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Surfers Ride Wave of Coastal Expansion

March 28, 2008

TOLA As the secret about Nicaragua’s hollow tubes, offshore winds and white sand beaches becomes increasingly public, surfers are departing crowded surf spots around San Juan del Sur and heading north toward a string of wave-battered beaches in the harder- to-reach Tola region.

The secret s out, said Robert Dull, owner of the surf lodge Hotel Brio at Playa Gigante (hotelbrio.com, costanica.com). We don’t surf alone now.

Dull bought his first Nicaragua property at Playa Maderas eight years ago, when it wasn’t unusual to paddle out into the surf and find oneself shredding solo. Now, the line-up at Maderas is dotted with floating heads on any given weekend, with beginners taking surf lessons filling the waters closer to the beach.

It is alarming how fast the southern coast is being bloated with surfers who are trying to buy land and start up surf camps. I got plenty of waves but there were days where it was crowded. It left a weird taste in my mouth, a surfer identified as slash posted on an Internet forum on Nicaragua surfing at Web site Globalsurfers.com.

In a wireless world where the Internet carries word of fine waves faster than a swell, the south Pacific coast of Central America’s biggest and least populated country has Web-surfing surfers discovering Nicaragua from all corners of the globe.

Online and international media have lauded this region as a place where powerful Pacific waves meet offshore winds blowing off Lake Nicaragua to create a surfer’s dream.

The popular magazine Transworld Surf, for instance, just ranked San Juan del Sur the fifth best place in the world to live and surf. And CNN has also mentioned Nicaraguan surfing in its top 10 list of spots around the world.

Dull’s surf lodge and camp is one of several that have popped up north of San Juan del Sur. The camps range from higher-end establishments to backpacker hostels, offering surfers housing, surfing lessons, boat trips to the best breaks, food, and even Spanish lessons. The newest of the camps, Chica Brava (chicabrava.com), is one that caters exclusively to women, suggesting that the market has already become big enough to start specializing.

The local Nicaraguans have also taken to surfing a phenomenon that is new within the past decade and have already produced several regionally competitive surfers who have made a name for themselves in Central America tournaments.

The $22-billion-a-year surf industry is also helping to change the economies and faces of some of Nicaragua s most out-ofthe- way Pacific beaches, bringing in tourists and offering the possibility for new businesses to pop up where until recently there was no economy.

It s easy to get a boat to the surf spots. The locals have begun to understand the fact that there s money to be made, said real estate agent Javier Hugentobler of the growing number of boat operators geared toward surf expeditions.

In the Tola area, breaks can be found at the uninhabited playa Amarillo, a left point break at nearby Manzanillo, and around the renowned Playa Colorado, which was recently featured in Surfer s Magazine.

A recent post on the Web site of the Iguana Surf & Golf Resort located right in front of some of the Pacific s most precious breaks said that the U.S. housing slump hasn t had much effect on the company, since it s in the business of lifestyle, not real estate.

Marketing its development as surf condos and surf homes, the resort is the first to cater to the more well-to-do surf crowd and says it has seen an increase in interested buyers this year, according to Ferdie Prado, sales manager for the Danish-Nica Vamos Group, an Iguana partner (www.iguanasurfretreats.com).

While some investors wait on the beach, too nervous to test the waters of Nicaragua, those who are more concerned with waves than politics are already jumping in and enjoying the ride.

People who buy have made up their minds, said Iguana s Prado, adding most buyers are North Americans.

 

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