Today’s blog post comes to you from Playa Hermosa, which is about a 20 minute drive from San Juan, Nicaragua. We’ve enjoyed some fantastic surfing throughout Nicaragua but at the moment it’s more or less flat. So it’s a good time put some work in on the blog. So far we’ve covered Alaska, the Yukon Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Washington and California. Let’s keep working our way south. Read on to hear about our arrival in Latin America and how I caught the surfing bug in Mexico.
We crossed the border into Mexico from Arizona, sorted out our visas and vehicle permits and made straight for the coast. Our first extended stop was in Mazatlan. We surfed at Playa Bruja for a few days and scored a sweet spot with a Palapa giving merciful shade in the trailer park nearby. This was thanks to a gentleman from Arizona named Kip, a tea party republican who’s politics were polar opposites to ours. It made for some interesting evening conversation. We appreciated the shade greatly as at the time Mexico was sweltering hot and humid. Life in the camper became more challenging as we struggled to adjust to the heat. Pretty much, if you had to do anything in the camper you came out with your clothes sweated through. Cooking meals was especially tough, and best done in swim wear as you would be getting soaked anyway.
After our stay in Mazatlan we were keen to find something more relaxed, not to mention cheaper, where we could spend some time and practice surfing. Based on a recommendation from a friend we thought that San Blas would fit the bill. I’ve mentioned it before in the intro to an earlier post; Wrangling the Wrangells: Part 3. It’s a smaller town with few Gringos or tourists of any kind. Not the most scenic, but very authentic with excellent inexpensive Mexican food. Located on the edge of town at the beach is the excellent Stoners Surf Camp, so named after Ron Stoner, a surf photographer. The camp is run by former Mexican surfing champion Jose Manuel Cano (Everyone just calls him Pompis). In front of the surf camp is a great beach break for learning. Pompis runs a sort of locals surf team out of the camp. He gives young locals free access to boards on one condition; school first, then surfing. According to Pompis the purpose of the project is to promote education and counteract the influence of drug dealers peddling crystal meth, which is becoming more and more pervasive in the community. The group ranges from a marine biology student to practicing and studying accountants and psychologists. Hanging out with and surfing with that crew was what made the place special. They were incredibly positive and helpful both in and out of the water, and offered us tons of tips and even lessons without asking for anything in return. We met an Australian couple named Rob and Claire who live in Whistler, and we became good friends over many very competitive games of Settlers of Catan. Also staying at the camp was a totally rad crew of Aussies and a Swedish girl named Tyler, Jake, Bill, and Eleanor, also driving the Pan American in their van, affectionately named “Vanessa”.
For over a week we all surfed together everyday, Jessa and I learned a lot. Our time in San Blas culminated in a visit to Stoners point. When it’s bigger it’s supposed to be the longest wave in Mexico. Rob led the way, paddling out through a gap in the rocky shoreline. Jessa, Claire, and I followed, racing to get out past the next wave. Having only surfed beach break before it was an intimidating place to be. Here there were both visible and hidden rocks, revealed by the tell tale plumes of turbulent water they form on the surface as waves passed by. The girls decided that the break was too heavy and soon paddled back in to shore, leaving just Rob and I in the water. Rob caught a few beautiful rights while I sat on the outside and observed. When I moved in for my first wave I was nervous. With Rob’s encouragement I paddled in and felt the surge as the wave took me. I popped up, leaned forward, and dropped in for a long ride on the best wave of my life. It was a feeling like skiing a perfect untouched line of bottomless powder snow, a combination of adrenaline rush and elation. In that moment I got the surf bug, and I got it bad. We surfed juicy rights all to ourselves until it was too dark to see. Since then I’ve surfed breaks in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and it still stands as one of the best waves of the trip. It was a pivotal moment, as surfing for me transformed from a fun pastime into the beginnings of a passion.
After ten amazing days it was time to leave San Blas. We packed up and hit the road for Sayulita, this time with two additional passengers, Rob and Claire. Sayulita is much more “touristy” than San Blas, and most of our other stops in Mexico. It felt strange to hear English in the streets again, and to be able to order food without utilizing our limited but growing knowledge of spanish. The town is beautiful and the wave there is excellent, but crowded, and not without localism. Another adjustment from the empty breaks around San Blas. We passed the days surfing and playing Settlers of Catan and enjoyed some great meals. We also made a visit to a spot near Sayulita that gets bigger waves than the beach in town does. We only had to share the spot with 3 other people and the wave was fast and strong, but not hollow. We had some exciting rides, and got introduced to the feeling of getting held down for long enough that you have to resist the pressing urge to breath in.
After 4 days in Sayulita we said farewell to our new Australian-Canadian friends and headed inland to visit Jessa’s Uncle in Chapala. After that we planned to attempt to summit Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s tallest peak. It would be weeks until we would be back on the coast again, and I was sad to be out of the water for so long, but excited about challenges of a very different variety to come.