It was a good time to attend class today…all recess and no homework. Of course surfing isn’t an easy “A” as most of you know. Graduating class takes some dedication and not just for a week in warm water while on vacation. We found some good conditions for a little learning and everyone came home safe with a few rides and a few wipeouts under their belt. We did have one stingray wound, only the second we’ve seen down here in the several years I’ve been here. Apparently their painful, you’ll have to ask Alison about that one. Noe the worse for the wear, we’d like to wish her a happy birthday. I think it’s the third birthday she’s spent down here (and probably her sixth trip in total with STN). Off we go to lobster dinner…set the alarm, schools in session tomorrow.
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At one point on my travels back home I was inspired to write about some of the silly things I noticed about being back in the states. Of course Nicaragua probably takes the cake over most countries and/or cultures with its silly idiosyncrasies, but that’s not to say we Americans don’t have our own nonsense on a daily basis. Here’s eleven I noticed:
1. I paid $11 for a beer…just one beer. Of course this was after I paid $140 for a ticket to see the San Diego Chargers lose to Kansas City. Other game highlights were $25 for parking, $9 for a coors light and $5 for a small bottle of water. 65,235 people attended that game. For the sake of easy math let’s guess that the average money spent per person for all this excess was $200. That’s $13,047,000 in revenue. The average daily wage in Nicaragua is $3.
2: On my layover at Atlanta airport I sat at the bar in PF Chang’s having some food…along with about 20 other people eating food at the bar, when a man walks up and asks the bartender, “can I eat at the bar?” At least the bartender smiled and said of course…in Nicaragua you would have been ignored for at least 7 minutes.
3. My seat back was broken at seat B41 on my first leg of my return flight. I could put it up, but it didn’t lock in the upright position and would lean back when I sat against it. I was asked by the flight attendant to not sit against the seat back during takeoff and landing. (?!?) I think on a Nicaraguan airline you get to sit on a chicken coup or a sack of something…seat belts optional if you bring your own.
4. At about 11:45pm on Highway 805 south somebody was driving 47mph in the fast lane. Nobody every drives 47 mph here…it’s 110kph or more or they’re stopped in the middle of the road.
5. I went to the beach and people were following their dogs around with plastic bags picking up shit! (I understand the need for this, but it just doesn’t happen in Nicaragua and thus seems silly)
6. Gas only costs $3.45 a gallon, it’s about $6.50 in Nicaragua. Thus I saw more than my share of 6.2 liter Ford Raptors being driven by soccer moms.
7. Home Depot, Vons, Bed Bath and Beyond, TJ Maxx, Lowes, REI, Sport Mart, Sport Chalet, Target, and Frye’s Electronics. If you can’t find it at one of those stores it doesn’t exist. If you go the the hardware store here for something they’re out of it.
8. Wal- Mart (it has everything all the stores above have, but for less money and with better people watching…it deserved its own category). I can only imagine a Wal-Mart in Nicaragua!
9. La Jolla: if you treated the residents of La Jolla as one country and calculated their GNP it would exceed the entire country of Nicaragua.
10. TV Sucks: I mean you pay the cable company an exorbitant amount of money only to be held hostage by commercials? The only advantage is the “On Demand” options and the ability to record shows and watch them later so you can fast forward through the commercials. I don’t have TV here…because I don’t need 300 channels of worse programming than I can get in the states.
11. Your internet is wicked fast- appreciate this. A whole family could be streaming Netflix in separate bedrooms and you wouldn’t even notice a drop in bandwidth. Routers are on sale at Walmart…Nicaragua ran out of routers for sale and they should be back in stock around middle of 2015 when the obsolete ones that didn’t sell in the states are shipped down for liquidation.
While California is an awesome place to have called home and visiting is amazing, I’m always glad to get back to our little corner of the world. It rained every day I was gone and finally broke upon my return. We even have some decent late season swell making the waves overhead. Good for some of us, but not so good for the ‘learn to surf';-) Things look to be mellowing out a little this week and I think we even escaped getting hit by tropical storm Hanna which was threatening to bring heavy rains. Not sure if we’re out of the clouds yet, but it looks promising. To all my friends enjoying the warm water in California…the water temp here is 86 right now…it’s too warm.
Now go surf!
Take a look at the sequence and you’ll understand I won’t be too bummed to go back home to Nicaragua after visiting family this week in San Diego. It was supposed to be a surprise visit home, but I F***ed up on F***book and posted my plan to return on my High School reunion page…I guess everybody was able to see it, so…Surprise (idiot!) It will be fun…25th high school reunion, see some family, do some needed shopping…lose my tan, gain some weight drinking really good beer. I need an al pastor taco stat! Then maybe some Pho. A buddy got us some tickets to a Charger’s game. I’m not much of a football fan, but I love a good party. I don’t think it’s going to be barreling like in the sequence when I get back…but you never know. Surfline has a swell forecast for about the time I return…;-)
I’m the worst watch dog. We had a 7.4 earthquake and I didn’t even wake up much less bark. It took the tsunami warning alarm to scare Kayla into making me stir from my slumber. Once awake, the alarm was pretty scary… the robotic voice rattling off ” este es el sistema de alerta de tsunamis , por favor evacuar el área de immediate…” on repeatedly for the better part of two hours. This is not the first tsunami warning we’ve had so the process is a bit tedious…even to a point where it’s become a ‘cry wolf’ process. However a tsunami would kick a wolf’s ass anytime anyplace. Here’s the process:
1. Evacuate anybody unnecessary on the property- we didn’t have any guests on hand so we didn’t evacuate anybody last night, but normal we would keep three people on hand.
2. Put someone on “ocean watch”- we designate a person to watch the ocean to look for signs of abnormal and rapid tide drop precursory to an arriving tsunami. This is best left to someone with ocean knowledge and often falls to me…I delegate tasks as I stay on watch for any signs of abnormal activity.
3. Load the essentials- two staff are assigned to get a truck running and ready at the gate and then load it with medical supplies and water, once those are loaded we branch into food, tools, fuel and then valuables. Once all of those are loaded someone is dispatched to check the internet for any news.
Last night’s earthquake was only 80 miles from our location. The average tsunami travels in excess of 400mph or about 6.67 miles per minute. It would have taken the tsunami 12 minutes to hit our location which was about the time it took for us to get the plan somewhat completed. Of course the real question is “how long do we wait?” In this instance we waited an hour. After many phone calls from staff without internet inquiring about the truth of the situation I felt comfortable telling everyone to go to bed again.
The house sits about 5 meters above sea level….the second floor about 10meters above sea level. I feel pretty comfortable here surviving all but the worst of tsunamis. We have some higher ground close by and some ‘high ground’ about a mile away. It’s still pretty nerve wracking in the middle of the night to wake up to the alarm telling you to ‘leave immediately’.
I’m sitting next to Monty which is not his name. In earlier years, on a surf trip to Costa Rica, he was frothing to go to “Montypalo”. “Montypalo guys…we’ve got to go to Montypalo!” he repeated it enough times to earn the pseudonym of Monty. He is sunburned, as am I. Our receding hairlines are not assets in the tropical sun. The sun will find any spot you can miss with sunscreen and it has found our recesses. My tongue is pickled with salt water as are my fingers. Monty’s are the same. I slur slightly because of my pickled state as we, Monty and I, make mindless chit-chat. A set, 15 days old, descends on the outer reefs. White water reflects a mile out to sea as we casually paddle using one arm only, the one stroke motor I call it. It takes one minute and seventeen seconds for the first waves of the set to start standing up on the sand bar we sit upon. I can look down and see my shadow on the sand 8 feet under me, under the water, where this beautiful unseen sand bar shapes these stellar waves that have traveled 9000 miles from New Zealand to be here, with me and Monty, just he and I. The set matures and we paddle over what seem to be perfect waves while looking for something a fraction more perfect. It’s just he and I. The winds are light and feather the cresting lips just enough to give off a cooling spray, but it’s not enough of a blow to make much more than a little texture on the otherwise smooth ocean, save for the swells relentless march. The boat bobs in the distance just far enough away to make the Canon 400mm lens more than effective. Marvin, the trigger man is ready, he waits for our cue. More perfection passes under us, we’re picky because we can be, because it’s just he and I, Monty and me. A dark line growing in size and morphing in shape approaches and it has “the look”. There’s a sixth sense that helps you choose one perfect wave from another perfect wave. It’s a skill honed over years of watching and waiting and making many mistakes. This wave has “the look”, my spidey sense tells me so. “Do you want this one?” I ask Monty, I’m happy to share because it’s just he and I. “No man, you take it”…I spin around and paddle. I don’t have to paddle hard, I’m in the spot, the wave would have taken me even if I didn’t want it, but I do, want it, that is. My surf board accelerates and I lean to the left turning the board down the line as I pull my legs up under my body and press down with my feet. The board drops away and I accelerate. As my legs extend I aim just slightly angularly up the wave and suck my legs back up under me again until I reach the point where the wave goes just past vertical, then I turn, just slightly again and again press down, I accelerate more. Akin to swinging your legs to get higher on the swing, I pump to get more speed, you can never have enough speed, only too little. I’m unable to think, time is still, I know whats going to happen as the wave steepens and bends in all three axis. I am living trigonometry, I am hydrodynamics on display, the shutter of the Cannon 400mm fires at 9 frames per second. The steep part of the wave, where I need to be, moves down toward the trough as I aim down to trim myself into it. I squat as the lip starts to throw and I duck my head to make sure I’m under it, lest I ruin this otherwise perfect moment. The sound changes once inside the wave. Children at the water park hear the same echo as they wind down the snaking tubes of the water slides, coddled at the bottom by the splash pool. My ears echo now as the opening to my water slide moves away from me. There’s no exit now except down and so I go, down the tube, toward the splash pool at the end. It’s just me now, Monty and Matapalo are not on my mind, only the exit vacillating closer, then farther away, then closer again. Sand stings my eyes, thrown by the wave vomiting behind me. I can’t tell the difference between the sting of sand or the sting of water, they hurt equally nice as the sun once again shines down on me. I angle up, toward the feathering lip and feel weightless as I fly up and over and down again the back of the wave. Perfection meets my eyes, another water slide, this one has Monty in it and he’s far from Matapalo. Who wants to go there anyway? This is freight trains, this is our water park and for the moment it belongs to us, just he an I.
Epilogue: I don’t always try to get to artsy in my writing, but today we had a “moment”. Yeah, Monty and I were there alone for a bit, but then a couple other guys joined us and we were happy to have them. Chris Kokotos, also know as Koko, or since I’ve met him Koko-Loko was there too. As was Darren Ott…who got the lucky nickname of D-Rot;-) It was just one of those days when 5 stars wasn’t enough of a scale to measure the perfect moment we all got to share. Just some guys getting some waves, hooting because we couldn’t help it, and getting barreled for the same reason.
Where did they all go? While the crowds were pretty minimal for the last month, things just got really empty here in Miramar and we’re actually looking for people to surf with. It’s a positive problem. We hit Freighties about 1 hour after the low tide and nailed the sweet spot. It was a little mushy when we arrived, promptly turned on for about 2 hours and then got mushy again. It was just nice to now we made the right call and got everything out of it we could. Of course with only 4 of us it was like doing laps. Even though it was only shoulder high it was one wave after another after another etc… It’s not helping the tendonitis in the shoulders that’s for sure. Looks like today will be a repeat…or let’s at least hope so.
It was actually 4:36am when I woke up and decided that since I needed to pee I might as well get the coffee on as well. It was still dark for another 45 minutes, no one was stirring, except for the f***ing roosters so I went back to bed. 5:30…Josh, the guide, gets up and stumbles around getting the breakfast buffet set up. I’m sure he was happy to find the coffee waiting for him. The sun has just come up and it’s now light enough to see, I hit the snooze button one more time. 6am and I’m stumbling through the yard with a hot cup of coffee trying no to spill it…I weave like a wounded airplane coming in for a crash landing, but I find a chair before I hit the ground. Guys are leaving this morning at 9am and they’re already surfing. It’s head high…smaller and a bit more infrequent than the previous few days. There is still swell in the water. The coffee slowly dilutes the fog in my eyes, then sun helps clear my vision as well. A quick trip to the bathroom for some business and I’m out again with my uniform on…a pair of board shorts and a rash guard, half stick of wax, a fin key and some Waterman’s “face stick” sunscreen in my pocket. I am complete. It’s now 7am and I call Marvin, “Necessitamos la lancha a 9:00″… “Claro” he answers. “Dale pues”, I retort. Who the hell is Dale Pues anyway? Marvin shows up a bit early…we arrange the coolers, get the cameras and other gear in the truck, guests are cued and Marvin heads out for the port. 30-40 minutes until the boat arrives. In the mean time at 7:22 the brazzo boat heads out with 6 people. The formula is looking good. By the time we arrive, they’ve been there 1.5 hours, the tide is coming up and the waves are getting better. With just an hour of overlap time we’ll have the place to ourselves. Never mess with math, it’s never wrong.
Fast forward 15 hours…I’m ready for bed, writing this blog. The title of this blog, “Working 5-9″ doesn’t even do the day justice. It’s really 4:30am to 11pm and often then some. After surf we got lunch, did some surf lesson, went to Leon, had dinner, did the chores and then I retired to do this… it’s been a long day, tomorrow is another and I wouldn’t trade it for any 9-5!