Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finally, a Surfing Breakthrough

“Dunphee! – I’m so sorry I was in your way! Did I ruin that barrel for you or did you make it out?”

“Huh, what? Ahh, no, I didn’t even see you; all I could see was, like, barrel.”

Up-and-coming pro Michael Dunphee used hand motions to show me just how much tunnel vision he had focused on that barrel. The kind of tunnel vision where whilst getting so shacked, one doesn’t realize he trimmed casually over the head of a blonde wahine, whose life was spared by a mere millimeter of God’s good grace. I’m a realist, and my take is that this can usually only be attributed to being… a guy, a male an XY’er. When it comes to “pulling in”, we chicks tend to over-analyze the situation in a split second and almost decide how we’re bailing before the peak even swings our way. Straighten out, pull through the back, pray… there are a handful of survival strategies for barrel dodging and fleeing from a ravaging lip. Surfing Booms doesn’t make it any easier. Ana from New Zealand put it best after popping up from a failed duck dive yesterday morning (alas, board-ditching is common here), exclaiming, “This wave is brutal!!!” I don’t think anyone who has surfed here would disagree.

After 7 months, 3 weeks and 2 days of living within a 5-minute drive from this wave, one would think I would have it wired by now. I’m pretty competent in the water, have about 10 years of competitive and travel experience under my belt. I even spent a 3-month stint living right in front of it at Hotel Chancletas! But this is no ordinary wave. Unless you are a high-ranking WCT surfer, the wave at Chancletas will humble you. I say this after nearly a year of having witnessed pros on photo trips and Average Joes fly or drive in from around the world to a perfect looking, seemingly innocent line-up at The Boom, only to come in from their first session with head hanging, a broken board, or worse. The most agile athletes start to “hold their own” after a few sessions or sometimes a week, but let’s face it, we females are either much smarter or much safer about our surfing, given that most guys break more boards in a week than I have broken all year.

The elusive barrel~ I would pull in here and there; a calculated tread amongst dodging the obstacle course of closeout walls. On every wave I would have one eye on potential surfers (accidents waiting to happen) floundering in my bottom turn vicinity and one eye on the lip, making for some frustratingly interrupted and mediocre surfing. Focus! Obviously, living here I’ve had my fare share of perfect waves and tubes, but had never really shaken the anxious flutter in my chest of navigating a 12-inch thick pitching lip while trying to avoid a poor soul in the impact zone. Until yesterday, that is.

Yesterday, everything just clicked. Energy seemed to surge out of my arms as I paddled. Each wave I mentally knew I was going to make it no matter what. Despite the very large, very perfect bombs pulsing through consecutively, I was unfazed. Wave after wave: push over the ledge, bottom turn, set, locked in, spit out. Or the other strategy: drop and stall, hand lightly trailing across the face of the wave as if it hadn’t crossed your mind that you skirted absolute disaster by a split second; the aftermath of the wave would have provided you a quick lesson on the physics of what I like to call the Black Hole (aka face slammed into volcanic sand).

Sure, after about 15 perfect waves I took about just as many on the head. And yes, I’ll admit the absolutely flawless surf helped make this breakthrough possible. But nothing could ruin the feeling of realizing that today I too had tunnel vision. Sitting sola in the still pumping line-up after while everyone, exhausted, was on their second breakfast, I couldn’t have been any more content. Today, it was more of the same.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fruit glorious Fruit

Tropical fruit is bountiful to say the least, here in Northern Nicaragua where the soil is some of the most fertile in the world. Papayas can be 3 feet long, watermelon redder than thought possible (and as sweet as it looks), avocados the size of your head (I'm only slightly exaggerating).

Most people might not know that although we're in the midst of a global food crisis, Nicaragua still has the cheapest food in all of Central America. Especially produce.

Some of the fruit you can find here in abundance is:
-Pineapple (gold and white varieties)
-Star Fruit
-The best tomatoes in the world
-Huge variety of Bananas
-Huge variety of Mangoes
-Passion Fruit
-Much more!

The most expensive fruit on this list is a watermelon for $2. I can't get enough!

Monday, August 18, 2008

¿Where does the time go?

People frequently ask , “What do you do all day, living in Central America? Don’t you ever get bored?!” These queries are understandable from newcomers; it is common for most people to have a travel experience in Central America that consists of an all-inclusive resort or a trip from the vacation rental to the local pulperia to refill the stock of margarita mix in the fridge. Fortunately, when one decides to make the transition from tourist to ex-pat in Central America, s/he can expect to develop new interests, meet new people and even revisit old hobbies. In essence, create a new life experience in a foreign country.

In an effort to bring insight to a potential future ex-pat’s lifestyle ideal, the following is an example of how his/her day might go:

5:15am-Why am I awake at 5:15am? Is my clock right? Does it always get light this early? Note to self, drink more Chilean Malbec tonight.
5:30am-Cup or organic coffee (or green smoothie), perhaps and select one of the following options:
Check surf
• Bust out fishing rod
• Yoga on ocean view patio
• Run on beach
• Horseback riding on beach (if low-mid tide)
• Collect seashells
• Make business phone call to Japan
• Go back to sleep

8am-By this time unless the waves are epic or the fishing is good, you will probably be making your way back home for breakfast. Say, a fresh tropical fruit plate or scrambled eggs with gallo pinto and toast (fresh baked bread, of course).

9am-Unless the waves are going off, at this time you will be getting into your main activity of the day. This can be any of the following options (including but not limited to):
• Go to work (that would be me)
o Put out fires, make pho calls, check e-mail, run to nearest civilized town for some sort of meeting or errands
• Check on construction, like my friend Holly Beck
• If you have a house, do some gardening or planting
• Hang out in pool at the Marina
• Read a book
• Test out machete technique on unsuspecting tropical plants
• Head to nearest civilized town for grocery shopping, bank, yadda yadda yadda and maybe pizza or Subway

Noon-Even if the waves are still firing, by this time people are starting to drop like flies. The rest of us are still out and about but thinking about lunch, at least by 1pm.

2pm-It’s hot at 2pm. Hopefully you’re somewhere with a/c (doubtful) or an ocean breeze and a beer (probable). Also a good time for a dip in the ocean or nap in the hammock. For me, if it’s a day at the office I usually have an appointment with clients from

3-6pm. If not, I could be anywhere from the border of Honduras to the border of Costa Rica to an island in the Caribbean, you know, scouting out property.

5:30-Sunset. What, sunset already? Yes, sunset. Daylight savings time is an invention of the US. Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have beer in hand and be strategically positioned with view of and breeze off the ocean. Only not for the heat this time… mosquitoes…

7pm-After some good conversation with whomever you were watching the sunset with, it’s dinnertime! A possible menu could be the following:
• Fish you caught in the morning (snook, mahi, snapper or corvina, likely)
• Fish that the guy who took you surfing in the boat caught (see above)
• Ceviche or cocktail of shrimp or clams
• The chicken that either a) you almost hit driving this morning or b) woke you up with its squawking
• BBQ Peliguey, a cross between a sheep and a goat (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it)
• Any of the above accompanied by rice, beans, salad, vegetables, fried plantains and some salsa picante. And beer.
• If you’re a veg, replace the fauna with a soup, salad or stir-fry prepared with any selection of the plethora of fresh veggies available in the area. Buen provecho!

After dinner-When you live in Central America, it takes longer than 30 minutes to eat dinner, because we are not rushed and enjoy our meals here. By now it’s probably close to 9pm. Or if you are my French neighbors, you start eating after 9pm. The following are some standard options:
• Switch from beer to Flor de CaƱa, chilled, with lime (get ready for karaoke of Red Red Wine later)
• Continue chatting with friends and/or listening to music
• Leisurely read a book or magazine
• Call it a night and sleep (or other)

See!? Time flies when you’re having fun. Of course, other life responsibilities will get in the way of having a perfect day every day, but just by rotating the above activities you will wish the days were longer.