Salina Kooks

Once a closely guarded secret, the potential of Southern Mexican righthand point breaks was showcased worldwide in 2006 with the Ripcurl pro held at incredible Barra de la Cruz. It wasn’t long before everyone realised A) It was a once in 10 yr swell and Barra was never going to be that good again, but B) there were a dozen or so other world class waves in the area. Unfortunately people soon-after realised there was money to be made running surf tours – serious money. An American firm set up shop in Salina Cruz charging Mentawai boat trip prices for locally guided 4WD tours of the area. Only problem was that the waves didn’t get Mentawai boat trip good all that often and when they did, they were choca full of surfer-plebs doing things on the cheap themselves. Solution…. ban anyone without a Salina Cruz guide from surfing. And this was (and still is) done with a mixture of in-surf and on-beach intimidation, vehicle damage (slashed tires in particular) and just generally being jerks. But it couldn’t last and the local guides hired by the American company decided they’d make better money running tours themselves and pretty soon everyone else in town with a 4WD jumped on the surf guide bandwagon too. So now the guides fight each other as well as anyone else who dares hunt around for waves by themselves…

And this is exactly what we decided to do in our trusty 3 cylinder V8 van. Luckily for us the guides can’t be everywhere at once and, even better, a few of the villages have decided f#%k that, we don’t want Salina Kooks up here running the show and have made it quite clear the beach is for everyone (for a small entrance fee ;)

Stayed at a great little camp run by Coco and Leo, donkey (male) and their donkey-loving dog (also male!? – don’t ask). Tested our van to the limits in scrub (pass), mud (pass), sand (pass), thigh-deep water (pass) and sand-water slurry (epic Fail). Swell a bit small and sand not great on any of the points (Bamba breakwater a different story…) but good waves and fun times had with Bonnie Geronimo, the central crew and new mates from California – John D and Captain Redbeard.

Guarded....

      

     

         

     

Mexican Gold

Cocoleoco crew

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MexPipe and left points?

Mexico. With only moderate bus/border/taxi dramas, made it. Weather’s much more agreeable than the sticky south, food’s cheap and really good, and the waves are big, powerful and super consistent. A little too big at Puerto Escondido with even a fairly moderate swell producing heaving double to triple overhead wedges on Zicatela main beach. Pros, boogies and crusty ole guys on 8′ guns are all over it but without the board (or the inclination) to give solid Puerto a nudge, La Punta down the beach is the perfect hideout (yep, only I would go to Mexico and surf left points). Apparently the last few big swells have pushed a lot of sand in and its actually a really good wave at the moment – breaking for nearly 400m with 3 barrel sections!! Legs are jelly after a few of the rides. Bonnie Geronimo has taken a well earned break from GSI and come over to snag a few on her new quiver as well – ripping!

With more swell on the way we get hold of a new truck (sigh) and head south to meet up with Motley Central Crew and chase some of these famed Mexican rights.

MexPipe

 

Zicatela at front, La Punta out the back

   

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Mangos

I Like Mangos

As I said, we couldn’t find anywhere cheap to stay so we splashed for the clifftop. Amazing view and could be one of the picks of the trip if the manager wasn’t a complete toolbox. If he wasn’t hassling us for money in advance or trying to up the room rates daily he was kicking our more plebatorian friends out because they weren’t buying enough from the restaurant. One of the weirdest people I have ever met. But while the view, the pool and the air-con are good, we’re in El Salvador for right hand point-breaks, the mango kind in particular. And with the Pacific finally waking up we’re in luck.

   

Kiwi boys getting vocal on the point

 

After a couple of days of surfing the points around the hotel (Los Flores to one side and La Vaca – the cow – on the other) the anticipated swell fills in and we’re getting a 5am boat to Punta Mango. Its pretty solid and the beach launch proves interesting with the first boat off the rank getting a bit overexcited, caught out (or in) by a set, goes airborne as they punch a vertical wall at 20 knots and broadside in the impact zone as they kill the outboard on landing. I’m not sure how the next wave doesn’t flip the thing but it fills it with water and returns it to shore in pretty quick order. Our drivers a little more composed and times his run to perfection. Punta Mango is cooking. Crowded but plenty of waves and nice to finally be out on a quality, overhead right point. Matty’s shown up from the oblivion of Columbia and is in great form.

                   Glad I wasn’t on this boat…
            More mangos…

All the dawdling down south comes at a cost however, and that cost is El Salvadorian point breaks. A shame as my backhand could do with another couple of….years here and it would have been good to have had more of a look around this beautiful but dangerous country (I’ve never seen so many guards armed with shotguns outside everything from pharmacies to doorknob stores). I’m sure Mexico will deliver a few more right points and after a quick call into La Libertad and Punta Rocha, leave the boys in El Salv and head for Mex. Mish is off, end of his trip. Been great having him along and looking forward to more roadies at home.

Mish dropping in on the Hangover 2 pic: ML

Some more crackers from Mikko:

     

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“If you’re up for adventure take the boat”

Says Joe. One good thing about not having a truck is you can avoid crapholes like Honduras altogether. While there’s no ‘ferry’ between Nicaragua and El Salvador we head to the northern tip and find a friendly fisherman (or out of work drug-smuggler, we couldn’t work out which) who was more than happy to run us across. Lifejackets, flares, short-wave radio, bahh, that crap’ll slow you down. Slightly worried half-way across when we hit something submerged (possibly a body from the last illegal border run) and the motor gave out. Quick running repairs and we make it to La Union, El Salvador. Perfectly lives up to the semblance of a sketchy boarder/port town in Central Americas most dangerous country & most of us are pocket-fingering knives whilst trying to sort a van the hell out’ve there. With a good swell due later in the week we head to Las Flores and the legendary Punta Mango. As luck would have it everyone else had the same idea and the place is booked solid. As a last resort we try the big hotel right on the headland with a pool overlooking the point…. Jackpot. Now we wait.

                

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BooM

The Boom. Central America’s worst kept secret since La Jolla. We’d heard whispers about this place since Panama and had to check it out. An offshore estuary delta bends and focuses swell into a 500 m long stretch of wedging barrelling goodness known as The Boom. Similar to Matakana or South Straddie except that instead of waiting for the odd lost low pressure system Boom is exposed to the full brunt of the Pacific.

Joe’s an old Portuguese guy who runs the local hostel, plays resident evil on his Xbox and breaks up dog fights with his slingshot. Joe’s classic. Food’s great, waves are off the hook and everyone gets their fair share of barrels and beatings – known locally as getting Boomed. The line of the trip is Hector’s when he overhears a water photographer telling the Floridian groms he’s shooting to get more waves “just take everything – if someone’s on it just go, you’ve got priority”. Hector to photog “they take my waves I’ll take their f#@king heads off”. Silence. Gold.

              

Pro grom punks

    Boomed
          Pics from ML

     

     

Joe and friends

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Prodding the tiger

With the biggest swell in some weeks building we were in no mood to waste any more time dealing with dodgy Costa customs ‘officials’ and shot straight over the border to Nicaragua and down to the coast. Awoke in the morning to six foot of clean Pacific groundswell groomed by the perpetual offshores generated by the Lago de Nicaragua.

Inside Popoyo is a reasonable A-frame but the outer reef is where the action happens. Swells come in from deep water, doubling in size as they wedge up onto the takeoff then turn themselves inside out over the reef. Would be challenging enough without the 20 knot offshore and the semi-dry slab section down the line. We give it a nudge on the semi-guns but with sets in the triple overhead range and most of the serious guys on 7’6″+ boards we’re really just dabbling and trying not to get smushed all over the reef. Hector’s charging, everyone else gets a few but as Hamish says, its kind’ve like prodding a sleeping tiger with a pole – sooner or later he’ll wake up and you’ll lose an arm. We retreat before the tiger wakes.

The afternoon is a complete flipside at a left point we’ll call LLs. Bit of a walk and paddle to get there (hence lack of photos – sorry) but once there its overhead, beautifully walled up and reeling for 200 m. Crowded in the morning but by the time we arrive everyone’s off for lunch and the 20 guys and 6 boats that were there when we arrive depart and leave the four of us trading waves to ourselves for the next two hours. As good as surf travel gets!

Juice...

Mish tiptoeing around the tiger

Hectic. Yea boy!

The Tiger

So we’re still sans-vehicle but no-one’s in jail, no-one’s in hospital and no-one’s sitting behind a computer desk. Life could be worse…

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Crashing down

After living on such a high the last few days a come down was due; and it all came crashing down in spectacular fashion.  We tried to go out through customs the same way we came in – ignorant. And almost ALLmost made it through – Nicaragua was literally 30m away when the guard at the last checkpoint realised we didn’t have the correct paperwork and sent us back up the road. Sure we thought, ‘big problem, big problem’ we’ve heard that before, wait it out, pay a bit of tax and we’ll be on our way. Wrong. MutherF$#&ng Costa Rican customs decided that they wanted import tax on the truck (I don’t even know how that works as it was bought in Panama and we’re leaving Costa!?) to the tune of $2000 – two thirds of what it’s worth!? In the meantime they were confiscating it. We phoned friends, refused to sign anything, subtly offered other ways of resolving but nothing. Car goes to Lockup. We go to Nicaragua. Dirty f#$king thieving bastards.

At Popoyo, Nicaragua. Still undecided what to do about the truck but at least its firing.

Consolation Peaks

 

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Rockstars

My mate John is a Legend. You meet a lot of cool people travelling and you inevitably swap details and swap “come stay with me when you get to (insert far-flung location I’ll never go to here)”. But John’s was slightly different: “When you get to Costa come stay at my family’s hotel – it’ll be closed for the offseason but I’ll have them open it up”. So we did, and they did. Sole occupancy in a stunning resort on a deserted Costa Rican beach. This is the rockstar lifestyle. Well it beats sneaking around costa avoiding police stops anyway and we spend a very enjoyable and relaxing few days. Good waves too at a great little righthand reef and a rivermouth A-frame. We need to drive through a few mangrove pools on the way in and are (pleasantly) surprised when there’s no one else there. We find out why on the way out when the tide has come in and we’re near bonnet deep. The Mexican Rig does us proud though. Time is up all too soon, there’s a new swell building and Nicaraguan reefs beckon. Thanks to Xinia, Jamelet, Uncle Ron and his tales of womanising around the globe and of course my good friend (and a bloody good surfer) John Jr. Legend.

The A-frame

The right

The drive out…

Rig + Quiver + Crew

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Dodging

Trying to get from one side of Costa Rica to the other in a dodgy, Mexican-plated truck without paperwork is not ideal. Police checkpoints are regular and we’re not exactly subtle with 4 boys and 14 boards… We cram as many as we can inside, sit in behind trucks and try to drive early mornings or at night and get through ok. Jaco is good fun for a few days and Playa Hermosa is off the hook. Broken leggies all round but boards survive. Hamish finally arrives from NZ – floods in Mexico adding a couple of days to the trip. Better late than never. Heading to northern Costa to see out our last few days in comfort at our mate John’s hotel.

Always better down the beach...

 

4WDs are Good.

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PaVones

Pavones. Central America’s answer to Chicama. Not quite as long  (~1.1 km cf. 2.2) and a bit sectiony when small owing to the point’s flat orientation but with a hollow inside section and backed by Costa Rican jungle it is picturesque non-the-less. Swell is small when we arrive but to guarantee that it comes up overnight we celebrate Robbie’s birthday in good kiwi style with a beach fire and low-grade rum. Sure enough, with deservedly sore heads we wake at dawn to a nice little swell filling in and reeling down the point. Unfortunately, with forecasting being what it is, Everyone within a one day drive radius knows its on as well and the crowd can be pretty intense. Robbie objects to a drop-in with a good sharp shove. Unfortunately it was the one local you didn’t want to push off and things got pretty heated in the water and then on land. Interestingly, more by American expat ‘locals’ than by the real Ticas. But I guess  you’ve gotta do something to make your life seem worthwhile when you transplant yourself to a backwater like this.

As is always the case, the last morning is On but after a quick dip we have to head back to the border to try and pick up some paperwork for our dodgy car. Semi-fail as the guy we’ve already paid to look after it (I know, rookie mistake) never shows. But we do get a very official looking letter from a Lawyer stating our intentions to drive straight through Costa to Nicuagra and onwards to Mex. We’re not really sure what good this is but with nothing else we give it a go. Seems to do the trick at the first few police blocks. Fingers crossed for the rest….

   

Happy Birthday Rob

 

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