WE HAVE SOME OF THE BEST WAVES IN CENTRAL AMERICA: Some might argue the point but it’s safe to say, with consideration to consistency and quality we are a world class destination. Throw in the fact that we only have a fraction of the crowds when compared to Southern Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador and you would be crazy not to come to our region.
Some years ago we coined the term “Poor Man’s Indo'” in reference to the waves here in Nicaragua and more specifically the wave at Puerto Sandino where barrels are the norm, double barrels are common and even a triple barrel can be had. While we might not be as high on the “perfecto-meter” as Indo is, we do get pretty close and that’s saying a lot… With Nicaragua only a stones throw from the East and West Coasts of North America, we’re definitely an easier and less expensive option than Indo and often times with waves of a similar quality.
There are 7 surf spots within walking distance of Sirena Surf Lodge. They break on varying sizes and tides, but at least one of them will break at least 300 days a year. With predominant off-shore winds and consistent swell, Sirena Surf Lodge is located in one of the most “wave rich” locations on the planet!
Greg Chrisman, a resident of Miramar for the last six years and the owner of Sirena Surf Lodge helped Surfline with their wave reports and their surf spot guides for this part of Nicaragua. He is one of the most experienced surfers in Nicaragua and certainly the most knowledgeable of the surf spots in his region. He does what he can to take the guessing out of getting good waves. Here’s his run down , from North to South, on the surf spots he accesses with guests on a regular basis.
“The boom” is a beach break in Chinandega and it’s not always on our radar as it’s a couple hours drive north. It’s definitely a killer wave, but it’s called “The Boom” for a reason. It’s a board breaker and a back breaker too! One of my first memories from around 2012 was hearing how the owner of Chancletas Beach Resort broke his back there. He’s a pretty intense, strong, tough looking guy whosurf it every day in all conditions. I only met him once at the market before he broke his back….so hearing stories about how heavy The Boom is and that a charger like him got hurt was pretty daunting. We go there when the waves are small and the tide is high in the mornings. It doesn’t get lake effect winds so it goes onshore in the afternoons like the rest of the Pacific rim. It doesn’t need much swell, but it does need a mid to short period to work really well….12-14 seconds being the best… if it’s 2 feet at 14 seconds, the boom has 8 foot spitting barrels. If it’s 3 feet at 14 seconds it’s got almost double overhead double ups. If it’s 4 feet at 14 seconds it’s a suicidal closeout party with a corner here and there…you’re better off just about anywhere else. It is a sand bottomed wave so conditions can change and sometimes it works better than others…mother nature just has to cooperate.
The way it works is there are reefs just offshore and incoming swell refracts around those reefs. The swells bend into each other and create A-frames in about a mile to half mile stretch of beach right in front of Chancletas. On the best days the peaks are equal in quality…on other days, somepeaks are better than others. Don’t be surprised the see pro’s and locals boosting airs over starry eyed tourists dodging sets!
Best Size: I like 2-4 feet at 12-14 seconds….this ranges in size from head high to 10 foot faces. It’s a great place to be when the swell is small as the waves still have punch. If you have a sponsor and travel with a photographer, go there when it’s bigger…I want to see the footage.
Best Directions: South West….I don’t think a true 180 degree South would get in there but a south west at 210 will for sure….a West hurricane swell could probably work, but I’ve never been there when that happened…but it could be a good call.
Best Tides: roughly 2 hours before High to 2 hours after…don’t bother on the low unless you’re JOJ…Just off the Jet and can’t wait to get wet;-)
Skill Level: Advanced and Up….but it’s fun to watch the rest of us get out there and try to tackle it. Everybody breaks boards no matter how good and everybody gets hurt at some point.
Crowd Factor: Chancletas used to be the only place in the area and they slowly built up some the occasional crowds, but then Rise Up moved up there, Thunderbombs opened and now there’s even a hostel called Joe’s Place… Chancletas used to crowd it enough and now with the other joints open I’m sure it can be a pressure cooker. Just look for the least crowded peak, wait for the right waves, and don’t fuck it up:-) As long as everyone plays nice there’s waves for everyone.
Paddle factor: Pretty easy for a beach break. It breaks close to shore even when it’s big…so find a rip, jump in it, and hope a set doesn’t catch you as you’re paddling over the sand bar. On really draining waves it can be 6 inches deep in the trough!
Best Boards: ones you don’t love. The good news is the broken ones fit in the airplanes overhead storage… we call them “carry ons”
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 7-8.5…In Nicaragua it’s an 8-9.5 and only gets dinged points because it’s a shifting beachy, it’s tide fickle and the winds are often onshore.
Other Options: There are other surfing options, but I won’t tell you about them. The owner of Chancletas chastised me once for taking guests surfing to various spots in Nicaragua…so we’ll leave him and his guides to take you to his secret spots. Or you can just drink tonas by the pool!
Good Advice: Bring extra boards and Bring flip flops….if you hit the waves in the early morning the sand is cool. Then at 11am when you drag yourself out it’s a 250 yard sprint over scalding hot Central American sand back up to Chancletas… in fact Chancletas in Spanish means “Sandals”! Get the hint!
How to Get There: I’ll take you there if the conditions are right, but if you really want to surf The Boom you should stay up there at Chancletas.
Good Story: My first trip to “Le Boom” (if you’re French) back in 2012 we headed up with a moderate swell forecast…like 2 feet at 14 seconds and I brought my trusty daily go-to board, a 6’0″ squash tail thruster. We got there and it was perfection, absolute perfection with peaks up and down the beach. The faces looks like they were 6-8 feet and we were excited, but not necessarily nervous…I mean we were experienced enough for this, it was time to play. Well after a fairly non-enventful paddle out I waited for a set wave and you can see them coming due to the outer reefs. You see the sets stand up and crumble on those reefs and then they start refracting. If you live there I’m sure you know exactly where the peak is going, but I was chasing peaks to get in the right spot. I got in position for a good one and it looked like a nice easy ramp so I casually stroked and got to my feet. It was about that time that I realized, ” I probably didn’t bring enough of a board for this”…I could have definitely used some more volume! Right as I stood up, the wave stood up too. It hit the sandbar so fast it left me stuck at the top…in the lip and now falling about 10 feet down with hit into a foot of water. And that’s why it’s called the boom. I don’t paddle casually for waves there any more…in fact paddle for every one as hard as you can. Kick your legs too…or you too might find out why it’s called The Boom. The board survived, but one of my buddies broke his and we’ve seen many more broken there since.
La Bocana is a river mouth located at the North end of a beach called Salinas Grande in the Leon Province. It is a finicky wave and definitely works better in the rainy season when the creeks are swollen and pushing more sand out onto the sand bar. It’s almost never perfect, but when the swell is small it can present some fun and challenging waves. It’s hardly a “must see” in Nicaragua, but when conditions are right I take guests up there to make the best of small days.
A small estuary fills with incoming tide as well as feeder creeks. As the tide goes out the sand and sediment is deposited and makes various sand bars in the estuary/river mouth.
Best Size: small 2-4 foot swell with shorter/mid period. I’ve only gone up there a couple of times when the swell was bigger and periods longer….around 3-4 feet at 16 seconds. It was a hellman’s wave and not really surfable by normal standards. Stick to smaller days.
Best Directions: South West….again we only go there when it’s small so we’ll take whatever direction is coming. I can imagine a west hurricane swell could work, but those types of hurricane swells are rare.
Best Tides: You’ve got to get it with an incoming tide. Outgoing tides just wash you away.
Skill Level: Anybody can surf it, but it does amplify size. A 2 foot day could be showing overhead sets breaking on a shallow sand bar…so being a good strong paddler is important. We’ve also gotten caught inside there and it’s no joke trying to punch back out!
Paddle factor: See above….it’s a tough one when it’s working. If you’re caught inside (when you’re caught inside) stand up if you can. Often it’s shallow enough to stand up and hold your ground while the sets subside….then put your head down and paddle hard for the outside;-)
Crowd Factor: What crowds? The only crowd you’ll see is the crowd you bring. There are lots of expats like me moving to Salinas and opening hotels and surf camps…so that’s probably going to change, but for now it’s empty!
Best Boards: Depends on the surfer. I’ve seen it break with so many different kinds of waves anything goes…just depends on the conditions day to day.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 4-7…In Nicaragua it’s a 6-8 and that’s a generous estimate for when it’s on its very best behaviour.
Other Options: We would only take you there if it was one of the better options, but usually there are much (much) better waves closer to home.
Good Advice: If you get gassed being stuck inside and trying to paddle back out, go to the beach and looks for rips to the North and South. Remember you’re surfing a river mouth on an incoming tide so the currents aren’t working with you, they’re working against you… let nature help by finding an outgoing rip and riding it back into the lineup.
How to Get There: I’ll take you there if the conditions are right, otherwise it’s a long drive out a bumpy road to get there or a 25 minute boat ride from Miramar.
Good Story: It’s a bit of a motor to the North of the lodge and one time when we go there I told the guests that no matter what, if they get caught inside, don’t paddle to the North side of the beach. We explained that it was El Salvador and that if they went there they would be arrested for illegal border crossing without their passports. Of course we were getting caught inside and running up the beach to the North to get back into the lineup and the newbies were scared, thinking that the Salvadoran border partrol was going to come out of the bushes to get them… bring your passports!
Salinas Grande is a 7 mile stretch of pretty much empty beach that runs from La Bocana in the North to the Tamarindo River Mouth in the south. Along that stretch are various places we check when the conditions are right, but it’s not perfect…well, it can be, but only on special occasions.
Great Story: One of my early on experiences with Salinas Grande I got there one morning with a group of guests and jumped out of the boat as usual. We started catching waves and I was realizing the waves were good….really fucking good! I was giggling as lefts and rights all bowling and spitting were coming in from every direction. After a bit, I caught a long one and found myself near the beach, so I go out to get a perspective on the conditions. As I walked backward up the slight slope of sand I watched a set come in; within the viewfinder of my own eyeballs I could take in 4 peaks, all perfect A-Frames breaking with perfect symmetry and timing. They all fired off left and right barrels breaking towards each other with spray coming off the top…like mirror reflections up and down the beach. On cue all 8 barrels that I could see spit at the same time. I had to rub my eyes to make sure they were working right. I was litterally choked up- where my life had led me and how I had found myself at 40 years old facing something so perfect and wondering what I did to deserve it. I said a little thank you to the gods that made it happen and quickly paddled back out thinking of the Wilbur Kookmeyer cartoons and the perfect waves drawn on textbook covers in school. It was truly a moment of perfection. While I appreciated it, I learned to appreciate it more as I realized in the coming years that it only rareley breaks like that and I didn’t see those conditions again for over a year!
Theres not a lot of structure on the beach to make the waves good so you really have to wait for crossed up swells and/or short to mid period waves. Crossed up swells need at least 20-25 degrees of difference in direction to keep it from being closed out. Sometimes rips will have peaks breaking in or around them, but for the most part it will be closed out if there is no cross up or the period is 14 seconds or over. Once the period drops to 10-12 seconds it gets peaky. That perfect day from the story was two swells at 3 feet at 14 seconds, one from 210 and one from 235…I haven’t seen that since, but I have seen a 220 swell 3 feet at 16 mixed with a 270 swell 3 feet at 16….it was double overhead and amazing, but that was a rare hurricane swell and we can only hope it happens again in our lifetime!
Winds are side off most of the time and go side to side-on as you go farther north…so we stick to the south end of Salinas Grande to stay in the better wind pattern unless it’s early morning and there’s no wind.
Best Size: any size in the 10-12 second range should be reasonably good… but if the period is longer and the swells are bigger, you can surf it big as long as there’s cross up.
Best Directions: Same explanation as above…
Best Tides: It pretty much doesn’t like dead low or dead high tide. Moderate tides are best. Dead low tends to be closed out and dead high tends to be fat.
Skill Level:Just depends on the size… when it’s chest high and peeling it will handle all takers. When it’s 10 feet and kegging into 1 foot of water…you might want to question your abilities before you get caught inside at a beach break you took a boat ride to. It’s a long walk back to the river mouth if you’re stuck on the beach!
Paddle factor: Again, size matters. Short period swells come one after the other and can easily get you stuck on the inside for 20-30 minutes. Longer period cross up swells can be challenging too as it’s two swells and the set don’t always coincide…you get one from the south, then one from the west… bring your guns and be patient, but ready to sprint when the window of opportunity arises.
Crowd Factor: Most of the time it’s “what crowd”? I have seen other camps drop boat loads of surfers on top of my group, but in general, just motor anoter few hundred yards up the beach and find your own peak.
Best Boards: It will break boards at just about any size… but a good barrel board is a good choice. It’s often fast enough that turning is rare and getting barreled is the name of the game. Quads can rule in these conditions just because they’re faster.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 7-8.5…In Nicaragua it’s an 8-9.5
Other Options: We pass Puerto Sandino (a.k.a. Freight Trains or La Barra) on the way to Salinas Grande on the boat. If Sandino is breaking we don’t usually bother with Salinas. Only if conditions are right would we trade a mediocre day at Sandino for a good day at Salinas.
Good Advice: Look for the rips. They can help you get outside again and they can also creat small sandbars where you can find corners on closed out days!
How to Get There: I’ll take you there if the conditions are right, but if you really want to surf The Boom you should stay up there at Chancletas.
Puerto Sandino: a.k.a. Freight Trains or La Barra
Puerto Sandino is the queen of the coast! It’s arguably the best wave in Nicaragua, which would mean possibly the best wave in Central America. However, like the Superbank in Australia, being a sand bottomed river mouth it comes and goes. 2010 and 2011 supposedly it was fat and not very good…that was before I moved here. 2012, 2013 and 2014 were amazing…like winning the wave lottery. It was on fire all the time…every day pretty much for years. Then in 2015 they did some dredging and that combined with some drought years, the sand went away. It’s been working off and on since then, but unfortunately there are long stretches when we’re not able to surf it. 2017 looks like it might be a bit wetter season and thats all we need to bring the sand back to Puerto Sandino. A reef anchors it, but only seasonally will the wave show up and then disappear with moving sands. Be patient and be ready because when it shows, it’s a playground of perfect sand bottomed barrels!
Great Story: I’m hard pressed to pick one story about Sandino as there are so many. I’ve spent a lot of time there, probably more than any other human on the planet, and so there have been some good times. One story…does come to mind though.
Once upon a time I had a group of 5 frothers in from the states…I honestly can’t remember where exactly, but lets just say they were frothing to get every wave they could and were typically impatient. As a group they would often flinch at the first wave of the set…the small one, paddle, miss it, only to find that wave’s big sister looming out the back and about to break on their heads. They were just a little too eager which can happen in a setting like this. One morning at Sandino I watched them do this for a couple of hours and as the tide pushed in, the waves got a little fat and the group wanted to go back to Miramar to surf Pipes. One guy in the group, Christian, wanted to stay. It was too risky to let him surf alone, it’s not super dangerous here, but we do believe in the buddy system as it’s just a smart way to prevent something really bad from ruining a vacation. So to keep everyone happy I had the boat driver take the other 4 guys to Pipes and then return to pick us up, that way Christian could keep surfing Sandino like he wanted and the other guys could surf Pipes like they wanted. I honestly though we’d be ready to leave by the time the boat got back. Within 20 minutes the boat was back, but we weren’t ready to leave. It was just Christian and I and the conditions had changed…it wasn’t fat any more, it was throwing thick lipped kegs for 300 yards. We were giddy and giggling as we passed up perfect waves looking for more perfect waves. We wound up staying out another two hours surfing alone. Our arms were ready to fall off as we had surfed two hours with the group before they decided to bail out, then another two hours pretty much in a constant movement. I told Christian that we were going to get interrogated upon return and to just be cool… I said, “tell them it was ok”…he agreed. We got back to the frothers and of course they immediately asked why we were gone so long. Christian had zero resolve. He crumbled like an onshore lip and spilled the beans about one of the best sessions he and I had ever had. The best part was when they asked why we didn’t go back and get them?! We both laughed…they made their decision and we made ours. That session still sticks out today… two guys, trading off perfect barrels in a warm ocean with light offshores. Solo sessions are great, but like good wine, it’s often better shared. It doesn’t get any better.
River outlet + sand + waves+ offshore wind = perfection
That equation in a nutshell sums it up, but with that said there are a lot of variables that go into Sandino and wether it’s good, great, or non-existent. Rains are needed to cause inland erosion and feed the sand in the creeks which then flows into the estuary and eventually works its way out to the river mouth. Rain also increases the volume of water in the estuary and the velocity with which it exits through a gap in the reef causing a venturi effect which scours the sand from the channel and pushes is out onto the sand bar. No rain, no sand, no wave… For the most part the wave is there, but varies in quality and length.
Best Size: 3 feet at 16 seconds…it’s 8-10 foot faces and really consistent with enough of a gap between sets to let you paddle back out. It will break bigger and it will break smaller, and it’s often so perfect you don’t care what size it is.
Best Directions: It likes really south, but those are rare….so 210-215 is great. Galapagos shadow is from about 200-210, so it’s rare to get a swell from that direction as it’s almost impossible. Crossed up swells can cause there to be several take off spots which is good for spreading the crowd out…and on an amazing wave, you can connect those sections together and backdoor three or more barrels…it’s a bit like winning the lottery, but I’ve seen it done. I’ve made it out of three barrels on one wave only to get pinched by the 4th one…but I’ll die trying to better my personal record;-)
Best Tides: The tide has to be incoming…it’s a river mouth, so when the tide is outgoing it’s just a river and not a wave. Over the years eager guests have insisted on going at the outgoing tide, only to burn out their shoulders paddling in a current they couldn’t beat. Trust us…wait for the tide to turn. With that said, it just depends on size and the sand bar, but it can break all the way through to the high tide sometimes. I pay a lot of attention to this as many boats will just go at the tide turn. Sometimes it’s better at mid-tide, so I’ll show up three hours later when 30 guys who have all been fighting for waves, are all gassed and ready to leave. I show up with my group and get the place alone right as it turns on. Patience is often rewarded.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced and up. I’ve taken some beginners out there on softer days, but for the most part it does require some skill and experience. It’s forgiving except for the paddle factor which I will explain below. It’s a perfect wave and so even a mediocre surfer can feel like a pro after a double barrel which happens all the time.
Paddle factor: I’ve practically been in tears many times trying to punch through. It’s set up like a reef pass so there is a huge channel…except it’s a river mouth with an incoming tide… once a set starts rolling through it’s like a big vaccuum trying to suck you back into the bowl and into the river mouth. We’ve found people all over that river delta. There’s no substitute for conditioning here and even that might not help you.
Crowd Factor: It gets crowded. I’ve seen 40 guys out on the most crowded days, but that’s rare. It’s the type of wave that can handle a crowd too…it’s a big playing field with a lot of waves. I’m not surprised by the crowds either, it’s such a perfect wave that when it’s breaking most people don’t want to surf any where else. My advice is be patient, let the frothers burn out their shoulders going as early as possible and then save some energy for when they’ve gone back to the boat. A couple hours into the tide usually just makes it a little bit better and that’s when most guys are starting to get gassed.
Best Boards: This can depend on the wave’s shape. Sometimes it’s really fast and sometimes it’s slower. The barrel is almond shaped so swallow tails and rounded pins work well in the barrel. Out on the face a squash tail is nice for throwing tail. Bottom line is everything works because the wave is so good. I do recommend a quad for the faster days and a thruster for the slower days. Don’t bother with huge boards either. A little extra volume will help on the bigger days, but a huge gun isn’t necessary.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 9.75…In Nicaragua it’s 9.99 and only loses a hundredth of a point because it come and goes with the shifting sands.
Other Options: If it’s breaking you don’t usually bother with other options.
Good Advice: Don’t take the first wave of the set especially when it’s crowded. Often you’ll find 5 frothers paddling for the first wave. Just look out the back and wait for one that comes to you….also watch for the wide swingers. The current and backpaddling tend to pull guys too deep in the lineup, so pay attention to where you are (I’ll teach you how to position using markers on land)…and trust those lineup markers. I spend much of my time sitting way wide and alone looking like the guy that’s scared of the bowl…but when the big sets come, the tourists are caught inside and I’m taking my pick of the best sets because I wasn’t wide, I was just staying on the take off spot. Local experience is a great help.
How to Get There: By boat…yes you can paddle, but don’t be a cheapo…get a boat ride.
Pipes is located about 200 yards north of Sirena Surf Lodge and is one of our go to spots in the area as it’s almost always breaking. Like many of the waves in the area it can be finicky. Conditions there can range from a shitty slab drop into a mushburger ending in a closeout, to conditions resembling Pipeline in Hawaii….yes, I know it’s cliche to say, but it’s true… it has moments of sheer perfection!
Great Story: Pipes has a wicked current that runs through it from South to North and it’s just a given that when you go out there you’re going to be paddling constantly to stay up in the current and on the takeoff spot. At one point it was so frustrating that I actually got 4 anchors and 4 bouys and set them out at the lineup so we could hold onto them and stay in position. These anchors were just locally made anchors…some 3 inch steel tube with some rebar welded to it and bent over to make a grappel. I tied on some regular nylon rope, about 30 feet to each one and we went in the boat and chucked them overboard at high tide. It was a great idea, but poorly executed. The rope was floating rope and this kept the grappels from setting solid on something. By the time we got back there for the session at mid-tide, One of the anchors was remaining and that one you could pull on and drag….it wasn’t going to hold on very long. All in all, after the effort, none were left after a day. I haven’t set any anchors out there again, but every time I surf there, which is a lot, I’m pretty much working out how to make it work next time.
The Mechanics: Pipes is a reef break disguised as a beach break. At Medium tide when it’s best there are no rocks visible, but trust me, it’s breaking on rocks. About a mile offshore are some submerged reefs that refract incoming swells and sometimes refract them right at Pipes and sometiemes refract the waves away from Pipes. Even after six years of studying the place, I don’t have the exact recipe for when it’s going to be on or off…just a general idea. We also can see it from the house, so when it’s good we go!
The left is best and is typically hollow off the takeoff…if you’re lucky it will stand up so you can get in a turn, but often times when it’s head to overhead it will hit a channel and fatten up. Beware of the inside slab…it’s shallow and even though it looks like a great place to throw a finish move, it’s probably not a good idea!
Best Size: It likes period more than size. Short period swell does not work here, but anything 14 seconds or more and you can ride any size. Of coures longer period swells mean longer waits (Honey Dick Hollow)…so 15-16 seconds and up to 3-4 feet and it’s 10-12 foot faces. Anything bigger closes out.
Best Directions: South West is it’s sweet spot, but we have seen some rights come through when there’s an odd west swell.
Best Tides: When it’s small it likes a low to medium tide and when it’s bigger it likes a medium to high tide.
Skill Level: Beginners like to play around on the rights as they can seem pretty inviting, but 99% of the rights suck! Other than that it’s an intermediate to advanced wave.
Paddle factor: Not counting the longshore current It’s not too bad, but once you’re caught inside on the bowl you’re not getting out until the set subsides. It’s a dangerous slab on the inside too and it’s not unheard of to get bounced when duckdiving. The real paddle factor is the longshore current. You must paddle constantly to stay in position.
Crowd Factor: It’s rare to see more than a couple of guys. Keep in mind the current keeps people moving and off the peak, so if you’re on your game and stay in the spot, you can get plenty of waves even in a crowd.
Best Boards: Fast boards that get you in early. It’s a slabby drop!
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s an 6.8 with a very rare 9…In Nicaragua it’s 8.5 and loses points because it can have a slopey shoulder and honey dick you if you’re not on top of it.
Other Options: Lots… Punta Miramar to the north, Ricks Right…all kinds of options…or you can drink Tona and watch.
Good Advice: Don’t go right and don’t try to hit the lip on the inside closeout section.
How to Get There: if you run from the lodge you can be there in 30 seconds. I prefer to walk and get there in a minute.
Right in front of the lodge is a channel and into that channel, usually when the waves are a bit bigger, breaks a pretty hollow right. It doesn’t alway work, just depends on the sand, but when it does it’s a pretty impressive keg of a wave.
Good Story: It never had a name until a group of guys from Moss Landing in Central/North California came to visit. In that group of guys were two named Rick. They were older guys, but still competetive and there was a lot of shit talking going on. Somehow the subject of the right came up and when they realized it didn’t have a name they were rushing to surf it thinking they would get the rights to name it…except we’d surfed it for years. They were bantering and arguing so much I made the executive decision and announced “It’s called Ricks’ Right goddamit… now you can both be happy!”… and they were;-)
The Mechanics: The rights break off the channel adjacent to Punta Miramar. The whole coastline is rocks and reef that in some spots is filled in with sand. The waves that break into Punta Miramar push a lot of water that has to go somewhere, so a permanent channel has been gouged out. The rights break best over a small reef that anchors the sand on the right side of the channel. It’s fast and thick and often has some backwash/sidewaves in it, but it’s a fun wave and one of the only rights around.
Best Size: There needs to be some juice in the water for it to work. If the outer reef at Punta Miramar is working then Ricks’ Right will be about 75% of the size. On small days, if there is a lot of sand, there can be some quick little runners often times better for a long board.
Best Directions: South West
Best Tides: Pretty much a medium to medium high. Once the high tide maxes out it’s breaking on dry sand.
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced…it’s not an easy wave to time because of the current.
Paddle factor: The current can make it difficult. The currennt is what makes this wave work, so you pretty much have to paddle constantly to stay in position. If you stop paddling you’ll wash down to pipe in about 5 minutes.
Crowd Factor: Zero…unless the two Ricks are in town or I’m out there which is rare.
Best Boards: Fast boards that get you in early. It’s a slabby drop and you have to compensate for the current as well!
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s an 5 with a very rare 9…In Nicaragua it’s 7.5 You might call it a novelty wave, but I’m including it because it’s right in front of the house and we don’t have a lot of rights in Nicaragua.
Other Options: Stop paddling and wash down to pipes, or drink tonas on the terrace at the lodge and watch other fellas give it a go.
Good Advice: When Miramar outer reef is working it’s possible to connect a big one with Rick’s Right on the inside. It’s like catching a wave at Waimea and riding it all the way to the beach break like Andy Irons did 20 years ago! You might have to S-turn through the fat middle section, but as you get to the inside get ready for the right to form. It’s possible to get a left barrel on the outside and then a right barrel on the inside!
How to Get There: Walk straight out the front gate until you hit water
The point is the workhorse of the area. Probably the most consitent surf spot in the area and very possibly one of the most consistent waves in Nicaragua, ergo, Central America, ergo, the world! It’s not a perfect wave by any stretch of the imagination…it’s a chunky reef with deep spots and shallow spots and it’s fickle and tide dependent and it will always keep you guessing. It’s never consistently amazing, but it’s consistent enough to be amazing.
Great Story: Like the legend that is Wilbur Kookmeyer, we have our own version and his name is Reef Walker. Reef Walker is often times a little cocky and can take chances he shouldn’t…like paddling a little too deep on the reef. Sometimes Reef makes bad decisions like going straight at Punta Miramar, or maybe he goes right on the first wave of an incoming set. Sometimes Reef tries to paddle directly back out instead of taking the long route over to the channel and back around. Regardless of what hapless decisions got him in position, you will hear the alarm when he makes an appearance. Just listen for it, “reeeeeeef walker!!!!”. It’s like a train wreck…you don’t want to see it, but when it happens you can’t pull your eyes away. It happens every week here and I still take joy in watching the calamity. Newbies, also known as J.O.J, which stands for “Just Off the Jet”, come to Miramar with their new shorts, new boards, new fins, new leashes, and not enough patience to study the break or ask a question…just straight into the lineup and past everyone else sitting there… They’re ready to show their skills and often what we see is them trying to save their boards from the reef. Occasionally they get stuck so bad on the reef they say “fuck the board!” and just try to save themselves! So don’t be Reef Walker… we’ll teach you how not to be, you just have to ask. If you are Reef Walker…I’ve got limes and if you don’t know what I mean by that, you will soon enough!
The Mechanics: It’s a secret and it’s not. Experience and patience will get you the best waves here and you’ll see that in the locals who surf it on a daily basis. Really the only locals are me and a few other property owners and employees of the other surf camps. We usually play pretty nice, but you’ll have to come get in the cue with us if you want a good one. There are a few boulders/shallow spots that can mess the wave up and often surfers mistake these boils with the takeoff spot… even though the waves that break on the boils are slabs into the channel…basically a drop and then nothing. The trick is knowing which waves are going to break on those shallow spots and which ones are going to slip past and break on the outline of the reef. I find the trick is to stick to a couple different take off spots and I move around between them. If one spot has a few guys sitting on it, I choose another until a set comes and people catch waves and move around. If I can get priority on one of the spots, I wait for the right wave and don’t paddle for everything wasting my turn on mediocre wave when there’s a good one out the back. It’ s a tricky chess game at Punta Mirmar, but that’ part of the fun. When played well, you can get some amazing waves!
Best Size: 2-4 feet at 12-14 seconds. The outer reef likes big swell and long period, but the inside reef likes smaller and shorter period. If the period is 15 seconds or over the waves tend to close out and/or break wide into the channel. It’s possible to dodge the bigger sets and sneak in a smaller one with good shape, but this takes a lot of energy. It’s all part of the chess game!
Best Directions: South West is it’s sweet spot, but we have seen some rights come through when there’s an odd west swell.
Best Tides: 2 hours before high to 2 hours after…don’t bother on the low tide as it’s a washing machine with a really shallow spot that will break you and/or your board.
Skill Level: It’s not a beginner wave by any stretch. I don’t want to say it’s advanced only, but even advanced surfers can get hurt or do the reef walk if they’re not careful.
Paddle factor: It’s a pretty easy paddle, but with that said it’s pretty important to paddle for the channel when you’re caught inside. It can be a long paddle around, but trying to cut the corner will put you back into the spin cycle and you’ll wind up paddling wide anyway.
Crowd Factor: It’s the most crowded in the area because it’s the most consistent. I still get sessions by myself on occasion and often with just a few guys out.
Best Boards: High performance short boards are the best. Leave the fun boards, long boards fishes and retro single fins at home.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 6 or 7 with a very rare 8…In Nicaragua it’s 8.5 but those are averages….once a session it throws out some perfect cylinders, you just have to be in the right place at the right time.
Other Options: Pipes if it’s a bit bigger and Shifty’s if it’s a bit smaller.
Good Advice: Don’t go right, especially on the first wave of the set…and definitely don’t go straight!
How to Get There: It’s straight out front…get your feet wet in the bucket first if the sand is hot!
Miramar Outer Reef:
When the waves get big in Nicaragua there are not many places that can hold the swell. There are a couple of better known spots in the Rivas/Tola area, but in our region there really is only one spot to go to and that is right out front at Miramar Outer Reef. It doesn’t always have to be big to break, but when it does get big, it’s about the only thing going on. It’s about a 1/4 mile out, so it can be a bit decieving. Many have seen great waves and paddled out to find that it was quite a bit more challenging than it looked. It’s hardly a playful wave, but it does separate the men from the boys if you will.
Good Story: One medium sized day I paddled out alone and figured I try to snag a couple before the crew came out on the incoming tide push. It was only head high, maybe a little more, but a really low tide was enough to make it break and it was pretty hollow. I snagged a corner and got a decent little tube and paddled out ready for more. I got another wave and another tube, I was stoked…batting 1000! Then I got another wave and another tube?! I wound up getting 6 barrels, clean in and out barrels in a row, before getting pinched by number 7 and falling. I can’t remember if I got any more barrels that session, but it was a personal record and it’s going to be a hard one to break, but it’s sure fun trying.
The Mechanics: There’s not much of a secret to how this one works, although tides and swell size have a lot of influence on how and when it works best. Another reef about a mile out will ofen block some swell at lower tides and at higher tides let more swell sweep over them…however too much tide can make the Miramar Outer reef mushy. Then you throw in direction and that can change how the refraction affects the waves. On the biggest days it will break all the way through the high tide and still be barreling…these are usually days when there are 12-15 foot face with maybe an occasional larger one.
Best Size: 4 -5 feet at 16 seconds. This is my sweet spot and not necessarily the best for everyone. I like it because it’s pushing double overhead, it can break well into the tide cycle, it handles crowd (or scare them away) and it can provide stand up barrels. Some people might like it bigger, I’m sure a lot like it smaller, but this is my preference.
Best Directions: a rare steep south swell is the best, but most of the time the best direction we can hope for is 210-215. I’ve seen it looking like Green bush in Indo on a steep south. It was early in my tenure down here and I thought it was going to be like that all the time. I didn’t realize we were getting some really special conditions.
Best Tides: The smallest swell it will break on, about 3 feet at 16 seconds, it needs a low to medium low tide. As it gets bigger it will handle and often needs more tide to be rideable. It’s a slab of a wave so the takeoff is no joke and a lower tide on a big day makes it almost impossible to catch sometimes.
Skill Level: On a small day you can take beginners out there. It’s pretty far out, but it’s so far from the rocks inside you can have fun with longboards and giving lessons. When it’s on, it’s an advanced wave, but it’s fun to watch the intermediates cut their teeth on some heavy waves.
Paddle factor: It’s not too bad once you’re in the lineup. A current will often pull you a little deeper in the lineup and it’s a wave that requires you to be on the corner in order to make the wave…it’s rare to be able to pump around a section to make the wave…you’ve got to be in the pocket and race to stay there….so paddle when it counts, including when you’re on the inside. If you don’t make a wave, paddle wide… getting caught in the breakzone of a thick lipped 12 foot wave is a good way to get hurt and/or break your board.
Crowd Factor: It will handle a crowd, but when it’s really smacking there are few takers. It can get tricky dodging shoulder hoppers who are trying to take some of the scary out of it by sitting wide.
Best Boards: One with volume to help you get in under the ledge.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 8.75 with an occasional 9.75…In Nicaragua it’s a 9.0 It doesn’t always break, but when it does you might prefer to be there than Puerto Sandino or anywhere else.
Other Options: If it’s not too huge Sandino and Pipes could be breaking. If it is huge…Popoyo Outer Reef is probably one of the only other options…or maybe Manzanillo.
Good Advice: Find lineup markers on the land and use them. You really have to stay on the corner in order to make the wave. Often agressive paddle battling and a sneaky current will push the lineup deep, too deep. Sitting on the sweet spot can land you the better set waves when everyone finds they’re too deep.
How to Get There: Walk straight out the front gate, enter the water and start paddling…it’s a long way out there…maybe 300 yards or soo.
This little gem can have the most perfect bowly waves in the whole region. Like many of the other waves it takes the stars to align, but when they do Shacks has some of the most perfect symmetry of anything around. It has a shallow reef and a fairly thin lip, but it’s got a really high fun factor and a high ration of barrels made.
Good Story: This one just happened recently. I was visiting with my friends down at another surf camp and got introduced to a nice young man. As we shook hands someone offered up, “Hey, check out what he did to his back!” Koa, the nice man I had just met turned around to show me his back and there was a gouge about 10 inches long running from the left shoulder blade down. It was clearly caused by a barnacle and you could see the round entry point and then a nice tapering gouge that soften up into a mere scrape as it approached his belt line. You would think he’d need stitches for it, but the side of the gouge were so far away from each other I don’t think a doctor could pull the edges together. He had some kind of Pacific Islander blood and as you might know hey get keloid scarring. I hope he comes back so I can see that scar…it’s gonna look like a shooting star going up and over his shoulder;-)
The Mechanics: This one isn’t a secret either. There is a nice tapered angular reef that mostly smaller swells will bend into and they tend to bend and bowl around the reef. The trick is in swell period and direction as it requires some refraction for the right waves to hit it in the sweet spot. Too much west and it doesn’t bowl. Too much south and it doesn’t break. Too much period and it doesn’t break.
Best Size: 3-4 feet at 11-13 seconds… good for about head high waves that are hollow enough to almost stand up in.
Best Directions: I dont’ know the actual number on this and I should. It’s probably in the 215 range, but I’m sure a 220 works fine too. I do know it gets funky when it’s in the 230 range. Occasionally swells with West in them (hurricane swells) will throw some rights in the mix although their not nearly as good as the lefts.
Best Tides: 1 hour on either side of the high tide. Usually backwash will ruin the high tide, but if the beach isn’t that steep and the waves have some juice it will break all the way through. If you don’t want to end up like Koa, get out of the water on the dropping tide no more than two hours after high!
Skill Level: Begginers and intermediates can ride it and even get a barrel…but a good surfer can make the most of this wave and make it look really good too!
Paddle factor: Not a tough paddle at all and typically not much current either.
Crowd Factor: It doesn’t handle much of a crowd and it can get a few heads on it because there are other surf camps that look right at it. When it’s good, it’s worth giving it a go though!
Best Boards: Short boards fit best int he barrel.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 7 with an occasional 9.0 …In Nicaragua it’s a solid 8 with the ocasional 9.5
Other Options: Shifty’s right there!
Good Advice: If you swing it, once the backwash kicks in try to get the first wave of the set, it won’t have any backwash in it!
How to Get There: 600 yards south of the lodge…you can walk there in 4 minutes.
Like the name says this is a shifty little region of peaks that are caused by a shallow outer reef bending the incoming swells into A-frame peaks. They can bend and change pretty quickly and so all that shifting around is what gave it its name.
Good Story: We didn’t really know of anybody surfing Shify’s when I moved here. In fact I lived within view of it and walked past it all the time. Once day our photographer said we needed to go there as it was going off. I didn’t believe him at first…he was a Finnish guy who had some questionable opinions about quality waves, so I was pretty skeptical. We went down there though and sure enough…it was working. It’s got lefts and rights and I wound up getting a right that barreled me for over 6 seconds all the way to the beach where it pinched and dumped me onto dry sand?! It’s been on ever since!
The Mechanics: As I mentioned above these are pure refraction waves and it takes two crossed up lines to make a corner. Usually rights break to the south and lefts break to the north, but being shifties anything can happen.
Best Size: Even when the waves are huge, the outer reefs knock these waves down to human size….so in some ways bigger is better. The biggest wave Ive een at shifties is just a little overhead… but it can be juicy and powerful!
Best Directions: Just about any direction will make it break except a really steep south that gets blocked by Punta Flor to the South.
Best Tides: It needs a high tide to work…you can try a little before or after the high tide, but high tides are the best.
Skill Level: It will handle all takers, but really good surfers like the ramps and air sections it creates. I once saw a pro boost an 8 foot air out there…some guy like Owen Wright or something;-)
Paddle factor: There can be pretty strong rips, but overall it’s not too bad. Just paddle out of the rip if you find yourself in it and be ready to reposition to the South after the sets.
Crowd Factor: It can handle a crowd, but it’s often full of the local kids who have pretty bad etiquette. We try to teach them, but they surf like a Managuan Taxi driver… no manners!
Best Boards: Anythng goes… longboards don’t fit so well into the tight little waves though!
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 4 with an occasional 7.75…In Nicaragua it’s a 5.5
Other Options: Getting water shots is fun here…or you can drink tonas and watch.
Good Advice: Watch the local kids…they’ve got the refraction pretty wired. You think it’s going one way, but then the local kids are paddling the other way…they’re probably getting in the right position.
How to Get There: 750 yards south of the surf lodge…you can rent a fat tire beach bike from me if that’s too far to walk!
I have a love hate relationship with El Transito and it goes way back. Once of my first sessions there got a little cover up and I had this great opinion of Transitio, but that was before I got to know it. When the waves are small in Miramar, like chest high…Transito is head high. When the waves are head high in Miramar, Transito is a little overhead and pretty much closing out. It’s not a go to destination…in my opinion…unless it’s really small. So maybe that’s why I don’t love it. That and it took me 2 more years to get another barrel there…as magic would have it, it got caught on camera too?!
Good Story: I met some kid who had a huge 30-35 pound rooster fish he had shot…and admittedly I was jealous. I do a lot of spearfishing and I wanted to shoot a Rooster, but they’re fast and hard to find. Apparently this kid had shot the Rooster fish in the lineup in murky water and it came off the spear. He got out of the water and went back in later and found it?! It’s like winning the lottery. I think the chances of winning the lottery might even be better! And that’s Transito…my best story is about fishing!
The Mechanics: Theres a few different parts to Transito which has a stretch of beach about a mile long flanked with rock at the North and South ends and a line of shallow barrier reefs about 70 yards out. Just past the North end of the beach is a little cove called Pistols, which works on medium high to high tide. It’s a punchy narrow little cove with an occasional gem but it’s generally pretty crap…still fun to give it a go when it’s small as it ampifies wave size.
On Transito proper there is a reef producing a left at the South end and a couple more peaks as you move North. Toward the North end a couple of camps and hostels have been opened and it can get crowded, but that’s because it’s pretty much beginner waves. The vibe is mostly peach and love and the waves aren’t anything to fight over…so enjoy the vibe and enjoy the view…lot’s of young ladies choose to take up surfing here, so if you’re single, it’s a good place to mingle in the lineup.
Best Size: Really you want to be here when the waves are small….so 1-3 feet at up to 14 seconds.
Best Directions: any direction
Best Tides: In general it doesn’t like extreme high or low, but just about anything in between. Certain peaks like certain tides, so just be ready to move around as conditions change.
Skill Level: Definitely a beginner wave. Occasionally challenging enough for advanced surfers… just keep an open mind, a happy heart, and if that’s not enough get drunk and go surf… you’ll have a great time!
Paddle factor: It’s possible to take a set on the head, but the paddle factor is very minimal.
Crowd Factor: Like everywhere in the world it used to be empty…it’s not any more.
Best Boards: Fun boards, long boards, boogie boards, wave storms, anything that floats. What’s not a good board is a high performance short board made for powerful waves.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 4 with an occasional 6.9…In Nicaragua it’s a 5.5 We’re glad its there in the winter months when the waves are small.
Other Options: Sit at the bar Rompeo Olas and drink cold tonas
Good Advice: If you want to get the most out of Transito you have to pay attention. If you see a right break in one spot it’s probably going to break there again, but once the tide changes that peak will change location, so stay alert and follow those spots that are working.
How to Get There: Transito is about 10 miles south of Miramar so you’ll have to take a car there, a boat ride, or pay a moto taxi (Tuk Tuk) to take you…and that’s an adventure in itself.
Probably the best beach break I know of in Nicaragua and a place that I love to go even when the swell is a bit bigger. It’s a tropical gem and exactly what you think of when daydreaming about perfect Central American tube fests. It’s pretty guarded, literally, it’s in a gated compound and it costs money to get in unless you want walk a long way! I’m kind of glad it’s guarded though as it’s rare to find a crowd and it’s almost always working.
Good Story: like a lot of spots I’ve got a lot of stories about this one. Hard to choose just one, so I’ll choose the story of my first experience. When I first moved to Nicaragua the owner of the camp I was hired to manage was my trainer and guide. He was an English guy who had fallen in love with Costa Rica and bought the (Central) American dream in the form of a surf camp in Nicaragua. Unfortunate circumstance (as in an evil wife that made him move back to the states!) forced him to hire a manager and that’s where I stepped in. While he wasn’t the most experienced surfer or the best trainer, he taught me what he was taught and that took us down to Asuchillo one day where he and I and one guest caught it pretty good, no, really good…no Epic! The session started with the typical starry eyed, JOJ enthusiasm…I mean you could have taken me to Transito (which he did as well) and I would have been stoked on the waves. So my level of stoke was high no matter what, but as the session progressed past two hours, to three hours, to four hours, and into the fifth hour, I had realized wave after wave, that this was a gem…not a diamond in the rough, but a polished blazingly shiny gem of a wave. A right would come in and then paddling out a left would come to you, and then paddling out a right would come to you etc… I surfed for so long I wound up getting sick with sunstroke and dehydration…as did all of us. It’s a rare day to find Asuchillo not working and often it’s some of the best beach break my guests have ever seen. Last I heard my old boss, the Englishman that “trained” me, was opening a day care in Texas?! I wonder if that was part of his dream?
The Mechanics: The barrier reef that runs along the Nicaraguan coast is about a mile offshore here and it causes refraction…those long period incoming swells bend in on themselves and cause peaks Along a mile long stretch of beach. There are a couple of seasonal estuaries that can break out in the rainy season (May through October)…when they do, the extra sand can help to groom out sand bars that can improve the wave quality…I’ve seen 300 yard long waves that looked more like a right point break….which is a lot to say for a beachy!
Best Size: A mid to long period is important to get the refraction working. It will break on just about anything, but it likes some power…or at least I like some power. Anything from 2 feet at 14 seonds and up will make it barrel. 3 feet at 16 seconds or more and you’re in for a session of your life.
Best Directions: just about any South to Southwest direction will work. Even though the beach is not exposed to due South swells, the outer reefs are and they bend the waves into the bight where Asuchillo is hiding a little bit.
Best Tides: In general it doesn’t like extreme high or low, but just about anything in between. Hopefully it’s working best on a lower tide as a reef that only breaks on higher tides is close by, but more on that in the next section.
Skill Level: Anything goes here… but more skill will get your more and better waves as the size and power increases. It’s usually pretty hollow, but not always top to bottom square barrels… on occasion it will do that, usually when the estuary has popped and a long period fast moving swell is hitting.
Paddle factor: It can be an arm burner….it’s a beach break and it’s got currents and only one way out…through the break.
Crowd Factor: Like everywhere in the world it used to be empty…it’s not any more. It’s still common to catch it alone or with just a few people out though…
Best Boards: When it’s small funboards and longboards are great…if not then a fish, hybrid or something with volume. When it’s larger and more hollow a narrower high performance board will work best. I like quads here as they’re fast and often the rights are better which puts me on my backside….so pigdogging backside with a quad puts two fins in the face of the wave to hold a higher line and make more barrels.
Perfecto Meter (on a 1-10 scale with onshore 1ft January Florida slop being a .5 and Perfect empty Desert Point being a 10): Globally at it’s best it’s a 8 with an occasional 9.5…In Nicaragua it’s a 9. It’s beach break so it shifts around a bit, but man it’s good a lot of the time.
Other Options: go watch Punta San Diego from the pool deck at the resort.
Good Advice: Don’t leave stuff on the beach, look out for ants in the parking lot, go hydrated and put a power bar in your pocket
How to Get There: Transito is about 10 miles south of Miramar so you’ll have to take a car there, a boat ride, or pay a moto taxi (Tuk Tuk) to take you…and that’s an adventure in itself.
STILL WRITING THE REST OF THE REPORTS…BEAR WITH ip ME…PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION;-)