Surfing NIC!

Trip Start Feb 03, 2013
Trip End Jan 25, 2014

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Rivas,
Saturday, November 16, 2013

Learning to surf had been on my trip to do list since the start. Whilst I wouldn't say I'm a surfer now, I had a thoroughly enjoyable week attempting it.

When looking for where and when to try surfing lessons, San Juan Del Sur had been high on my list. There are a wide variety of beach breaks, suitable for all levels of surfers, including novices like me. I'd only surfed once before, while on holiday in California, so I was keen for the full package to give me a good start. After some research I found exactly what I was looking for with the Chica Brava surf camp. It's an all girl week long surf camp, where everyone stays in either the surf house in town or the cloud farm, which is more of a retreat. I decided on the surf house, so that I got to see the town too during my week.

I met the other girls when we were picked up in Managua and as I'd expected most were from North America. In total we were eight, one from Canada, two from New York, three from California and bringing the European contigent to two, one from Switzerland (and later in the week a Belgian too). We stopped briefly in Granada for lunch, giving me a taste of the Colonial city, which I would return to a little later in my trip. The surf house itself was lovely, we were spread acoss three ensuite rooms and there were two huge living rooms and the tempting surf shop at the front of the property. We were soon all settled in and decked out in our rash vest for the following day, before heading out for our first dinner and magarita together.

We were met that evening by two of our instructors, with years of experience surfing, competing and teaching. At the start of our week we each set our goals, some had surfed before so our goals were very personal. My goals were small; my first was to stand up on the board, as I'd not managed that in my previous lesson; my second was to carry my board with ease, as the one in California had been huge and really heavy; and my last additional goal was to feel more comfortable in the water. It may not sound like much, but to a girl that isn't too keen on waves or even putting my face under water, they were more than enough.

Our first day started with a tasty breakfast cooked by our lovely cook and I had the best rice and beans so far. We were joined by our three female Chica Brava instructors, two from the US and one local. We were then assigned our boards and checked them over like taking out a car rental. I was happy to tick one goal off straight away, as my board was fiberglass, so felt light as a feather and tucked neatly under my arm. We loaded the boards on our Chica Brava 4x4 and drove to the beginner beach of Playa Remanso, along bumpy and waterlogged lanes. The beach itself was quite small and largely deserted. Our instructors decided it was a tad too calm though, so we hopped back in the car and moved straight on to the nearby Playa Hermosa. The road to Hermosa was a little less bumpy, as large parts of it were paved; this was due to the US Survivor TV series being filmed there some years before and them needing to guarantee access for their filming. A sad state of affairs, but a welcome smoother ride.

We focused first on the pop up. We split into groups and firstly determined whether we were regular or goofy footed. Turns out I'm goofy footed, but all that means is I stand on my board with my right foot forward. After some practice pop ups on the beach, we were soon heading into the whitewash to put it into practice. We were warned about stingrays lying on the sea bed, so we shuffled our way into the water; to alert rather than step on them and avoid their nasty sting. The next two hours were spent attempting to pop up, whilst being pushed on the wave, with varying levels of success. I achieved my goal of standing up, which was great for day one but I lacked consistency.

Midway through our week, we set off early in the morning to surf, so that we could get back for our catamaran cruise that afternoon. The cruise was on an awesome boat, which took us out of the San Juan bay and we passed some of the beaches we'd surfed. It was a pricey afternoon, but all drinks and food were included, so we made the most of it and kicked back and relaxed sipping ron y coca as we cruised along. We pulled up to one beach for a swim, before heading back on board for well needed afternoon snacks, including some very tasty ceviche. On the way back to town, we caught sunset and to top off an idyllic afternoon, we were joined by some dolphins too.

We spent the week progressing our surfing skills at Playas Remanso, Hermosa and the bigger waves at Maderas. Whilst still trying to perfect my pop up, I learnt to paddle quickly to catch a wave with limited success! I also learnt to turtle roll, which involves flipping the surfboard over and holding it straight, to let a wave crash overhead; it's important when battling the waves to get out, but can be thoroughly exhausting catching your breath amidst a thundering set. One day the stingray warnings were unfortunately proved true, with one of the girls getting a nasty sting on the toe; a local remedy and a bowl of hot water later, she was well on the mend though. During the week, I really started to feel comfortable in the water and whilst I won't be winning any prizes, it was fun learning a new skill and being out on the water.

On our penultimate day of surfing, we had a birthday amongst us, so started the day with cake and candles at breakfast. We had a fairly sedate day of surfing back at Remanso as the swell was very small and the waves few and far between. It was a nice day though, topped off with a group dinner in the evening. We went to an unassuming but well recommended restaurant and most ordered the langosta lobster special; which was coated in garlic butter and tasted sublime! The restaurant was BYO, so we quaffed quite a few drinks too, before two of us escorting the birthday girl for more drinks at a local bar. There was live music and soon after we arrived, a pub crawl decended which livened things up. A fun evening, but a few too many tequilas, saw an ill advised trip the beach at the end of the night. It was fairly inevitable then that my belongings were stolen whilst I was swimming, but nonetheless annoying!

Included in our surf camp, to ease our tired muscles, were yoga casses and also a well deserved massage, which we had on our last afternoon. Our last evening together we had a final group meal in a beautiful restaurant and it was Saturday again before we knew it. During my surfing week I achieved the goals I set and had fun to boot - all in all a great experience.
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