There is this about Nicaragua: it has lakes, it has volcanoes, and it has waves. Or so I’ve been told. About the waves, I mean. Driving northwest through the capital of Managua on what a battered street sign tells me is the Pan American Highway, which, if I cared to, I could take all the way from this point in Central America, up through El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico at Calexico then up to Palm Springs (and on to Alaska or south to Patagonia, so they say) I can verify the lake and volcano part. Though we ran quickly out of the city, me and three young surfers in a Toyota 4-wheel drive pickup with board bags piled high in the bed, navigating the honking rush of traffic and whirling roundabouts, bargaining with dirty-nosed street vendors hawking cashews, cellophane-bagged water and cell-phone car mounts at every semaphoro, breathing in the steaming, acrid stink of what is also known as Novia del Xolotolon, this scruffy city of 100,000,000 on the southern shore of Lake Managua, the country’s two most renowned characteristics were soon revealed. There was the namesake lake, just a patch of muddy water compared to the vast, 8030 square miles of Lake Nicaragua to the south, and there, on the northeastern shore, was a volcano, Mt. Momotombo, rising up out of the western green lowlands in a perfect cone, impossibly triangular against the denim blue sky, wisps of gauzy white clouds obscuring its peak. No mere ancient core, Momotombo appeared very authentic, very volcano-like, in full possession of its geological faculties. While having last erupted in 1905, scientists who monitor this sort of thing report that as of late Momotombo’s gas emissions have turned black. I assume that’s bad news.
The emissions problem in the cramped cab of the Toyota wasn’t nearly so bad. These, after all, were New Age pros I was traveling with, all three sponsored by Quiksilver, our host on this Centroamerican surfari, all three very courteous, very focused: Josh Hoyer, 26, from Newport Beach, an aerial specialist, the word is. Evan Valiere from Kauai, 19, son of legendary ’70s surf traveler Steven Valiere; goofy-foot, fearless at Pipe, cheerful as a lab puppy. And Dylan Graves, 17, from Isabela, Puerto Rico and another second-generation surf star, son of East Coast pioneer Lewis Graves. Elfin, shaggy surfer hair hanging over his ears; a preternaturally stylish regular foot. Good kids, loading up their own board bags at the airport and taking their seats in the truck, getting out their Mp3s and Gameboys, Hoyer with a copy of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Not the kind of guys who while driving across Nicaragua with an editor from SURFER would likely lift a cheek and giggle in the crowded cab, but who don’t ask a whole lot of questions either. Which was odd, considering none of them had any idea where they were going.
Then again, neither did I.
Only two weeks earlier I had been sitting in the SURFER offices, braying at Martin Daly, the legendary surf explorer and skipper of the equally legendary Indies Trader, the storied mother ship of The Quiksilver Crossing. This incredibly ambitious, corporately funded expedition has spent the last four years wandering around our watery planet-to the tune of 70,000 miles and change-looking for surf.
Daly was in the SURFER office to tell me that during the Central American leg of the Indies Trader’s Northern Hemisphere voyage they had come across a very promising point break And would we be interested in sending a photographer down along with a few of their team members to document it. The only hitch: no telling where.