Feeling like we needed work on our backside surfing earlier this year, Julien and I (both regular footers) decided to take a trip to the Pacific coast of Nicaragua with our friend Rory. "Nica" is known for fast, hollow beach-break lefts and, in the South at least, near-constant offshore winds. It would be the perfect training ground for New Jersey's heavy winter barrels and a refreshing break from wearing 5mm wetsuits.
The dates set, we began watching reports in the South Pacific. An enormous storm promising seas of 55 ft+ would light up coastlines from Chile to Northern California, passing through Nicaragua just two days before we were set to arrive. More than we needed? Definitely.
Having picked up a suitably rugged truck in Managua, we began our 10 day search for the perfect wave by heading to Salinas Grandes, a tiny village on the edge of a giant salt-flat, two hours North of the capital. We scored the tail end of the big swell which had flooded the hostel we stayed at the week before. Even the leftovers served us up a genuine baptism of fire, with sneaky set waves reaching almost double overhead and many un-makeable closeouts, most of which snuck up on us at extraordinary half-hour intervals. Predicting the carnage was impossible!
As the swell died down, we confirmed stories of a spot to the North, the Boom, which works better on smaller swells. The setup is a long beach with a series of diminishing A-frames working on sandbars close to the shore. No more long paddle outs and the promise of a morning of perfect glassy waves.
After two hours of off-road driving and many wrong turns we turned up at Joe's Place, a gritty hostel buried in semi-jungle in the far North of the country. Over a late dinner in the damp, hot night air we encountered surfers who had literally abandoned their lives to surf this spot. Some had stayed there four months or even more. The atmosphere was eerie but exciting. We couldn't wait to hit the beach the next morning and get a taste.
The Boom didn't disappoint, throwing fast, shoulder-high barrels in water so glassy the sets were almost invisible on the horizon. We enjoyed one of the best days of the trip, scoring a solid morning of fun waves and watching local rippers tearing up waves on seriously tore up old boards.
Northern Nicaragua only blows offshore in the morning, so we decided to head South where the enormous inland lake, Lake Nicaragua, drives almost constant offshore winds, morning and night. We checked into a basic hostel in a small village called Popoyo, skirting the crowds and irksome private access at Nicaragua's famed Colorado's spot.
Popoyo offers a number of different waves to suit various swells and conditions including an inner and outer reef, a sheltered wall-y left inside a long rock point at Mag Rock, hollow beach breaks in nearby Astillero and, the jewel in the crown of our trip, a seemingly endless left hand point called Lance's Left, accessible in the luxury of a boat or (as we did) a painful hike over a quarter mile of burning hot rocks which are exposed to scorching sunlight all day, followed by a long paddle out to the takeoff. It's worth every blister and aching shoulder - a perfect, wall-y left which worked like a charm on the final pulse of fresh swell which arrived on the last two days of the trip.
Three boards and three bodies came and went in one piece. We found the lefts we needed, and then some, ate a ton of beans, rice and pancakes, and, most gladly of all we swapped wetsuits for board shorts just when New York's bitter Winter was delivering it's final cold breath. Score!