The Story of my Surf Trip in Nicaragua
I was dreaming of a surf trip for a while since I wanted to improve my white-butt-surfer skills, and because it holds its roots in Quebec (and since entrepreneurs here are strongly supported) I couldn’t help but hear about Barefoot Surf Travel. The name was also familiar since I had come across it on social media and at a river surfing session I attended. So, I went on their website, could NOT believe the destinations, and there I was, booking a full week of surf in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. A few clicks and emails to Martin and his radiant moustache (Quite literally. The guy behind the website really has a blond-surfer moustache. It is nothing short of radiant) and he answered all of my questions and helped me book my trip. Done. Booked. Easy. I could already picture myself there.
Air Transat offers direct flights 7 days a week with competitive prices in comparison to other existing airlines, which aren’t even direct on top of things. I originally wanted to spend a few more days to go to Ometepe Island, but the spike in prices and the crazy long layovers made me give up on the whole idea. I simply booked the shorter version of my trip and left for a week.
After landing at Managua’s airport, it’s a 3-hour minibus ride to San Juan del Sur. Trust me, It’s not that painful. It’s actually a nice occasion to meet the people you’ll call friends after the upcoming week, and you’ll have time to enjoy the warmth and humid air (which is such a welcomed change from Quebec’s crazy cold, snowy winter) as well as the luscious green landscape, colorful houses and gorgeous vulcanos.
What to plan for
I’m not going to lie : surf is a very demanding sport. I have a tendency to insist on this, especially if you are a woman, because it really requires upper body strength. I’m sporty, but my previous surf trips have systematically left me with the less than pleasant memory of all the aches and pains. Rule of thumb : if you don’t want to hurt, better come prepared.
For my part, about 3 months before the trip, I started hitting the gym and the pool like crazy to develop my arm and shoulder muscles. Conclusion: it really helped and I barely suffered. I’d definitely recommend the same program to anyone thinking about doing this kind of trip.
In terms of equipment, you won’t need anything complicated: a regular suitcase or backpack will do just fine. We stayed at the same location for the duration of the trip and there was plenty of space for everything. Otherwise, surf bikinis, rashguards, a wetsuit (if you have one), water resistant sunscreen, and – the absolute best – a zinc stick to protect your face. That is literally the best thing in the world; for the first time ever, I didn’t end up with a sunburn at any point during this trip. I even used it behind my legs and it changed my life. Pale skin peeps, this is for you!
Once You’re There
Nicaragua is Costa Rica’s neighbour, but cheaper and less touristy. Long story short : it’s exactly where you want to be.
The local currency is the Cordoba and if, by some weird, unlikely skill, you can easily divide everything by 33, especially the US dollar, then you’ll be good. to. go.
The Barefoot dream team welcomed us with a fresh Toña (pretty much a tasteless local beer but who cares) in a villa straight out of a movie, with a swimming pool, hammocks, good vibes, sun-kissed skin, and garden furniture so perfect it’ll make you want to call it home. For ever.
Sleeping arrangements mainly consisted of shared rooms with bunk beds. We were four girls in ours; the housekeeping was done every day, and each room had its own bathroom (FYI, a bathroom for 4 is totally manageable when all you wear are bikinis and light dresses. I tried going naked but was told to put clothes on. I don’t get it.)
Every morning, a breakfast of champions was prepared for us: eggs, potatoes, fresh fruits, juice, coffee, energy bites, and more. Everything you need to rule the waters (and help you get rid of that good ol’ hangover, if you know what I mean. Trust me, you aren’t above this.)
Also included in this deal: 2 amazing locally-prepared dinners at the villa.
For the other meals we were free to do whatever we wanted : restaurants, snacks to take away, food in the fridge. Easy breezy, just what we were in the mood for.
This is probably the part that surprised me the most. Just out of curiosity, after I returned, I went online to read the comments left on Trip Advisor, and every single word I read was aligned with how I was feeling. Everyone was nothing short of flabbergasted by how amazing it all was.
We were about 12 people, mainly women (but considering the surf coaches and staff, it was pretty well balanced), ranging from 19 to 54 years old. The chemistry between all of us was great but then again, this may be the type of sport that brings together people with similar personalities. But what do I know? I can just say that there was a healthy atmosphere, filled with laughter and mutual support, a sense of sharing and respect : pretty much everything I’m looking for in life.
I received a few messages from people who hesitate to travel alone and I can confirm this: don’t be afraid! You’ll leave with a bunch new buddies.
Activities and organization
I usually love to go on a road trips or plan my travels on my own terms, but this formula was actually really perfect, especially since the staff takes care of the all the logistics : comfort at the villa, choice of surf spots, transportation, equipment, planning, breakfasts, etc. It’s just so chill not to have to think in the morning, and overall, it was nice not to worry about anything.
We had quite a lot of free time outside the surf sessions and I – for once – really enjoyed slowing down a bit, chilling at the villa, having fun like kids, going for walks in town, drinking (quite a lot), buying beers (which we did often too.)
Part of the team was composed of those super fit ladies who spent most of their time doing yoga on the beach in the morning and lunge contests at the villa in the afternoon. They were in fantastic shape and it was admirable to watch them go! Meanwhile, the rest of us were playing beer pong on our surf boards in the pool, went to clubs, and talked until early in the morning. Same, same.
The staff also organized a few dinners in town, every time, at great locations, and again, we had a few evenings to do just about whatever we wanted. The perfect balance in my opinion.
We had a free day to explore a bit of Nicaragua to our liking also. Along with Maïka and Melynda, I went to Granada, a pretty town with thousands of colors. Catherine, Mathieu and Alexandre left to explore the surroundings of San Juan Del Sur on scooters. But just while the weaker ones among us were recovering from aches and exploring the area, the super fit gals RETURNED to the waves. #OneDay #OrNever 😀
In the surfing portion of it, we were divided into small groups of two or three people, categorized by level, per surf coach, and throughout the entire stay, we were able to switch boards if such was our desired. We were also lent rashguards and wetsuits as needed as soon as we arrived. Naomi made sure we had the best experience and that we learnt as much as possible (and the mission is more than accomplished). She was essentially the one leading the surf meetings. Martin and François were also there to help out and give advice, but they mostly taught us the essentials, such as how to read the waves, and how to position ourselves on our board according to the tricks we wanted to try among many other things that I found frankly useful. It made us all much more aware of what comes with the practice of this sport. I swear, all of it was far from boring.
Furthermore, Naomi took pictures during our surf sessions from a beach standpoint, and showed them to us during the surf meetings. This made it possible for her to give us the best advice which would help us improve our performance. This tactic was great, and useful, and we even received the pictures at the end of our stay. The meetings themselves were done in a very positive manner, and included exactly what was required; not too much nor too little. I don’t believe many schools offer such a high level of service.
We surfed in nice waves every day, on 3 different beaches: Playa Maderas, Playa Remanzo and Playa Hermosa. I have to say, the waves were much bigger than any of the ones I had surfed until then. I simply loved it, even though it got tough at moments. The beauty of it is that you can’t ask for a custom wave; you deal with what nature gives you. I’ll admit, I wasn’t always 100% confident, especially when faced with 6-feet waves, but beginners, rest assure, it is always possible to surf closer to the beach, in the white water, to practice your pop ups and get more familiar with the practices. Everyone went at their own pace; it’s never a competition. The hardest part, for me anyways, was to pass the break. There were often sets of pretty big waves coming our way, and it took a shot of courage and a pint of energy to push through. But practice makes perfect right? As the days and the waves went by, we grew less impressed, even accepting to be stirred around as we willingly practiced our turtle rolls. The surf coaches were never far away anyway. They watched us from a short distance and obviously, we were free to take breaks as needed: safety first. Always.
The one on one advice we received during the surf meetings and during the sessions in the water, caused for our skills to rapidly improve, especially compared to when you try to make something happen, alone, in the middle of the ocean, paddling away, hoping for the best. This school is so much better than those single classes, here and there, getting advice from a different coach every time. I told Pedro: ‘‘Do.Not.Take. Your. Eyes. Off. Me. If. You. Do. And. I. Don’t. Die. I’ll. Break. Your. Nose.’’ (ya, I get angry when I’m scared haha.) He got the message, and didn’t let me down.♡
Standing on the board is just so exciting and you get all these amazing sensations. It’s the best way to catch waves, ask for advice, practice your turns and angles in the waves. And not only do you get to learn from the coaches, but from your peers as well! It’s no question that The Barefoot Stays are made for people of all levels looking to have fun, find waves suited to their expectations and improve their skills with every session.
I lived through so much adrenaline and endorphins during this stay that I can’t help but feel sad since I’ve been back. I have – for once – managed to completely disconnect from my routine reality and live with the carelessness I had forgotten I could have. And it felt good. Like, really good.
I am seriously considering going back with the Barefoot Surf Travel team to Bali, and even though it wasn’t originally in my plans, some of the participants from my trip were in Bali last October and only had good things to say about it. Not that I was hard to convince. The Barefoot clientele is a recurring one, and it’s easy to see why.
If I’ve convinced you to book a trip with this incredible team to live an experience you’ll never forget or if you have any question please let me know in the comments below, by email or via Facebook or Instagram. I’m impatient to know ♡
I can’t wait to be back in the back of your truck! 🙂
And big thanks to Roxane Trudel for her proofreading of this English article ♡
Thank you ❤