Paul and I had experienced having waves taken from us. Not by other surfers but by the business of holidays. As we travelled north from Panama through Central America we scored swell almost everywhere but sometimes beach resorts had made monetary claims over areas where world-class waves broke. In Nicaragua, the government has made all beach access and sand un-own-able. Some holiday resorts have bypassed this by buying up the surrounding area of surf breaks. They own the land that backs onto the beach and try to shut down access so they can charge or even stop surfers from getting waves.
We'd been told about a wave just like this, guarded by a big metal fence, two large headlands at either end of the beach and an hour and a half hike around headlands and through bush that kept out the waxy riff-raff like us.
We made it to the neighbouring village two headlands away from one of Nicaragua's best beach breaks. We searched for a way to get closer and found him. Dale Dagger is an older man who sailed this stretch of the Pacific Coast when he was young, when there were no other whites thinking about exotic wave locations. He set up his base here in the jungle before the resorts had any idea they were in a prime surfing location.
For a month we stayed in Dale Dagger's Jungle Shack under the nose of people paying through the nose for beachfront access to a wave. We rented it for the month at $5 a night. There was a roof, outhouse, no electricity and only a limited amount of fresh water. We were the only white people not inside the resort, which we directly bordered onto.
The last steps of a five-minute walk from Jungle Shack to Nicaragua's best beach break revealed the rifling left barrels peaking at a small river mouth. And for regular footers, down the beach a little are peaks offering the mirror image hollow rights.
We checked the waves early one morning but the predicted swell hadn't arrived. The report said it would grow but it seemed like another miss. We sat at the private beach club's bar and watched the waves. A guy we'd met in the water invited us to his place for a beer. He was staying next to the bar in the most expensive of the surf resort's townhouses. We sat poolside with him and a group of American guys. We were in heaven; free beers and a direct view of the break.
There were 30 people in the water when we sat down. After a few beers, and introductions, the line up started to empty. Resort guests headed in for a lunch served by maids and cleaned up by maids. They didn't know or realise that South Nicaragua has perfect conditions all day and that the only important factor is the tide. A giant lake allows South Nicaragua to have offshore winds hit the waves three hundred odd days of the year. The offshore wind corridor or your new best friend.
Poolside we watched the swell start to build. The waves grew from two to four to six foot. It was breaking mostly left 30 metres out from shore in waist to shoulder deep water. Barrelling high in the curl from the take-off with a fun wall that would get steeper as the tide dropped. There were barrels of the trip available and we were on the hunt.
Six of us paddled out into the empty line-up. Waves came through anywhere between a 60-metre stretch of beach so we had room to spread out. For two hours it was just us trading off each ride. From the line-up we looked back and saw the gaudy resort but when the barrel folded over you it was hidden. Gone from sight and mind, this barrel shot is the natural view we came to Nicaragua for. Shooting left or right we aimed for the untouched headlands and continually made it out.
Our salty, air-dried faces cracked with laughter as we passed beers and storytimed our cuts, grazes, dinged boards, bruised egos and waves of the day. When the sun had set and the maids were bringing out the Americans' food we left for our Jungle Shack's rice and sauce combo. We spent one month holding down the fort in the jungles of Nicaragua. We didn't pay much and we got the best waves. Unlike resort guests we got to experience the reality of daily life in Nicaragua. We learnt Howler monkeys have a raspy screech like an emphysema death rattle. We learnt enormous black hog's (like Rowdy the neighbour outside my room's window) don't like being tied up to a tree, that if so they snort and bellow. And we learnt quickly Nicaraguan farmers scare birds from their crops with gun blasts early in the morning.
The resort can feel pretentious with the houses and golf course but there is a beachfront bar with $1 happy hour at sunset and a direct view of the best peak. For the price of a beer a day we avoided the sounds of the Nicaraguan jungle and had full run of a five-star resort.
After a month of living cheap and hustling the resort's amenities we got banned from the resort. Our second last morning was without swell so we jumped in the beach club pool. Rapid speaking Spanish guards told us we weren't welcome. Then a resident friend bought us a round of Mexican iced coffee (rum makes it Mexican) and told the guards we were guests of theirs. There was nothing they could do and as we polished off more Mexican coffees it was hilarious watching the resort's other permanent gringo residents look down their nose at us dirty surfers. One pulled me aside and told me not to make myself too comfortable. I laughed.
The next day we staggered down to say our goodbyes and there was a posse of guards ready for us. We were officially no longer welcome at the private beach club. The full-time resort residents had banded together to ban outside visitors. I hope more surfers will be able to slip into the private beach club but sorry-not-sorry if you can't.
If you want the best surf and you're not worried about getting dirty there is always a way to find the perfect break.