Nicaragua

 

Gosh, it’s been a while.  The last time the we got together for some tropical surf was Bali, Indonesia.  That was 2008.  With the impending arrival of my first kid, I’ve been feeling antsy and I wanted to get some surf before shifting into baby mode.  That should only last a few months, though, as I intend to shift into adventure baby mode as soon as I’m able.

Steve and I flew LAX to Managua, about 8 hours with a short connection in San Salvador.  Tom departed from NY and we met at Sandino International Airport on Saturday morning.  An hour and a half later, we were unpacking our bags at the Gran Pacifica Resort on the Pacific coast.  Transport via minibus cost $100, arranged through the resort.  A taxi might have been less expensive, but we chose the hassle-free option.

Gran Pacifica Resort

 

My friend TJ has been to Nicaragua a few times, and we chose Gran Pacifica based on his recommendation.  This is a sprawling property with a golf course and a beachfront restaurant/bar.  It felt pretty secluded and we saw a handful of other people the entire time we were there.  We stayed in a one-bedroom condo for $79/night (meals included).  There really wasn’t much else to do in this area other than relax and surf.  Thankfully, our condo had wi-fi, satellite TV, and powerful A/C.  What more do you really need?

We arrived at high tide, and there were a few guys surfing the break directly out front from the restaurant.  Hemorrhoids, a  fast and hollow left that breaks over a slabby reef.  One of the dudes looked like Kelly Slater, and for a brief moment I was actually convinced it was Kelly Slater.  This worried me, because I do not belong on any break with that guy.  Turns out it wasn’t him.  This wave is for real, and the sets were overhead with no room for error.  Everything was moving FAST.  I paddled out while Steve and Tom shot video and pics.  Being the only goofy-footed surfer on this trip, I suppose it was my duty to feel things out.  The wave kicked my ass, but it was fun.  We had it dialed in by the end of the trip.  Yeah, right.

Hemorrhoids

 

When the tide would drop, Hemorrhoids (also called Meat Grinders) turned into a flat shelf of tide pools.  Luckily, we were able to head north to a fun beach break called Asuchillo, which we surfed every day.  A 40-minute walk or a quick car ride for $5, take your pick.  We did both.

The surf improved with each passing day.  Unfortunately, the famed Papagayo Wind wasn’t working the first few days of our trip, and we were cursed with blown out, messy conditions.  But the water was a balmy 80 degrees, and as the week progressed, it got cleaner and fun.  When the wind turned offshore, we got a taste of the potential Asuchillo has to offer.

Tom cut his toe during a wipeout on the second day of our trip.  Luckily, he brought along some medical supplies and was able to save it.  I always enjoy watching my friends wince in pain, and it was highly entertaining as Tom cleaned and patched his bloody toe each night.

bloody toe

 

A couple of days later, we decided to try some surf fishing.  No luck, but as Tom and I were wading in knee-deep water, he suddenly screamed out in pain.  I had just mentioned the fact that the water felt “sharky” and his yell was so loud and furious that it startled me.  As he limped out of the water and dropped to the sand, blood began leaking out of a hole in his booty.  A stingray had gotten him in the foot, and now both of his feet were injured.  As Tom applied pressure to stop the bleeding, I sprung into action.  This was a serious situation, and time was of the essence.  I sprinted back to my bag and grabbed my video camera, checked the tape, and began filming his reaction.  Wonderful stuff.

Stingray pain

 

We met a friendly expat named Mike, who offered us rides to and from Asuchillo beach in his Honda Big Red.  What an awesome beach-rec vehicle.  On the last day of our trip, we arranged for a boat trip to catch some fish, and Mike decided to join us on what would turn out to be a wild and borderline horrific experience.  Two fishermen arrived from Masachapa and landed their panga in some heaving shorebreak just north of the resort.  The swell was picking up, and it was hard to believe that we were going to launch into these gnarly waves.  The boat was swinging around and we’re all dodging this way and that to avoid getting crushed.  I was trying to film the whole thing, and after 10 minutes of boat-wrangling we were in position.  The driver ordered us into the boat and as he gunned the engine, we hit a huge wave square on the face.   I was looking down at my camera and didn’t get a chance to brace myself, and I went flying forward and slammed my shins into the bulkhead.  Tom got tossed to the floor and cracked his tailbone.  A wall of water cleared the bow and my camera instantly went dead.  As Tom is writhing around on the floor, Mike is calmly sitting on the bench and asking him if he is alright.  Steve and I are looking at each other with a strange mix of abject terror and amusement.  Before you know it, we’re out on the open ocean and all is well.

The launch

 

We started trolling a few minutes later, and I hooked up with a mackerel immediately.  A couple of hours later, we had a barracuda (Tom) a needle-fish and a jack (Mike) and a bunch of sea catfish (everyone).   Awesome.

Hooking up

 

Surely, the landing would go more smoothly than the launch.  After a few minutes of careful cruising just outside the break, our driver decided the timing was right and he gunned the panga towards the beach.  We passed over huge swell lines and I felt a knot in my stomach as he drove the boat along the back of a big wave.  Holy crap, I hope we don’t pitch down the face of this wave!  With an expert touch, he landed the boat on the beach as smooth as silk.  End of adventure, right?

We disembarked and watched with interest as the two Masachapans attempted to turn their boat around.  The waves were bigger now, but they declined our offer to help.  Since my camcorder was waterlogged, I started shooting video with my 5D, figuring there’s a decent chance that something interesting would happen.  Ten minutes later, it became obvious that they were having some problems and they called us over to help.  The boat was getting nailed by waves and rapidly filling up with water, and it was in danger of getting sucked out to sea and sinking.  The big outboard motor was swinging around and the whole situation was crazy.  Every time a big wave would roll in, everyone would go running in different directions to avoid getting crushed.  One of the fishermen grabs the gas tank and runs up the beach with it.  A wave tosses the other fisherman like a rag doll.  Fish and life vests are flying out of the boat and into the ocean.  Tom and Mike are grabbing fish and throwing them back into the boat.  My flip flops start drifting out to sea.  Just when we thought it was lost, a huge wave flips the boat on its side, emptying hundreds of gallons of water in an instant.  Chaos.

A few more minutes of this crazy nonsense, and the driver saw his opportunity and fired up the engine.  Full throttle, our heroes blasted out of the danger zone and into deeper water.  We were standing on the beach screaming, waving, jumping up and down.  It was fucking awesome.  A minute later, the panga was 1/4 mile out to sea with its nose pitched towards the sky at a 45 degree angle.  I’m not sure if they were doing it on purpose, or if that was the result of the water in the boat.  It didn’t look normal, that’s for damn sure.

I needed several rum and Cokes to unwind from the experience.

Overall, it was a successful trip with all sorts of fine adventure.  I even managed to shoot some nice seascapes on the single evening I wasn’t drunk on rum.  Please enjoy the rest of the images.  You’ll notice that most of the surfing pics are pretty grainy – those are frame grabs from the video we shot.

 

 

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