El Salvador, regular foot heaven.
I had read about El Salavador in one of my all time favorite surf travel books, “In Search of Captain Zero”. So when a friend of mine wrote me asking if I could go on a surf trip with her somewhere, El Salavador was the first on my list. For one its only two countries away from me and secondly I had been scoping out tickets to go there for months. I had found some great deals on Volaris airlines and asked a friend of mine that lives in Costa Rica who also surfs. It did not take much persuasion. We booked our tickets and off we went.
The thing about surfing and traveling for waves is you never know what you are going to get. Its always a gamble when it comes to mother nature.
I had been watching the surf report with anticipation every morning leading up to our departure. When I saw we were going to have 4-6ft waves at 20 seconds I was stoked! I have slowly been getting more confident in bigger waves and was looking forward to surfing a right point break.
Sarah and I left Playa Grande at 4:00 am and drove the 6 hours to San Jose to catch our flight. We heard through the coconut wireless the night before that the students in San Jose were protesting. We gave ourselves an 8 hour window to drive to the airport. We made it in four hours which is amazing considering the roads, trucks, pedestrians, animals, and protesting going on. After a quick hour flight we landed. We searched for a cold beer.. Little bugs swarmed our heads for 90 minutes while we were waiting for our friend to arrive from Florida.
Alexis ended up arriving an hour late and I was feeling anxious about driving the three hours south after dark. I know it is sketchy to drive in Mexico at night and seeing as though this was my first time here I wasn’t stoked about being on the road at dark. We stopped halfway for a cold beer to calm my nerves, the gas station with armed guards waiting for us as we used the restroom and shopped didn’t reassure the situation. But the cold beer did and we were on our way. We arrived too late for dinner so I drank another beer to get some more calories and went to bed.
The sound of waves crashing had me up before first light.
Since we arrived after dark I was blown away by the surf and the view from our hotel. I took a sip of coffee and woke up the girls. We were so pumped to get out there, we quickly waxed our boards and made our way down the trail to the beach. I was SO excited I had forgot to tell Sarah how a point break even works. She began surfing in Playa Grande which is a beach break and had never surfed a point break before. There is a bit of a difference in how you catch and read the wave from a beach break to a point break. Sarah has been surfing for only one year and is very determined and quick to learn. I have watched her push her limits in the surf and have not seen someone advance as quickly as her. Alexis is confident in bigger surf and was anxious but not worried. I had met her at a barrel riding retreat in Nicaragua and have been on three trips with her already. She is a mom of two from Florida and has more stoke than a teenager.
We were all a bit intimidated by the waves and crowd at first. After picking off a couple in the inside I slowly made my way to the peak. I waited for my opportune moment and got a sick one all the way through to the beach break. We surfed for hours and then headed up to the hotel for breakfast. As we ate we talked about how to surf a point break and how to catch smaller waves without getting hit by the bigger waves. You kind of have to play a game of cat and mouse with the set waves. Paddle inside after a set rolls through and try to pick off the smaller friendly waves, then as soon as you see white water on the outside rocks you have to paddle out and away from the point as fast as you can before the bigger waves or set waves come. I grew up playing this game at a wave back home in the Caribbean for years. Now that spot in the Caribbean is my favorite wave I have ever surfed, but to say I am comfortable surfing there when its big is a long stretch.
I have been surfing much longer then the other girls and was stoked they were able to handle the heavier waves. Whenever you surf a new break or get out of your comfort zone in bigger surf it can be frustrating. I have spent many sessions out surfing when I don’t even catch one wave. This is how we grow as surfers. When you get back to surfing somewhere you are comfortable or your home break you will feel more confident for sure.
Sarah and I pre surf stoke
We wanted to surf a few other spots so we hired a guide to take us down the road a bit. The spot we ended up surfing was a short walk though the jungle that opened up to a small cove with another right hander reeling along the point. We were told this wave would be a little smaller and more friendly. I could see the potential out there but the current was so strong on our first attempt we got washed down the beach and back to shore. Our second attempt we walked further towards the point and almost made it out before a set came and we nearly got washed into the rocks. We came in with our tails between our legs. Sometimes the ocean straight denies you.
Over the next three days we basically dawned patrolled early, came in when it got crowded and then we would surf again when most the crowd came in for breakfast. We had an advantage because of where we were staying we could see how busy the line up was and what the surf conditions were all day long. We chose the opportune moment to paddle out and ended up scoring some great sessions with just a few other guys out. We surfed sunset sessions and at night drank spicy jalapeño margaritas and chatted over the waves we shared that day.
I will be back to El Salvador for sure, locals are predicting in five years El Salvador will be as safe as Costa Rica. I hope they are correct because the people there were so friendly and welcoming. Though we are only a few hundred miles away you can see El Salvador has a long way to grow as a tourist destination. I hope for the people of El Salvador their predications are true because it really is a surfers dream.