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Sunday, July 29, 2018

7.27.18 Back to La Bocana, El Salvador

My surf mojo was going through a crisis of consciousness.  I'd previously enjoyed lightly fettered access to a reliable and sometimes magical beachbreak.  All I'd had to do was grab my board and go.

Now I was thirty kilometers away, in a borrowed car (which I'd be parking out in the open).

Several factors had stymied my attempts to paddle out sooner.  Massive swell coupled with a brutally low tide was the first.  The swell models predicted a slow marching-down in size and I made plans to surf.

The gods had other plans for me.  That Saturday evening, I ordered a pizza and in my haste to meet the pizza guy I ran barefoot on these wet too-smooth stepping stones.  My index toe curled under the pad of my foot and was crushed into the sharp edge of the awaiting next stepping stone.  I thought for sure I'd broken it and cautiously canceled the next day's session.

On two occasions, massive thunderstorms and their accompanying rain derailed my plans.

And finally, on a very dark Friday morning, the stars aligned so I could presumably bring you this blog entry!

As previously alluded to, I was in a borrowed car.  I didn't know if the key had a chip so I couldn't risk getting it wet by taking it into the water with me.  This meant Punta Roca was out.  I realized if Chuleta was at the hotel I could surf La Bocana and it just so happened he'd spent the night there!

I was really surprised at just how many rocks I'd have to dance on to paddle out.  There was also a suspicious smell in the air as my toes hit the remarkably warm water.

I caught five waves.  I had a massive lull before I caught my last one, by far my best.   Since I hadn't caught anything in so long, I went on a questionable one as I was really late.  I got a massive amount of speed and hooted myself as I made eye contact with a local while adjusting my course so as not to hit him. I connected on the inside but I had no speed when  I tried to bonk off the oncoming section.

I took a lot of beatings out there as it was really shifty.  Unfortunately, though the waves were still big, they were mostly all drop.

Monday, July 9, 2018

7.9.18 Nica Swan Song at Playa Colorado

The doggo and I beat feet to the beach.  He took his time sniffing stuff, getting one last inhalation of the path to the water.  I let him dally on the sand when I paddled out.

It wasn't too crowded.  I think a lot of people were lulled by the late arrival of this swell.  According to magicseaweed we were to get a pulse in the morning with constant reinforcers all day with the swell peaking today.  Yesterday was a complete bust.  I waited until the afternoon to go and it was so gutless I didn't bother to paddle out at the swell magnet that is Panga Drops.  

 There was way more energy in the water noticeable upon my first southward gaze into the Pacific.

I caught a left pretty quickly and got covered up completely, too completely.  I kicked my board in front of me to lessen the chances of trauma.

I immediately began getting attacked by the baby jellyfish, including a particularly painful string of them wrapping around my forearm.  It felt as though a low voltage charge had coursed through my extremity.  Painful, but not as bad as the Pangas "Just Get Welts" sesh a couple of months ago.

A light squall showered us and a rainbow formed.  I gazed at it while two surfers were particularly close to one another framed by the rainbow and thought what a cute gay surfers couple's pic that would make. 

I caught a right that lined up ok.  Had I not been dropping in blind from the wind and the glare I might have noticed it was going to tube.  I pumped and snapstalled but did so too high/late and as I crouched down I got pitched.

My last wave was a really late small right.  I had paralysis of analysis and ended up crabgrabbing as the wave unloaded its Napoleonic fury on my head.

The dog had been barking it up for a while and I had stuff I needed to button up so I went in.

We moved to Nicaragua because at the time of planning it checked so many of our boxes
  1. Warm water and good surf within walking distance
  2. Decent school with US accreditation nearby
  3. Established community with little kids running around
  4. Relatively cheap
  5. Safe. From October 2015 (when I started planning the move) to April 2018 it was considered the safest country in Central America by far (yes including Costa Rica, which is dealing with a terrible rise in crime and corruption) 
  6. Striking distance to US
The school thing turned out to be a bust as we got insider info while here that it wasn't up to snuff.  So even if this political strife hadn't happened Raquel had decreed we would stay here through Lucia's first grade year at the latest.

Point Five is the biggest catalyst for the move, obviously.  If we were staying now the next few months would be the time to put money down on a lot or home.  We pulled out of our lot purchase and ended up eating the deposit (though we are supposed to get half of it back...).

Everything else was pretty sweet.  The waves weren't as good as I'd hoped, meaning the close-out/too-fast-too-make situation didn't sort itself out for as much of the season I was here.

Ironically, had the political issue not ignited I'm pretty sure the crowds might have turned me off and possibly away (as they did in California). 

The biggest bummer about being here, and one of which we were aware before the move, was getting supplies.  Each trip to the grocery store was a three-hour endeavor pre-roadblocks.  Roundtrip driving alone was 100 minutes and waiting in line was twenty on a decent day.  Going to Managua for (Pricesmart, VERY similar to Costco) shopping and to get our investment property check was a seven-hour grind.  I insisted on doing both Rivas and Managua trips on my own because our youngest has a penchant for puking when in a car for more than a half-hour.  I got it down so I would only have to go to Rivas every twenty or so days and Managua every forty-ish days.

So we move on from the Nica dream to our next station in life, El Salvador.  8065 days will have elapsed since I left El Salvador as a full-time resident to return as one.  I have been back to visit nineteen times in the interim, so I have a feeling as to what to expect.

A few of the differences between El Salvador and Nicaragua:

  • In El Salvador, we will live in the San Salvador metro area (I consider Santa Tecla to be part of it because of the sprawl).  Everything will be more convenient (hospital, grocery stores, doctors, schools; hell I'll even be able to go to a full gym again) with one tiny exception:  The beach will be a little less than an hour away. 
  • This convenience comes at a price.  Where we had been living for the last eight months was in very rural Nicaragua.  We will be in very urban surroundings of San Salvador.  Nicaragua has six times the land area and fewer people total than El Salvador. 
  • When it comes to infrastructure, we will be in the lap of luxury relative to Nica.  The power and internet will go out much less often and the roads are actually asphalted and maintained there.
  • The biggest bummer we'll encounter is the muro-to-muro lifestyle.  Everyone there lives behind walls and you go from your set of walls to others'.  We can mitigate this somewhat by living in a complex with a bunch of kids so we'll see how that works out.
  • Surf-wise, there will be a lot more variety than here (point breaks galore, beach breaks, rivermouths and so on all bigger than in Nica for some reason) but with no offshore it's pretty much an early morning only situation.  The nice thing is they're doubling the capacity of the road to the beach so no more chewing on diesel exhaust on the way back up the hill.
  • We'll have blood relatives there and the can of worms that goes with that... 😆  I also have life-long friends I've known, in some cases, since preschool.
  • No more worrying about obtaining residency!  I am a full citizen with all of the benefits that entails and can stay as long as I'd like.  Here in Nica we had to leave every ninety days to get our passports stamped with new visas.  In ES, I'll have to get the girls legal but that will be a lot easier than having to get the four of us residency.
In CA, I was burned out on working but I must say I'm getting the bug to start producing hard again.  Once Chucho dies we will likely be leaving El Salvador unless we fall in love with it.

When I was living there, I couldn't wait to get out.  This was pre-internet, pre-driver's license, pre-surfing, so my entertainment options were extremely limited.  I was also in a dysfunctional situation at home which was a constant bummer and the pervading vibe was emotional instability.

Conclusion to the Opie chronicles

The van I drove down was nicknamed Opie due to its license plate having OP as the first two letters.  I bought it and drove Chucho and a fair amount of stuff down from Colorado, with the intention of giving it away (because it was too old to be imported).

I asked around on the expat groups and the first person to respond was a woman from Dallas who does a lot of charitable work in Astillero (where some people take pangas to surf up north).

Your Faithful Surf Blogger and Da Astillero Boyz in November

I received a message this morning saying how much the van has helped the community as well as a pic of Opie in action!

"I want to share with you how much this van is helping many in the community. The baseball team has been able to transport the team 2 weeks in a row! Olinyer takes care of it and the surf team has used it to feed the elderly in nursing homes etc. we are very grateful thank you and your wife for this gift."

Friday, July 6, 2018

7.6.18 Smaller at Playa Close-outs-rad-though

The wind was blustering and it made for a bad combo with the smaller waves.  Smaller waves, generally speaking, have a tighter window during which you can catch waves and getting hung up on the lip robs you of the already low percentage you have to make these poorly angled waves.

I caught three waves.

On my first, a left, I pearled on a pump.  While I didn't get hung up on the lip at takeoff I managed to put myself in that position and my nose went pearl diving.

I was in position for a juicy right.  I got hung up on the lip and airdropped.  While I was airborne, I saw a dark local grom bail and leave his board out (I presume he feared I would smash into him as it was tight).  He needn't had worried, I stomped it and for my reward I was presented with a section folding over in front of me cutting me off from the rest of the wave.  To boot, the guy who'd last given me a ride in his golf cart had gone and had reaped the best section of the wave.

Chucho was being good on the sand, only barking when people came in from the surf.

I got another left. I made it around the initial cascade of a section but what lay before me beyond that was too fat.  I managed some pumps and a half-hearted bonk but that was it.

The dog was really running around now so I went in to chill with him hoping the drop in tide would make it get better.  We messed around on the beach for about a half-hour and it got even worse.  I told myself if the crowd count got to a -3 (meaning three more surfers left the water than entered it in a specific span of time) I would paddle out again.  It peaked at a -1 and we bailed.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

7.5.18 Close-Out Kristallmorgen at Playa Colorado

I lucked into having my neighbor Barry watch the dog AND he let me ride the bike he's renting.

I pulled up to PC and there was a set detonating.  It was big and beautiful looking, but as a surfer it was ugly.  I could picture getting hung up on the lip as the wind's invisible hand denied you descent while the liquid guillotine of the toothy curtain rained terror from above.

There were about ten guys concentrated at the main peak.  I chose to be a little on the inside, to score some of the ones that might swing wide.  I'd had a bitch of a time paddling out.  My timing fairy dust from the previous paddle-out had worn off and my timing fairy dust dealer was out to collect with a vengeance.  To add to the beatings, the boardshorts my in-laws gave me, 31 in waist, were falling partway off of me thanks to my unofficial fasting which began when my lady bid me adieu. We're apart geographically, but we're still together together (I think, though I am reluctant to check my IM).

I caught two quick waves both close-outs.  I had a shot at several more with more open faces, but there was a dude in priority each time.  On one instance, I watched the guy paddle his ass off, pop up, and go over the handlebars. 

He came up, paddled towards me and said, "the wind". 

I told him, "I know.  You have to put your weight all the way on the gas and then the lip holds you up and over you go.  It's happened to me before and it will probably happen to me again, this session.".

He took me by surprise and said, "Thanks man".

Long story short, I didn't get the chance to endo.  I eventually took a close-out in as surf and crowd conditions deteriorated.

But before that happened...

A guy who went to high school not far from the condo where this very surf blog was founded is known around here as an a-hole.  I've only surfed with him twice as far as I know.  He thinks he's local and he's claimed in the past that the house in which he lives is his when his parents built it and he manages it.  He has on many occasions dropped in on people and then harassed them when they confront him, on some occasions threatening to call the cops when they ask him to go to the sand for a chat.

I knew he was out because he was shouting as a set approach; something unintelligible, I couldn't quite make it out.  Within ten minutes of my having noticed him I saw him take off on a wave with a rider (who'd had priority) already on it, then proceed to loop around him.  The guy who'd had priority understandably was spooked as he had no idea a close call had been imminent.

The aggressor in question paddled back out and words were exchanged.  The Argentinean guy (if my accent detection skills are still up to snuff) let him have it. Believe me, he couldn't have held back much more than he did considering a direction change could have put both riders' bodies in jeopardy.

The long and short of it is, from what I could gather from one party's bad Spanish, is that the aggressor accused the Argentinean of backpaddling him (if it happened, and I doubt it did because of the relative distance between the two when the Argentinean stood up).  He then said this was HIS wave.  The Argentinean said this is the ocean, which teaches us all humility and your arrogance will do you no good (it was getting harder to hear as they were paddling away).  The Argentinean reached out for a handshake to which the aggressor reluctantly obliged.

The aggressor then paddled in a ways.  I made eye contact with him about five minutes later and couldn't help but smirk (I tried not to).  Some say it is this smirk which intimidated him into paddling in for the sesh...

Overall, it was a waste of having had a dogsitter since I've caught more waves when Chucho's been on the sand.

The swell was good-sized but the conditions (an unfortunate combo of too much wind and poor swell angle for the bathymetry) conspired against us having a good session out thar.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

7.4.18 Clean and Good-Sized Playa Wyoming

Yesterday's experiments having been a bust, Chucho and I set off for the beach.  I had a grumbling in my belly after a couple of morning movements and I was all of a sudden feeling weak and hungry.  Once we got to the sand, I wasn't motivated to paddle out and I felt as though my mojo had been sapped.

I unleashed the beast, feeling optimistic about his ticking bark bomb lasting a bit longer thanks to a couple of doggos on the beach.

There were some massive ones breaking.  It looked like Pipeline on some sets.  Unmakeable Pipeline, but it resembled Pipeline nonetheless.

I snuck out in between sets and was sitting away from the ravenous pack.

I only caught three memorable waves.  The first was a left which I thought might barrel but didn't really.  I went up and did a snap on it but ate it.

The next wave I caught pretty late and I got hung up on the lip.  I stomped the airdrop down, leaned way back on my tailpad and got a short cover-up.  It let me out and I was a little off-balance.  My trailing arm hit the lip on the way out.  I turned and obliterated the oncoming section.  I celebrated by falling onto my back before my fins could reconnect.

I caught another quick left and got in the barrel.  I contorted myself as small as I could get and just couldn't squeeze in there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

7.3.18 Passing up a Pelican Paddle-Out at PC

The cleaning ladies' schedule has been retooled and they're now coming a day earlier than usual.  Everything is upside down in the tourism biz here due to the budding revolution to which I've alluded in past posts...

I left the doggo in their care and told them to leave him in the condo with only the screen door closed.  I told them I'd be responsible for any damage.

I ran most of the way down to the beach and when I got there I realized it'd grown, just as the forecasts had predicted. It was about double-overhead on the sets.

Some waves looked perfect but when they had a rider with whom one could judge makeability, you could tell they were just teases.

There was  a massive pelican standing on the beach facing inland, with one wing semi-splayed.  It looked like something was wrong with it.  I thought it might have been a sign to paddle out there but I bailed on it for a chance at bigger waves.

I had a bit of an angle on a smaller one and this Japanese lady sized me up and decided to go about fifteen feet down the line.  I leaned way back upon seeing this and somehow managed to put my buttcheek on my fin, thankfully only gingerly.  I was literally and figuratively butthurt she did that but not worth exchanging words.

I was in position for this burly left.  I had a little bit of an edge on the corner, but it looked grisly just past that.  I went only because this older guy was staring me down and I thought he would just go on any wave on which I paddled after that.
The drop was an insane rush on my 5'11".  It took everything I had to bottom turn into the pit and apparently in my enthusiasm/terror I put too much weight on my front foot and I literally tail-slid longboard style as the massive lip j u s t tapped me on the back of the head.  BUMMER.  I would have had a sick view even though the thing wasn't going to let me out.

I had something I don't think I've ever had happen in my surf career.  This good-sized left came and this Brazilian dreadlocked guy on my inside was paddling.  I said, "Dale!" (most Brazilians speak a little Spanish, or so I've read).  He pulled back and I made some noise and went myself. I dropped down into the pit and got barreled but the reason I told him to go is it was a disgusting closeout and I paid the price.
The aforementioned Brazilian looked a lot like the lead singer of P.O.D.

All-in-all I saw two guys make tubes.  One was in the absolutely perfect spot and the other guy was just a barrel maestro with his pumping in the pit.

I happened to hitch a ride with a friend in his golf cart and when I got to the pool area of our complex Chucho was there with our former neighbors, who are leaving Nicaragua for their native Colombia.

7.3.18 Kooking it Up at Playa Colorado

Today was quite the entanglement for the Golf Condo Gangsta Clique.  My neighbors, Barry and Bob (not a gay couple, or at least I don't THINK they are!) are staying in my same complex were out there with me, not on purpose.

I had an epiphany yesterday.  Chucho was sleeping and I was able to sneak downstairs.  He didn't even notice I was gone, so how could he be butthurt?

I figured, what if I bailed on him and left him in the condo, but left the condo door open in case he wanted out?  If he did, he would find a friendly party and he'd have his collar on so he'd likely find his way back to me.  Worst-case scenario is he gets hit by a car and then we have the option of moving back to the States... 😇

I did so and hoofed it down to PC.  It was a solid size on the sets, about head-and-a-half.

My first wave was a close-out, but I was jamming on it so I was game.  I pumped twice, then tucked down and got barreled.  I had a sick view and then I had trouble seeing anything that wasn't water because the barrel just kept running and running

I caught a wave and I had Bob about thirty feet in front of me.  I made eye contact with him and analyzed my options.  I ended up hesitating as he was just in front of me (at about one o-clock).  I decided to do my damnedest to avoid landing on him and catapulted off my board using my hands.  When I came up I checked on him to ensure I hadn't impaled him and he was worried about me.

Barry caught a sick one and he was somewhat close to me after I paddled back out from my abortion of a wave.   I screamed at him to GO! GO! as I duckdove.  He managed one turn on a really fast wave before it reached its final phase.

I caught a screamer of my own later in the session, but it was a third the size of Barry's (wave).

I also had a wave under which I duckdove which hit me so hard I saw stars.

When I got back I was excited to see what the Chucho experiment had wrought.  I saw the condo building and thought it was good that it was still standing.  I turned the corner towards the entrance and noticed Chucho's trademark poop and thought "Uh oh".  I got to my door and it was closed.  I found out later the cleaning ladies had ushered and sequestered him back upstairs.  Luckily there was no damage, as in 2015 he tore our rental in CO up after years of having been ok being left alone.

Monday, July 2, 2018

7.2.18 Onshore and Nasty at Wyoming then Colorado

Another day without the girls in Nica means another day with Chucho patrolling the sand. 

I paddled out near Idaho so as to keep him as far from the Beach Club as possible.  There were two groms out and we took turns pulling back from close-outs. 

My number eventually came up in the rotation and I redeemed it on a racy left.  I stomped down, then quickly back up so as to give myself a 1% chance of making it.  I managed to overdo it and pearl on a pump™.

I drifted down as it sucked where we were and saw a mirage of a right cylinder off, probably too fast for me to make it, but I decided it couldn't be much worse than here and so I paddled the thirty or so strokes to await its next of kin.

I split my time between waving at Chucho to keep him from going bonkers and watching the waves.  The dog seemed to grasp it was in fact I who was waving by his posture and attention.  He still barked some.  I went in and we walked up the beach where a sick left would break every eight or so minutes.

Sure enough I lucked into a nice one and pumped a few times, then did an off-the-lip off the close-out section.  I claimed it was I made eye contact for Chucho, hoping he would appreciate the maneuver.  He looked ready for me to go in and so I did after another abridged adventure.

The following message is for diehard trivia fans ONLY.
DO NOT ATTEMPT to read if you're just a casual.

I happened to look back and I've surfed every July 2nd of every year since the inception of this blog and not counting the massive sabbatical during which I lived in Colorado.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

7.1.18 Surfus Interruptus/Deja Vu at Playa Wyoming

It was Sunday and I didn't have anyone to watch the dog.  So we hoofed it to the beach.  I posted him just outside of Casa Colorados with no leash on, since he doesn't seem to freak that way as readily.

I paddled and perched and looked back.  His defining ears were aimed squarely at me from the wet sand, his lower legs in the water.  Within minutes he was distracted by a surfer exiting the water and went up to investigate. My theory is he thinks it's me every time he sees a guy walking out of the water.

The crowd was mellower than in recent days' past but so was the surf.

I got really barrelled on this smaller left.  I saw it about to heave so I levitated and then stomped down for a massive acceleration.  I tucked down, closer to the wall than normal, and enjoyed the view as my body became entombed in a watery grave.  It was a close-out but I will take it.

I watched and Chucho was getting dangerously close to the Beach Club, where dogs are banned.  I pictured a jack-booted guard giving him the heave-ho with a healthy kick to the ribs and made plans to exit.

I caught a right and hit it really well.  There was no wave left after that so I belly-boarded in on the whitewater.

I went and got him and tied him up.  I paddled back out and within seconds of my having perched he started barking.

I caught another, smaller barrel which also closed out.  I also caught a smaller right but it was really frothy and I had a bitch of a time controlling my board through two mediocre hits on it.

People were craning their heads to pinpoint the whereabouts of their ear rapist.  I went in on a close-out and belly-boarded towards him.  He was relieved to see me.  I think what he does when he is tied up is he sees surfers going in and walking away from him and he thinks it's me abandoning him.

As we walked back he walked purposefully and wouldn't look back.  He was actually tugging on his leash to head home but we've made up.