Overland miles: 4526 Tacocount: 73 Days without sodas: 0
After soaking up the colonial splendours of Leon and Granada, it was time for us to get out of the city and head to the beaches of south west Nicaragua.
This part of the coast is famous for its beach breaks and as Jovian had decided this was the place he was going to fulfil his destiny of beoming a world-class surfer, we decided to base ourselves at San Juan del Sur, the area’s surfing Mecca.
After wandering around the charmingly shambolic little nest of streets huddled around a crescent shaped bay, we found numerous hostels that either doubled as surf schools / rental shacks, or concentrated on packing as many surfer dudes into their cramped dorms as possible, army barracks style. It all looked a little full-on for total novices to the scene, so we decided to check into a quieter hostel, located on the hill overlooking the town. Called Buena Onda Backpackers: slang for ‘good vibes’, a term from the local surfers’ lexicon, the hostel boasted amazing views over the town from a roof terrace and open air kitchen – and king-sized beds in our rooms to boot.
We immediately enquired about the best beaches to head to the next morning, so Jovian could catch some breaks whilst I could catch some rays. After some discussion, we felt Playa Hermosa was the place to hit up, as it had pristine white sand and gentle rolling waves that beginners could get up on. Apparently it was used as the setting for one series of the desert island reality show Survivor. We headed over there in time for high tide with a couple of other guys staying at our hostel, Jove armed with a beginner’s board and rash vest two sizes too small – and me with a boogie board.
Until now, the closest Jove had come to actual surfing had been learning surf slang from Mexicans. After a few hours in the sea with his teacher, who turned out to be Nicaragua’s national surf champion, he certainly knew the theory, it was just putting it into practice that was the problem. Surfing is a sport for hardened fitness freaks: one that requires balance, aim and coordination skills by the bucketload: skills Jove freely admits he’s lacking in. As a result, standing up on the board – or even crouching on it – turned out to be a lot harder than it looked. I had more luck with boogie boarding, and managed to catch a few waves.
After a day in the water, Jovian had managed to get up on his cumbersome, nose-diving board a few times, and was thus feeling quietly confidant of achieving his boyhood dream (this being the 16th boyhood dream I have patiently nursed him through, a previous example being the one where he got to ride a Greyhound bus). A second lesson was what was clearly needed. However, after another few hours spent thrashing around like a man possessed in an unforgiving and tempestuous sea, his skills had only improved fractionally. In fact, most of this lesson was spent simply trying to get himself and his board out behind the powerful breakers, interspersed with periods of lying flat out on his board trying to catch his breath.
At one point, he waded over to where I was negotiating the smaller breaks, and laid his board on the water to moan about the lack of supervision he was receiving. At this point the swell suddenly rose from nowhere, lifted his board up and smacked him hard in the chops. This kind of sums up the day he was having. So unfortunately loyal readers, we’re unable to show you pictures of our PFB correspondent catching awesome ‘rip curls’ and riding killer ‘booms’. However, this is what we feel he could have looked like with just a little more time: