Learning to Surf in San Juan del Sur

I think I’m exiting the phase of I’ve been there! and entering the phase of I did this there! Hence, why I’m planning a trek in Patagonia instead of just exploring Chile.

It should be concerning to me that being somewhere exotic no longer gives me that thrill that it used to. Back in the day, I could sit in the hotel room and the mere knowledge that Paris was just a door away was enough to satisfy me. Now I have to actually open that door. In 5 years, I might have to adopt a kitten in each country just to get the same rush.

Anyways, as a start to the I did this there! series, let me begin with “I learned to surf in San Juan del Sur.” More like San Juan del Surf, am I right? They actually sell t-shirts there that say this. I might have a few.

SJDS is probably Nicaragua’s most well-known city, popular among tourists for its parties and waves. Although, if I’ve learned anything about sports, drinking and athletics usually go hand in hand. I already participated in Sunday Funday excessively, so I decided to check out the surf scene one day.

Since the amenities of my hostel was like an all-you-can-eat buffet, I signed up for a surf class. By the end of the day, I was all about that surfer life.


I Took Surf Lessons

If you’ve never surfed before, I highly suggest taking a class before you start. I would’ve been frustrated, miserable, and covered in rashes had it not been for my amazing instructor. I mean, those things still happened, but I was able to feel accomplished at the end of the day.

There were 3 other girls that signed up for the lesson. I was lucky to sign up the day I did because my brother had lessons with 30 other people. Talk about getting more bang for your buck.

I scoped them out. There were 2 German girls that I would hate by the end of the day and one Danish girl.  The first hour, our instructor waxed poetry about how much he loved surfing. The second hour, he ran us through pop-up drills. And from hours 3-6, he pushed us through the water like a machine.


What Surfing Feels Like

If you can imagine dragging a huge steel door that’s tied to your foot into the ocean and then laying on this steel door for hours waiting, you’ve got 75% of surfing down. If Rose from Titanic had a few more waves, she could’ve been an excellent surfer.

You wait and wait and wait… until a wave that’s not too big, but not too small approaches. You have to keep watching to see how it develops. Sometimes, you think a wave is small enough for you to tackle, so you get into position. When you look back again, you realize that it’s grown 5 feet since you last looked back. So you let the buff guy beside you take it.

Also, the waves are always coming in from the direction of the sun, so you’re blinding yourself the entire day by watching for waves.

On the rare occasion that there’s a wave for you, there’s only a 20% chance that you’ll catch it. On the off chance that you do manage to catch it, there are a series of steps that must be executed perfectly.

First, you have to be in the right position on your board. Too far up and you’ll wipe out; too far back and you’ll never catch it. Then, you must start paddling with the right force and distance away from the wave. If you catch it, you have to ride it a certain distance on your belly before you attempt to pop up. While trying to pop up, you have to make sure that you’re coming up gently, like a yogi.

Finally, if you’ve done all those things correctly, you have to lean forward to keep the momentum. And balance.

Hopefully, by the time you’ve done all this, the wave is still unbroken. But, as a beginning, broken waves are also equally fun to ride. Heck, just being able to stand is a rush. There were a few times where I just stood with no movement, floating in the middle of the ocean.

During 6 hours of surfing, I probably had 2-5 good runs. That’s less than 1 run an hour!

But, it’s completely addicting. You know why? The best I can relate it to is that scientific study about a mouse pushing a button for reward. The mouse is pretty cool when it knows how many button-pushes to do before getting the reward, but it gets bored after a while. The mouse becomes obsessed with it when the rewards are given at random intervals.  That’s how inconsistent I was at catching waves: an addictive amount of inconsistency.

It’s entirely possible to be out there for 8 hours of the day and realize, only when you’re back at the hostel, that you’re suffering from some 3rd degree burns.

I really thought hard about using the GoPro to catch some footage (I mean, that’s what GoPros are for!) but I was too preoccupied by the act of surfing to worry about losing my GoPro in some waves. But here are some photos of us holding a board! That’s also pretty cool, right?

IMG_0597 IMG_0594

Have you ever tried surfing?

Linking up with Travel Tuesdays!

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  • http://www.clemandmarcella.wordpress.com/ Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld

    Waitttt….Firstly… you are coming to Chile?!?! If you need any trekking tips, please let me know :) I haven’t been to Chilean Patagonia but Carlos has spent time trekking there, so he could give you lots of tips. From what I’ve seen of Patagonia in Argentina, I am seriously needing to go to the Chile side very soon!!! It’s crazily stunning.
    I love the idea of thinking about your travels for the things you did, as after all they are the things that create all of the memories, right? I’ve never been surfing but It’s something I’d like to try!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      What?? Did I not tell you?! I’ve been talking to Lauren about it, since she’s also going to be in Chile this year, haha. Oh my gosh, YES! I’m going to Chile and we should definitely meet up :)

      I would LOVE some trek tips. I just spent hours last night doing some research about getting to Torres del Paine, and it looks like quite a journey even after arriving in Santiago! Did you trek on the Argentina side?

      Yeah, before I would just go to the places and even though it’s wonderful just to be somewhere else, it’s even more exhilarating if you do something while you’re there! :) You should definitely try surfing. So addicting.

      • http://www.clemandmarcella.wordpress.com/ Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld

        Noooo, I had no idea! How exciting :) I met Lauren last week and so it’ll be fun to meet as a trio! I think getting to Torres del Paine is pretty ok from Santiago – plane to Punta Arenas and then a bus. It’s a very touristy place to transport is fully prepared. I trekked in El Chalten, which was beyond beautiful!! Send me an email if you need any tips :)

  • http://www.mapleleopard.blogspot.com Valerie Hansen

    I have never tried surfing..have wanted to many times in Hawaii, but chickened out! I would love to visit Nicaragua! Thanks for sharing!
    Travel and Fashion

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks for visiting, Valerie! You should definitely give it a go one day :)

  • http://snowintromso.com/ Van @ Snow in Tromso

    I did a windsurfing course when I was little but I wouldn’t say I was good at it :D Would love to try and surf for real though!

  • http://www.crumbsinthebed.com/ Kerri

    I like the idea of it, but lots of water kind of scares me. I think I prefer to watch people surf. I’d like to learn to dive, but again, the whole water thing really puts me off.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Let me guess, you’re not a big fan of water? :p

      I’m actually the same when it comes to snorkeling. We’ll see later this year about diving. Something about knowing there are creatures in there while you’re bobbing helplessly in open water…

  • http://www.whatupswags.com/ SWAGS @ What Up, Swags?!

    I tried surfing for the first time last year! I got up twice, and I felt like I’d won an Olympic medal! :D I really just enjoyed floating around on the board… Thanks for linking up with #TravelTuesday! Looking forward to what you’ll post for the sporty adventure theme next week!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      It feels AWESOME, doesn’t it?! And shoot, I didn’t realize there was a theme for next week. Let me just scramble around for an idea….

  • http://www.DianaElleBlog.com Diana Elle

    I would be afraid to try.. first of all, I don’t think i’d be able to get up… I would have to start prepping long before (excersice-wise)… haha but I enjoyed reading your play by play on how you surfed.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get up but it happened! And thanks, Diana :)

  • http://www.adelanteblog.com/ Courtney @ Adelante

    Learning how to surf in Nicaragua sounds positively epic! I went once in Hawaii when I was 12 or 13 years old and really loved it, despite how much I sucked. (I mean really, REALLY sucked.) I would love to try it again someplace as cool and memorable as San Juan del Sur!

    PS: So jealous that you’re planning a trek to Patagonia :) Take me with you?!?

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha you should definitely try it again!! And damn, surfing in Hawaii?? That’s like iconic surfing.

      You should definitely come along ;) Hoping everything pans out… but I’m also known to change my mind last minute, haha…

  • http://adventitiousviolet.com/ Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

    That is so cool!!! I’m hoping to take a surfing lesson in Dunbar (east cost of Scotland) this coming summer but I’m sure it’ll be a bit more cold and miserable hahaha

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahaha you’ll definitely need a wetsuit for that! But you’d look way more badass :)

  • http://www.twofeet-oneworld.com/ Jessi @2feet1world

    I literally just snorted my dinner, so perfectly do you describe the frustration of learning to surf. I am a chronic beginner in that I never do it enough to get better at that whole wave-catching-thing. BUT you’re right, it’s so addicting!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahah where did you learn? And yes, I feel like I will be the same… unless I someday live right by the ocean. There’s no way of getting out of chronic beginnerhood without dedicated HOURS AND HOURS of practice!

      • http://www.twofeet-oneworld.com/ Jessi @2feet1world

        I learnt in NZ – I want to try over here now! And yes living next to a beach would be ideal :D