I‘d seen the photos and heard the stories…tropical beachbreak barrels and offshore all day! What? Really? Its perfect offshore all day? Apparently, Lake Nicaragua sits just inland from the coast and disturbs the typical land/sea breeze cycle. After 10 years of the afternoon, blown-out sea breeze in Southern California, it was a must to check out the mythical Nicaragua land breeze.
I left home at 5am, easy Uber to the airport, no problems through security, stroll to the gate and wait. Excitement building. I’d been worried about a tight connection in Dallas to Managua. As I entered the jetway, my phone buzzed…the flight from Dallas to Managua was cancelled. Damn. I quickly called American Airline customer service and had just enough time hear something about mechanical issues and no flights to Managua until 2 days later. The flight attendant forced me off the phone in preparation for take off. I spent the entirety of that flight cursing under my breath.
Arriving in Dallas, I found a long line of disgruntled passengers waiting for a chance to voice their frustration and amend their broken travel plans. One of them, Kelly Anne, lives in Encinitas and was also headed to the same surf community in Nicaragua. After a 2 hour wait, the rep found me a flight to Mexico City that afternoon and then to Managua the next morning. Mechanical issues at least guaranteed a hotel room in Mexico City. But now the great mystery…what would become of my checked bag containing my swim fins. Would I ever see them again? Would I be able to experience the magical Nicaraguan conditions?
I arrived in the seeming chaos of the Mexico City airport at 11pm local time. A couple of helpful American Airline employees helped me acquire a hotel voucher and track my bag…it was in El Salvador. Optimism at a new low. When I entered the hotel lobby at midnight, a couple hundred travelers waited in line for a room. Finally, I laid down in bed at 2am and slept for 2 hours. By 4:30am, I was back in the chaos of the Mexico City airport. Quick flight to Managua, still fuming at American Airlines for the delay and missing baggage.
Gusto Pablo met me outside the airport and drove me the 3 hours to the community that’d be home for the week. Gusto Pablo dominates the hectic roads of Nicaragua. Not in a dangerous way, but in a supremely confident manner. The beautiful countryside and colorful towns flew past. At one point, we were hung up in a traffic jam in a town because of a festival passing through. Pablo simply found a dirt road to the right and proceeded to take his small sedan over and through the rutted, flooded road. We pulled back onto the road on the other side of town and continued toward the coast.
We drove into the idyllic surf community and quickly arrived at the home that I had rented a room. It was beautiful: four rental units surrounding a pool and the home of the owner, plus a large common room. A small river runs through the backyard and the whole property is surrounded by thick forest.
After dropping my bags, I walked the few hundred yards to the beach. Wow…a gorgeous tropical paradise. Not pumping swell yet, but sure enough the wind was offshore and a fun, high-tide shorebreak womped onto the sand. A rainbow appeared as a quick squall passed through and I jumped in the Ocean, finless, for a quick womp. The forecast showed a slow start to the week with a very solid swell filling in after a couple days.
I walked back to the house to meet Mateo, the owner of the home and his parents Ken and Judy that had just arrived. Turns out, they live about a mile away from me in Encinitas and would be staying for couple weeks. Their friend, Bruce, also joined for a few days. Ken and Bruce are retired teachers and they are all delightful people.
As darkness fell, a man appeared in the driveway. American Airlines slightly redeemed themselves. My bag was delivered to the house all the way from the Managua Airport. I was elated! I had my swim fins! Plus, I could finally change my clothes after two days of humid travel.
I woke at 5am everyday of the trip and rode a bicycle to the beach with my fins. The first couple mornings, the surf was small but still gorgeous. I went for a long walk down the beach and into the forest on the way to a little fishing village. I was blown away by the vibrant ecosystem: butterflies, iguanas, birds and howler monkeys.
The food at the house was delicious! Three meals a day, all super fresh and healthy…perfect surf fuel. Ken and Bruce vs. Mateo and myself commenced a table tennis tournament after dinner each night. I was the weak link and it took us a couple games to overcome the craftiness of the older gentlemen, but we eventually figured it out.
Even when the locals said it was flat, there were still fun, chest high waves finding their way across the sandbars. The swell filled in over the next two days. Every set larger than the next and becoming more consistent. I swam 5-7 hours each day: session at dawn, after breakfast, after lunch and at sunset. If I wasn’t swimming, I was on the beach with my camera.
A set wave stands up in the wind and crackles as the top is blown off. Dive deep into the darkness. Dig fingers into the sand, ears pop as the water weight passes over top. Push off the bottom…surface blind from the sudden bright light and the spray. Pure exhilaration!
I dealt with a stomach issue one afternoon but I considered it a right of passage for my first trip to Central America and was perfectly fine by the next morning. My trip was scheduled for 7 days, but after scoring the best waves of my life, I extended for an extra 3 days. The swell peaked in the double overhead+ range and the conditions remained mostly flawless. During 12 hours of daylight, maybe a front would blow through for an hour and the wind would switch onshore. The other 11 of hours were either light wind and glassy or perfect offshore.
I went to the beach every night with my camera and tripod in an attempt to photograph the Milky Way in the light-pollution-free sky. Tropical clouds made that difficult but I witnessed some spectacular lightning storms on the horizon. I even scored a super fun moonlight swim on my final night.
Twas a spectacular trip! I hope to go back for a full month next summer. Many thanks to Mateo, Ken, Judy, Bruce and their staff for all the wonderful hospitality! If you are looking for a Nicaragua surf adventure, I highly suggest contacting Mateo: