Coming from a small fisher village of the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, it is pretty hard to put your hands on a board. Being a young kid wanting to give it a try, Kevin tells us about his first board and his attempts at surfing. No matter where you come, as long as devotion is in your heart, you’ll make it happen!
To understand passion or the true love of a sport, especially that of surfing, all you need to do is remember that that feeling of standing up for the first time, in the moment it’s indescribable, it’s magical and it’s easy to see why surfers would give almost anything to catch a nice wave. That’s what our trip is all about, it’s our attempt to study and understand what it really means to love a sport, to find out what someone will do for it and where it’ll take them.
On the western coast of Nicaragua, down a long winding dirt and gravel road lies a hidden fishing village whose main strip is swiftly growing. Establishing itself with family run restaurants, bars and hostels, this up and coming gem goes by the name of Playa Gigante. In this town it’s often hard to distinguish the tourists from the locals as many of the locals were themselves tourists who eventually decided to hang their hat here and it’s a very tempting thought but we had a different agenda.
Getting to Nicaragua from Montreal, Canada isn’t that difficult but we were on a tight budget and as a result we unintentionally made the trek more challenging than it should have been. After a full day of layovers and mediocre airport food JP Veillet and myself found ourselves landing in Liberia, Costa Rica and with hardly any time to spare, the next morning we were quick to jump the next bus to Peñas Blancas, or known better as the Nicaraguan border. We learned our lesson that day, we’d have been better off flying straight into Nicaragua because the hassle and time wasted at the border would have easily been worth a few extra bucks spent on a direct flight to Managua.
With our surfboard bags popping at the seams and the sixty extra pounds of camera gear on our backs, it took all our energy to ignore the pesky scammers who swarmed us like herds of sheep as we attempted to cross the border on foot. These poor souls were all trying to make a quick buck off our ignorance of the border’s laws and customs but some kindhearted locals were nice enough to point out the unofficial “officials”. The funny part was that those guys were the least of our worries at the time. Our contact in Gigante was kind enough to arrange a ride for us from the border but we were told was that we’d be picked up by a man named Omar, who was described to us as a man with “fat lips and a big moustache”. We really didn’t think that description was very helpful in a foreign country where a large majority of locals rock a burly moustaches but sure enough, as we finally made it safely through the gates of that sketchy border, there was a man sitting in a weather, plastic lawn chair with fat lips and a big puffy moustache who swiftly jumped out of his seat when he saw us. This without a doubt our man, Omar. As it turns out, in the town of Gigante, there’s only one local who owns and operates a taxi and it’s Omar. The entire car ride from Penas Blancas to Gigante, in broken Spanish and English, we chatted. He informed us of all things local; from the newly constructed wind turbines that line the road from the border up to Rivas to the local economy and of course he talked of the swells up and around Playa Gigante. Combined with the local sights; wild chickens, goats and families zipping past us on scooters the forty five minute drive on winding dirt roads actually went pretty quick and before we knew it we were checking into Gigante Bay Hostel where the owner John, was awaiting us.
Much like our encounter with Omar, John was as friendly and welcoming as would be an old childhood friend. We explained to him how we travelled all the way from Montreal, Canada just to meet with two of the locals, Kevin Cortez and Jackson Obando. As soon as word got out that we were there to see Kevin and Jackson, we went from feeling like tourists in an unfamiliar land to feeling like long lost cousins of the one giant family that is Gigante.
That night, after burning two full days just trying to get to Gigante, JP and I decided that we needed a drink. So after settling in to our cozy private room we headed down to the hostel’s bar where Kevin made a surprise visit. We were only supposed to meet with him the next day because he was currently working a part time job in another town some 40 mins away but he borrowed a friend’s scooter (which he crashed on the way over, allegedly “fixing” the supposedly broken headlight, sustaining a small scratch on his knee in the process) and was ecstatic to hang with us. Anyone who’s familiar with the legendary Dogtown and Z-Boys would understand the reference when we say, Kevin’s personality is reminiscent of a young Jay Adams combined with Tony Alva; eager to slay the waves and so much charm it’s hard to ignore his presence in the room. For the next two hours all we talked about was where we’d go surf the next morning, which wave was good at what time of day and what tricks he was stoked on.
We spent the next several days the same way, waking early, grabbing breakfast at a local joint Party Wave, hiking down the beach, surfing for a few hours, grabbing lunch at our hostel and surfing all afternoon. We spent every minute of our free time telling Kevin and Jackson about Canada and cold water surfing. With each conversation, their interest in our origins and understanding of surfing continued to grow and we knew that we were onto something. We pitched to them our idea, which at its core is more than a surf video but rather it’s a documentary about the challenges these kids will face as we throw them on a plane and whisk them away to the frigid waters of Tofino, Brittish Columbia. For guys who have never known cold to be more than an ice cube that instantly vanishes in a drink, the thought of duck diving head first into the northern part of the Pacific didn’t seem to frighten them but it actually excited them. Right there, we knew. These guys will do anything for surfing. To be continued….