Chris, Gigante and the South Swell

A good friend of Paul’s, Chris Clobus, joined us for the next week to search for remote surf in the varied coastline of southern Nicaragua. To meet us, Chris had to embark on an adventurous mission into the unknown corners of the sometimes dangerous country. This is what we told him to do: ”Fly into Managua, take a bus to Chinendega, find a taxi and tell the driver to take you to the bridge at Paso Caballo (the driver would know, we promised), at the bridge yell as loud as you can, we should hear you from our anchorage. And please bring powdered Gatorade, peanut butter and duct tape.” Sure enough, first thing in the morning, beside the regular Nicaraguan local fishermen, we saw a much taller, brighter dressed person standing on the bridge. We whistled, he yelled, mission accomplished. Excited with the company were underway shortly afterwards.

Chris doing his part as we searched for surf.

The best way to find a secluded surf break is to consider the coastline, sea floor and swell direction for any given area and make an educated guess. This is how we discovered the little town of Gigante. We found a dominant point with a protected bay on our chart that looked like it could produce good waves with the incoming south swell. So we made for it, figuring we would find the typical array of rolling, jungle hills and scattered fishing camps.

When we approached the bay, we were delighted to see a Victoria (delicious beer) sign on one of the palapas on the beach.  We landed our dinghy and realized that instead of a small fishing village, we had landed in an off the beaten track, gringo-surfer-traveler village. It came complete with Americanized foods (amazing bbq bacon cheeseburgers!) and two hostels. Walking through the one dirt road, it felt like a poor Nicaraguan fishing village was overtaken by wealthy surfer travelers. Some 15 years ago, that is exactly what happened. This village stayed small because of its remoteness: It takes a 5 km walk to a bus stop and a multi-hour bus ride to get to the nearest city.

The bay that holds the little town of Gigante with the boat anchorage.

Within half of a day, the crew of Patience and the Blue Goose were known to all the local gringos. After the first full day we were greeting people on the road as we walked to and from surfing. We could see the allure of this place: the consistent high quality surf, the offshore winds, the remoteness, the monkeys and the tight community. They all had an attractive appeal.

The anticipated long period swell hit, bringing with it 10-15 foot waves. Many of the normally working surf breaks couldn’t bear the power and closed out helplessly. We tried and only Paul and Mark managed to charge at some of the beasts and catch a few rides. The following day we took Patience out of our anchorage, 1.5 miles down the coast to a bay called Manzanillo, a world class left point break. The mission was a success! The deep bay was able to hold the large swell and powerful waves rolled in, breaking cleanly. Paul and Mark charged and scored some epic rides and wipeouts, dropping into 10-12 foot faces consistently. The bigger sets were 15-18 foot on the face. They went un-ridden. That day we had huge, high quality waves and virtually no people besides us. Unfortunately we were so busy with surfing, no pictures were taken.

That evening, we were invited to a 70’s party at a bar by several of the people we met. We hadn’t been to a social event in many months, so we decided to don shirts and put on deodorant for a change. It was semi-fun, but in my opinion; the music was too loud and there were too many people. Despite the criticism though, we had fun.

The next day we went back to Manzanillo bay, this time with a couple of the guys from town. It was smaller that day, but still large by most standards. Another solid day of surfing brought us back to Gigante tired, happy and thirsty. The beer and stories flowed easily as the sun was setting in the isolated jungle remoteness of the little village.

This is how it went in Gigante; surf, eat and drink, then surf more; every day without fail. This is life in Gigante for the gringos.

Yes, we could see the allure. The waves and winds cooperate to create many amazing surf breaks. The beer is cold, the food is varied and cheap and the people are familiar and friendly. I can see how weeks could turn into months here and months into years. But that is not for us. The crews of Patience and Blue Goose were ready to move on five days after we arrived. We dropped Chris off for his journey home and made for our next Port, San Juan del Sur.



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