Nicaragua entries

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better... by Kevin Huang

...it did. 

The day after Colorados brought a lot more of the same.  Out of the four guests that we had had, two of them had left, and one of them was sick.  The last remaining guest was scheduled to leave the next day.  We had already surfed a fun session in the morning, and since it was nearing the end of the week, the vibe all around the camp was pretty relaxed.  We almost ended up not going, but our most seasoned guide Brad who had been surfing the area the last few months, suggested we hit one more spot as a sendoff to our guest.  Again, we weren't really expecting much, but I decided to bring my camera as well as my board just in case.  

The spot we ended up hitting was called Rancho Santanas.  I would almost best describe it as Colorado’s older sister.  Both are sand bottom beach breaks which chuck picture perfect barrels when the conditions align.  However, where Colorados is a very fast, aggressive wave, Santanas requires you to make sweet love to it in order to surf it properly.  At Colorados, if you want to get barreled, you need to stand up as fast as you can, pump, and then try and duck before the lip decapitates you.  The wave is a quick, dumping barreling wave which often closes out.  At Santanas it’s almost the opposite.  There is a main peak at Santanas, with a couple more peaks down the beach.  The main peak is a perfect A frame which jacks up, continues to jack, slowly starts to break at the peak, and once it gains momentum starts forming a barrel as the wave starts to hit the inside and the weight of the water behind it causes it to start falling upon itself.  Things can change depending on the tides, but if you surf the main peak you need to learn how to fade in order to line yourself up properly with the tube.  Not every wave barrels either, and Santanas peels a lot more slowly than Colorados so if you just get up and start pumping you can find yourself outrunning the wave.  

In any case, none of this information was known to me when I first paddled out.  The only thing Brad told me as I pulled up was that the wave was a beachbreak similar to Colorados except he liked this one better.  There were a lot of peaks so the best thing to do was to find a peak and sit on it.  With that he tossed my board in the water and I promptly jumped in after it. 

I ended up paddling into an empty spot between two of the bigger peaks.  From the boat all you could see were the back of the waves, so I wasn’t able to gauge what the waves were like until I got into the lineup.  Almost as soon as I stopped paddling and looked to my sides, a perfect, 6 foot wave came in at the peak and unloaded into a perfect A-frame with a barrel section.  For the second time in 48 hours my jaw dropped.  And then a second wave came in, and a third, and a fourth.  I looked to the other peak on the opposite side of me and it was almost the same thing but in reverse.  It was about 2 and a half hours till sunset and it was perfect glass.  I swear I just sat there in awe.  

I finally snapped out of it when Brad paddled up to me.  I took off on my first wave, but unfortunately I ate it.  Since I had surfed Colorados the day before my timing was off.   The next wave was better, and then the next one was a barrel.  I turned to see Brad pull into a tube.  For the next 45 minutes we just sat there trading off wave after wave after wave, paddling back and seeing the locals put on an absolute clinic on the main peak. 

The correct way to ride the wave....

The incorrect way.  Alternate caption:  The price of failure.

After about an hour I finally remembered I had brought my camera.  I paddled a half km back out to the boat, traded my board for fins and hopped back out into the water and swam to the lineup.  The sun was dropping lower and lower into the sky and it was lighting the waves perfectly.  There were so many waves coming in that it grew frantic.  I would point my camera at the main peak, snap a few shots, then whip a 180, change a couple settings on my camera and try and snap a few more pics of the other peak, and then vice versa.  There were so many waves and so much power in them, I actually ended up losing a fin.  The thing never surfaced so I ended up finishing the session with one fin on.  

 
 

Last light

Eventually, the froth grew unbearable and I ended up swimming another half km out to the boat, traded my fins for my board and spent the last 30 minutes of daylight surfing.  It was so difficult to make the call to leave.   When we finally started calling out to our captain, he whipped the boat around and almost pulled directly into the lineup. We frantically threw our boards on to the boat and took off.  I remember getting launched into the air as the boat tried to crest a set wave.  On the boat ride back everyone was super stoked. 

For the second day in a row, we had scored.   

Colorados by Kevin Huang

There's nothing quite like the feeling you get when you paddle out expecting it to be small, and end up getting caught inside as set after set of perfect head high+ waves steamroll through the lineup and clear everyone out.  

Colorados definitely did not disappoint.

We were all looking at the swell chart that morning and there was about a 2.5 - 3 foot swell in the water at about 14 seconds.  We had a pretty uneventful session out at Lance's in the morning so we weren't really expecting anything.  It was a couple of the guests' last day in Nica so they just wanted to get one last session in before they took off back to the real world.  Since they hadn't gotten the chance to surf Colorados (and since it's only like a 3 minute boat ride), we all decided to just pull up to Colorados and give it a go.  We rolled up to the spot and didn't even bother looking at it.  The guides and I unstrapped everyone's boards, tossed them into the water and everyone took off on their merry way.  Notably, it was also the first time I took my water housing out  in Nica. 

I swim out to the lineup with my bright red helmet on, and not five minutes passes when a massive three wave set, probably a foot or two overhead sweeps through and WRECKS everyone.  A couple of our guests were riding longboards and had been surfing relatively softer waves so when that first set came through they got absolutely demolished.  

Yup....deeeefinitely too far inside on this one...

There's no better feeling than rolling up to a spot in a boat, but from a purely practical point of view, sometimes it's actually better to humbly paddle out from the beach.  When you pull up to spot in a boat, especially a beachbreak where you can't get a good angle on what the wave looks like as it's coming in,  it's very difficult to get a read on what the wave is doing.  When you paddle out from the beach you have a lot more time to analyze the wave, see where it's breaking, how it's coming in, and to get a read on how big it is that day.  When you paddle out from shore you can feel how the current is moving and you get a better idea of what's happening that day.  When you come in from the boat, especially at a break like Colorados, all you see are the backs of the waves so you really have no idea how big it's actually going to be. In Nica, it's fairly common to see the backs, think it's about chest high, and when you finally get out into the lineup it's overhead+.  That's exactly what happened this day.

I ended up paddling in a little too close to shore and essentially got caught inside on that set, and on the next one.  My camera was causing me some issues and wasn't focusing properly.  I was frothing so hard I hadn't double checked everything before I jumped off the boat.  I realized this as I was already in the lineup so as I was trying to fiddle with the settings on my camera, wave after wave came crashing right on my head.  Since Colorados is a beach break, there's no channel to comfortably shoot from, and waves and people were coming at me from every which way.  Not only that, but it was the first time I had been in the water in waves that large and powerful with my water housing.  All in all, definitely not the greatest day of shooting I've ever had.  

In any case, I ended up switching to video and managed to get a couple of little snippets here and there.  At the very least, it captures the franticness of the session hah!  After about 10 minutes though, I realized I was in over my head.  I ended up paddling back out to the boat, trading my fins and camera for my board, and paddled back out into the lineup.  

 

With my board I felt way more comfortable.  I took some time to figure out the wave and found the peaks.  There was one A-frame peak in the middle that was coming in bigger than the others.  The wave would come in at the same spot every time, and it would be a huge wall stretching out for 100 yards in either direction.   Ideally, you could shoulder hop the wave, and MAYBE make it out if you raced it.  However, due to the crowd, everyone kept pushing each other deeper and deeper, and people were taking off right on the peak, pulling in, riding the barrel for a couple of seconds, and then it would clamp on them.  Eventually, excitement got the better of me and despite my hatred of crowds I paddled for the peak.  I bided my time, and when I finally saw an opening I took off on a nice left.  I paddled, felt the wave pick me up, grabbed my outside rail, and pulled into a nice little lefthand cavern.  Unfortunately it closed out on me but tube time is still tube time.

Conditions were challenging, but it was as good as any one of the best days back in California.  People were getting barreled left and right, but only I only saw one guy make it out.  For a first session at Colorados, I couldn't have asked for anything more.

 

Even with all the craziness, I still managed to snap this little gem.