Friday, August 4, 2017

Letters From Nicaragua: Part 21 - Surfing The Rock

There was a strange thing about this trip..only one, you say? It was that we hadn't really gone really far and done that much driving, but I felt like I had been to the moon and back already. My truck had only used half a tank of gas so far and it surprised me, perhaps it was because so much of the driving was down slow, bumpy dirt roads. I was quite ready for just sticking around one place for a longer period of time, thinking we had seen what Nicaragua had to offer, but Sam said, "Just wait" and he was right.
Our final destination was Popoyo. I still don't quite understand the name. There are several breaks and if there is one outstanding thing in that area it is Magnific Rock. The closest I can relate this to for a Floridian, is imagine that you are eating lunch out on a pier, watching the surfers, only instead you are way above them, WAY above them, and the waves are bigger than anything you've seen before in person. If you wanted, at low tide, you could climb down from the restaurant and get on the rock itself, and sit right there, watching surfers in the water next to you, catching the waves as they come into the cove. Huge waves come across the ocean, smash into the rock and some section of that wraps around the rock and there are almost always surfers there to catch them.
The break inside the cove is referred to as the 'beginner's break' and I have to say that it is possible that I was there during some extreme swell, but God help any Florida beginners that tried that wave. To be sure, there were plenty of people out on rented softtops, sitting in the lineup and not catching waves, but there was plenty of good surfing going on.
This is where Sam showed what he knew. He stationed himself right next to the rock, and waited for one of the big boys to smash against it and send him flying down the line of the reformed wave. He said that it kind of reminded him of Typhoon Lagoon, hearing a big whooshing sound and then taking off in a cloud of whitewater. Me? I pretty much stayed in the mid-break with my paddleboard. Sitting next to that rock with the water swirling around and the wind pushing me towards the rock didn't sound like the way I wanted to end the trip.
I had to overcome a lot on this trip. If you saw this place at low tide from above, there were rocks everywhere. I'm guessing it was all the newbies sitting out there that finally got me to my feet and out in the water. It was still quite spooky seeing the really big waves coming towards us, even knowing that the rock would block them.
We had a lot of fun at this spot, but as I was learning on this trip, my friend Sam, is quite an adrenaline junky. It was hard for him to stay here when he saw the other breaks going off.
We were staying at the Hotel Popoyo, which we loved. I would go there again, but maybe next time I'd have somebody else drive. The food was good, we slept well, and had plenty to do. One thing we did not do, and someday I may get the courage to do is to paddle out to the outer reef break. From the restaurant at the top of the rock, you can see this wave breaking way out there, and usually a couple of boats sitting next to it. Then you see little ants scattered in the water, and every once in a while you see one of those little ants go flying across one of those waves, much faster than you would have believed possible. The water between here and there was calm, and I could have done the distance easily on the paddleboard, but I had already found out something new on this trip: the extreme wind.
In Florida, you can read the wind from looking at the surf. If it's blowing ten miles per hour, it's probably choppy, any more than that and we get a 'soupbowl'. In Nicaragua, it's nothing like that. You'd have to read the wind from watching the spray off the top of the wave. At Magnific Rock, the wind seems amplified by getting funneled down the cliff and out to the water. On one afternoon there, I paddled for a wave on my board, and realized it was as if somebody had grabbed my fin and was holding my board, I could make no forward movement. Another time, I watched as my board just started slowly turning in a circle. It started me thinking that there was a point where a paddleboard was less than useful.
But, Sam was not thinking about the outer reef break...he had a better idea. The usual break that he liked was totally closing out, and by closing out, I mean that there were shorebreak explosions that kept my wife awake at night. Overhead waves breaking in inches of water were not what we were seeking, but Sam knew about another secret spot, and this one was going to be a little bit tricky getting past the locals....

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