Nicaraguan Surf Report: Strength in Numbers
The small coastal village of Guasacate, Nicaragua was abuzz, the news propagating from hostel to hostel. It travelled like a current through electric wires, amplifying everyone in its path. Chicas. The Nicaraguan surf report was that a group of surfer girls had arrived; it was the talk of the town.
I was travelling alone, two months into my six-month surf trip through Central America and Mexico, and had recently crossed the border into Nicaragua. Drawn by whispers of waves, I had landed in Guasacate, more of a street than a town, but just a jaunt across the river from the famous surf break, Popoyo, which would soon host the International Surfing Association World Surfing Games.
Bouncing over miles of dirt roads, we finally pulled up to a tiny village where the boats on the beach outnumbered the people. A group of smiling, bikini-clad women toting surfboards, we stood out like bright peacocks in Nicaragua’s sepia-toned landscape.
Excited to connect with other female surfers, I followed the hum of gossip to a group of four women lounging in hammocks up the street. It was there that I met Celia and Lucía, from Spain; Loretto, from Chile; and Maria Elena, from Italy. We struck up a friendly conversation, and found a common thread amongst our medley of languages: English, Spanish, and Italian.
Through patience, translation, and laughter, we discovered a flavor of communication in which we all tasted a bit of an unfamiliar language, and delighted in learning something new.
In a matter of minutes, I was invited on an all-girl surfing excursion, planned for the following day. My new friends had already arranged for land transportation, a boat to take us to a secret surf spot, and a water photographer to record the experience. Of course, I was in.
The next day, we loaded into the back of a pickup truck with our boards strapped to the roof, along with a few others who had been invited to tag along on the adventure. Bouncing over miles of dirt roads, we finally pulled up to a tiny village where the boats on the beach outnumbered the people. A group of smiling, bikini-clad women toting surfboards, we stood out like bright peacocks in Nicaragua’s sepia-toned landscape.
We boarded a boat and motored out into the turquoise sea, headed toward a point of land stretching out to the north. Passing coastal shrub and tall hazel cliffs, we rounded the point and the boat began to slow. I could see the back of a perfect wave breaking in front of us, the spray blowing gently in the wind as it rolled toward shore.
The persistence of gender inequality is apparent in the surfing world. I frequently deal with people who don’t respect me as an equal participant in the lineup, who insist that I abide by a set of rules that doesn’t apply to them.
Grabbing our boards, we jumped off of the boat, and paddled through the warm water toward the waves. Despite the remote location, we were not alone. There were lots of surfers, and none of them were women, other than our group. With a substantial crowd, and a limited number of waves, we faced a lot of competition. Though eager to get into our good graces on land, men are not always so friendly in the water. Oftentimes, it’s every man, or woman, for herself.
Our group banded together, encouraging each other into waves and supporting one another, spreading smiles all around. Despite the crowded conditions, we began to relax into a rhythm where we all got our fair share of waves. However, there were still a few guys who didn’t seem to share our good vibe. Rather than taking turns, they just took as many waves as possible.
Finally, Loretto had had enough. Straying from normal surfing rules, she dropped in on a wave in front of one of the guys. We all hooted and cheered. She had been waiting for a long time, and since the guy wasn’t willing to give her a turn, she went ahead and took it.
Worried that the guy might get mad, I watched nervously to see what would happen. At first, he had a scowl on his face, but amidst our silliness and laughter, it softened into a smile. I could see that he wasn’t going to pick a fight with a posse of women.
The persistence of gender inequality is apparent in the surfing world. I frequently deal with people who don’t respect me as an equal participant in the lineup, who insist that I abide by a set of rules that doesn’t apply to them. Since I usually go surfing on my own, I fight these battles alone. But with the group of surfer girls in Nicaragua, I found strength in numbers.
Nicaraguan Surf Report: Strength in Numbers photos by SavilaSurf.com