opportunity to give back to one of the local beach communities we visited and surfed at. We rounded up a gang of local kids and, equipping them and ourselves with gloves and garbage bags, we spent the next couple hours cleaning up the beach. We probably filled about fifteen to twenty big bags of by the end of it. After the cleanup was done, we grabbed our boards and took all the kids out for an impromptu surf lesson. Most of the kids had never tried surfing before and not all could even swim, but everyone was stoked to try and I think we had even more fun than they did.

Then there was the 23-Hour Day:

Having decided that there wasn’t quite enough footage for the show, we planned a day where we would surf and then hike a volcano. Yeahhhh. This is how it went:

5:00 a.m.

Nic, always the optimist and eternal ‘morning guy,’ wakes us up for a surf and we drag our butts out of bed, suit up, get in the truck and head to the beach. We surf for probably four hours, or until ravenous and exhausted, then head back for breakfast.

12:00 p.m.

We pile in the trucks and drive about an hour and a half to Leon where we have to scramble to buy volcano-appropriate footwear and consume about seven large pizzas.

2:00 p.m.

We pile in the trucks and drive another hour to the base of Cerro Negro, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and the one we would willingly be climbing to the crater, then running down the other side of. The weather is smoking hot.

4:00 p.m.
 
After navigating the sketchy single track trail, we reach the wind-swept crater ridge where we are blasted by noxious sulfur fumes. “Just try not to breathe,” says Nic. More filming ensues. Over a course of about an hour, we make it to the other side where we are told we will be hurling our bodies over a seemingly bottomless slope of shin-deep loose volcanic rock. Which, we are also told, carries bacteria that will give you a nasty infection if you’re cut, so don’t fall. The wind is nearly strong enough to blow us over the ridge. We are sweaty and disgusting, still wearing neon. Here we go.

5:00 p.m.

It’s getting dark and we’re not off the volcano yet. Everyone has survived the descent somehow, although not altogether unscathed. Chris and Leah both took a couple bails which were caught on film, and Krissy and Aynsley are emotionally scarred by the whole experience as both are terrified of heights. All are coated in a thick film of ashy dust that has adhered to our sweaty selves like an exfoliating second skin. If we were dirty at the top, we are altogether offensive at this point.

6:00 p.m.

It is now officially dark, and after running around the base of the volcano in a random delirious burst of energy, we reach the trucks. We are a seething mass of body odour.
So what better plan than to shed our fragrant neon gear, shower with “wet ones” hand wipes, put on party dresses, apply makeup in the rearview mirror and head back to Leon for another night on the town?

8:00 p.m.

We sit down to another fabulous dinner, complete with Mariachi band and about five different types of meat, at El Lobito in Leon. Somehow we all look presentable, cute even, and we are catching our second wind.

10:00 p.m.

Dancing and embarrassment at the same club we tore apart last week. Our dance skills have improved slightly thanks to coaching by Krissy and Aynsley. We are more confident and this is not necessarily a good thing. Shake it!

4:00 a.m.

We arrive at Grand Pacifica (thanks to Nic and Ang, you guys rule) and fall into bed, unsure of what actually just happened to us.

All good things must come to an end, of course, and it was inevitable that we would have to pack up and say our goodbyes to Nicaragua and our new friends. We sent off the film crew early in the morning and after one last amazing four-hour surf session, we drove with Nic and Angie to Managua for our last night together.

We had an incredible time full of many adventures and experiences that will not soon be forgotten, and we all fell in love with the surf, people and of course the Reggaeton of Nicaragua, which I am listening to as I write, fighting off the tears…sniff. Like all trips, none are as memorable as those spent with amazing friends, and it’s our crew and the crew we met down there that really made it special. Thanks to the Surf Sister ladies, Surf Tours Nicaragua, Rush HD, Billabong and to all who made this possible.

We can’t wait to do it all over again next year."

 

For more information about Surf Tours Nicaragua, visit their site here.

For more information about Surf Sister Surf School, click here.

For a YouTube profile on Steph Wightman, click here.


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