Surf’s Up!

There wasn’t much opportunity for surfing where we were in Mexico, but now that we’re in Central America the surf beaches are everywhere.  Mike had done a little bit of surfing back in California but really considered himself a beginner.  If Mike is a beginner surfer, I don’t even know what that makes me considering I had never tried surfing in my life! We didn’t exactly have an ocean nearby where I grew up in Texas.

After talking with friends back in Mexico, Mike decided he wanted to get a stand-up paddle surfboard.  We found a great used board in Punta Mita (Mexico), but Mike hadn’t really had the opportunity to try it out yet.  We are still hanging out with our friends on Kini Popo, and Dan was into surfing too.  So, it was time to go find the surf beaches!

Our first stop was to actually head back up north toward the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border where there is a famous surf spot called Ollie’s.  I have no idea if this is true, but our guidebooks say that Ollie’s was named after Oliver North because this is the spot where he smuggled arms to the Nicaraguan Contras. Crazy.

Anyway, Ollie’s Point is in Bahia Potrero Grande.  Like any good surf beach, there is quite a bit of swell coming into the bay.  That means a bit of a rolly anchorage for the boats.  But, it is a huge advantage to be anchored there as the only way to reach the surf spot is by boat.  On days of good surf, tourists pay several hundred dollars to rent a panga and take them out to Ollie’s for a few hours.

Mike and Dan got to catch a few good waves the first day, but Mike ended up ditching the paddle and regular surfed the new board.  With a SUP board, you either have to have enough volume on the board to keep you afloat or you have to get some speed going to keep you on top of the water.  The board floats me just fine, but Mike has about 50 lbs on me.   Until he gets quite a bit more practice under his belt, the board is going to have to be a regular surf board for him (more on that later.)

Dan, getting his surf on…

Later on we all headed back to the surf spot, and I ended up playing around on our board in the baby waves by the shore while Mike took Dan’s longboard out for a spin.  Susan and I were on shore while Mike and Dan were farther out in the wavers when we noticed dark, ominous looking clouds coming our way.  It became clear that a storm was quickly approaching.  The dinghy was anchored on the other side of the breakers, but the sailboats were clear across the bay.  As we had left the boats when it was sunny, both boats had all the hatches open.

I grabbed the board and started paddling as quickly as possible for the dinghy.  Susan didn’t have a board and was going to have to make a pretty long swim.  As I got closer to the dinghy, I saw Mike and Dan paddling quickly to meet me.  Susan was still trying to negotiate the waves on the shore as the three of us piled in the dinghy and the rain started.  Dan yelled at Susan to stay on the beach.  We would have to come back for her, but we needed to race to the sailboats or everything was going to be drenched.  The boys dropped me off on Adagio and grabbed some fins from Kini Popo.  The boys raced back across the bay to get Susan.  Dan swam the fins to Susan to help her swim out past the surf and into the dinghy.

It was probably only 10 minutes or so after the boys and Susan got back that the storm really hit.  And, it hit hard!  We’ve had a ton of rain the last month while we’ve been here, but usually there isn’t too much wind with it.  This time was different, as we saw about 40 kts of wind!  Mike was out in the cockpit and yelled at me to open the thru-holes and give him the engine key.  We were not too far from the rocky shoreline and if our anchor started to drag we needed to be ready to start the engine quickly.   We have a cool app on our ipad with an anchor alarm that I could monitor by GPS where our boat was and if we looked like we were moving at all.  Thankfully, our trusty anchor held us once again.

The winds weren’t our only concern of course, the lightening is always the biggest worry.  And, boy did we have a light show.  All we can do is stay away from anything metal in the boat and keep our fingers crossed that today is not our day!  We cheated death once again as the storm finally passed.

After a couple of days at Ollie’s we headed south toward Tamarindo.  Although, we started calling it “Tamagringo” because there are probably more gringos here than locals.  Not many cruising boats stop here, because it is a rolly anchorage.  Again, another surf beach so lots of swell.  But, the little town is actually pretty fun and there is a ton of surfing.  In fact, I think every third store in town is a surf shop.

Both our inflatable paddle boards blew out in the last couple of weeks, and Mike decided if he really wanted to SUP surf, he needed to start on a board with more volume.  So, we were on the lookout for another used board.  We happened to meet a guy in a bar with a SUP rental place who said he had some used boards for sale that might be perfect for what Mike wanted.  We met him the next day and found another board for a great price.  We now have two SUP boards again!

After talking to some locals about the fun surf beaches around, we were recommended to go to Playa Avellana.  We knew we were in for an adventure when we told the guy at the rental car place where we were going and he said we needed 4 wheel drive.

Avellana isn’t that far from Tamarindo, but you have to wind around and ultimately get on a dirt road that arrives at an idyllic, unspoiled beach.  The swell was up and the boys were ready to get wet!  Susan and I found a great little spot shaded by a tree to set up our beach chairs and watch the action.

The waves were pretty big and a bit intimidating to me, so Susan and I did a bit of relaxing until lunchtime.  Meanwhile, Mike & Dan tackled mother nature.  We got to watch them catch some really good rides, but we also saw them take some big hits, especially Mike who got pounded a few times.  Dan’s comment was, “Mike has more muscle than sense.”  Hilarious, and true, but I’m proud of him for getting out there and trying.  It is hard work!

The boys took a break and we got some lunch at a fantastic spot on the beach called Lola’s.

After some much needed food, we headed back to the water.  The tide had gone out quite a bit and the waves were much smaller.  So, Mike offered to help me try to catch some waves, since I really have no idea what I’m doing.  They might have been tiny, baby waves, but I stood up twice and rode a wave into the beach.  It was so much fun!

Surf’s Up!


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