The trouble with these remote-access Central American point breaks is that you can’t take a camera. To get to Lance’s Left near El Astillero, Nicaragua we took a bone-rattling ride in Johnny’s pint-sized hire-car to the fishing village. We then walked north up the beach for half an hour, fording rivers and scrambling over high-tide storm debris until we reached the headland which forms the point-break. We then had to inch our way around the rocky headland, making a run for it between sets to avoid being dashed upon the rocks before finally reaching the paddle-out spot.
Even if I wanted to risk bringing my D200 on that trip I wouldn’t have like to hide it in the bushes whilst we surfed… So in nearly three weeks of Nica-surfing I’ve not got a single photograph. Which begs a peculiarly 21st-century question: ‘If I didn’t photograph it, did it really happen?’. With almost every appliance we own boasting an 11.1 mega-pixel digital camera, red, green and blue pixels have replaced memory and story-telling as our primary means of recounting our experiences.
So let me tell you this.
The waves in the Popoyo area are good. Popoyo reef, the area’s main attraction is great but too crowded, if you aren’t local and you don’t rip then expect to bob more than you surf. Lance’s Left was huge, scary and with regular clean-up sets, long hold-downs, murky brown water and a rip-from-hell it doesn’t sound much like fun – but it was. I survived, I caught some great waves and the rides were 100m+ leg-burners.
The rocks are sharp and often shallow and took chunks out of my board, costing $15 in excellent ding repair.
The weather was often stormy as we caught the periphery of Agatha, the tropical storm that wreaked havoc on Guatemala, turning the ocean into frothing chocolate milk.
The isolated surf outpost of Popoyo – a 30-minute low-tide wade through a mangrove estuary and across salt flats to the nearest shop, a two-hour odyssey to the nearest super-mercado – was galvanised by a blitz-spirit community. The power failed regularly and toward the end of our stay we were left sans-electricity for a day or more, so the few surf devotees dotted around the river-mouth congregated at the place we called home, Vaca Loca, a guest-house and pizza/pasta joint run by a wonderful Italian couple. Chess was played, guitars were strummed, rum was produced, ice was found, beers were cooled so by the time the power returned after dusk we were primed and raring to go, culminating in a midnight mass skinny-dip, which only Sofie and I translated as a ‘skinny’ dip.
But the waves are lefts and I’m a regular-foot surfer and we’ve been surfing lefts, lefts and more lefts since November, so the draw of El Salvador’s right points within spitting distance to the north was too much for me. We packed, again, and lugged our boards, bags and gadgets first to Ometepe, a magical island formed from two volcanoes peeking out of Lago de Nicaragua for a few days of culture, fresh-spring dips, some hiking, some bug-battling and some monkey wrangling. Then back to the featurelss, grim and downright dangerous city of Managua for our cross-border ride to San Salvador, and the rights, the rights, the rights…