Nicaragua Travel Blog - Isaac Wood & JP Marengo

Nicaragua Travel Blog - Isaac Wood & JP Marengo

Written by G&S Shaper/Teamrider Isaac Wood 


Nicaragua is a place I had always wanted to take a surf trip, and my opportunity finally arrived.

At 5pm on an early October evening, I met up with JP Marango and Colin in La Jolla to head up to LAX.  We are all from La Jolla and have known Mark "Buzz" Philippes for many years.  He grew up about a block away from WindanSea beach and has graciously offered us to stay at his place in Nicaragua for over 15 years.  We finally took him up on his offer and set up a 10-day Surf Trip at Hacienda Iguana to surf perfect playa Colorado's. 


I was told the waves are usually 3-5 and when the tide is high to bring a longboard.  My quiver for the trip had a little bit of everything… my longboard was a 9'6 everyday rider that had a 2+1 fin set up but I only rode it as a single fin, 7'2 modern machine that I rode mostly with a 2+1 set up I did however ride it as a single fin but for the waves I preferred the drive and speed of the 2+1, 7'0 winter magic/egg this was my all around/ barrel board this board can be ridden from 2 to 10 feet it excels in tubes but can still surf s sloapy faced waves all while keeping the paddle power and last was a 6'4 thruster shortboard it’s been a while since I rode anything like that but I figured it the surf was good why not. I’m glad I did it was a challenge but it really taught me to find that right take off spot and not wait for it to come to me. 

We had to take two flights to get there and the first leg was from LAX to San Salvador, for a one-hour layover, then we'd be off to Managua Nicaragua.  When we landed in Managua, everything was fine.  JP and Colin went through customs without any issues.  When they scanned my bag, the TSA made an explosion signal with his hands to a woman, who I learned was his supervisor.  They ended up pulling me aside and asked if I had any explosives or binoculars.  I explained to them that I did have binoculars since they're handy for looking down the beach for surf.   I had not realized that Nicaragua is a communist country, and they do not allow things like binoculars, drones, or telescopes to enter the country.   They held me in customs for about 45min taking all my information and recording the serial number of my binoculars, just in case I was a spy!  



They eventually let me go and our driver Alan was waiting for us! So, we loaded up the boards and started our 2 hour drive to Colorado's.  

On the way, we stopped at a local store to stock up on beer, juice, and any extras we thought we might need while at Hacienda Iguana's.  After the store, it was a quick 45min and we had arrived. 

Hacienda Iguana is a 350-unit gated compound with a golf course, restaurant, surf shop, and brewery.  This area of Nicaragua is somewhat secluded and there are armed guards at every gate and entrance.  You need your passport to come in and out, but once we were inside the gates the place felt very safe.

Buzz was waiting for us when we arrived and it was great to see him.  It had been about 5 years since I had seen him last.  When I first walked into the property, I was in awe, the layout is really well done.  There are 4 rooms/bungalows with two beds in each room.  The swimming pool was positioned so everyone's doors opened to the pool area.  There were hammocks and a small gathering area that everyone at the surf camp would use to chill out between sessions.



With just a short 2-minute walk from our door, you were at one of the best beach breaks I've ever been to, Playa Colorado's.  If you've never been, Colorado's is a black sand beach and the waves are consistently 4-5' but can get much bigger.  Sandy bottom, paper thing tubes made the first paddle out not too intimidating and easily gave us the confidence to paddle into the heavier sets.  Not bad for the first day.

The next morning we woke up 
at about 5 am, loaded up the boards, and headed north to a place called Playgrounds.  Playgrounds is a small reef, it's only accessible by boat.  So we piled into the two vehicles that were available and drove 45min to the boats.  Then we beach launched and headed out to Playgrounds. 

The winds are predominantly offshore in Nicaragua due to the giant Nicaraguan lake a few miles off the beach.  This causes an offshore predominant wind all day long.  As a result, the surf is good throughout the day. At this particular place, it looked like Jurassic Park.  Nothing but jungle on the beach with little palapas to help with shade from the sun.  The surf was about 3-5 feet and similar to Trestles.  Unfortunately, there were 4 other boats when we got there, so JP and I opted for the longboards.  We shared a few waves and enjoyed being in a different country. 


The next day we woke up early again, and the surf was a perfect 4-6 feet, glassy, and not another soul in the water.  We rushed to grab our gear and get suited up.  Our first waves were pretty insane.  JP pulled into a tune, and as I looked over my shoulder, Colin was coming out of a tube. It wasn't huge, but it was super fun.  We were calling it 'Non-consequential' surfing.


As the day progressed a few more people came out, as well as Buzz and his son Vinny.  They mentioned that it was more crowded than normal.  All in all, there were about 10 guys out in the water, and we spread out, up and down the beach finding our own A-frames.  JP is a goofy foot so he decided to go left most of the time, I am a regular foot, so I don't really have a preference. I'll go either direction.   


We would surf about 2-2.5 hrs every session and would put in about three sessions in a day.  After each session, Buzz would have meals ready and waiting for us; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Everything from filet mignon, lobster, fish, tacos, chicken parmesan, and more.  We got three gourmet meals a day and there was no shortage of food.  Including homemade desserts every evening!


By day 3 we were almost surfed out,  We did another four hours of surfing before I ended up blowing my eardrum out.  It wasn't major, but because of the pressure difference, it blew from the inside out, not from an impact.  So, I did what any die-hard surfer would do, and I bandaged my head/ear up Jamie O'Brien style.  I had brought a hat with me, which came in handy helping to keep everything in place, which allowed me to keep surfing.  Until it would start to leak.

JP on the other hand was a surfing lunatic and was out there 6-8 hours every day.  We surfed so much that we were glad on the 5th day the surf finally went onshore for a few hours.  In the downtime, JP and I decided to go for a walk and check out what Playa Colorado's had to offer.  We found beach caves, tide pools, and unexpected animals on our adventure.  A small storm came circling into our window which let us take a much-needed day of rest.


Buzz asked if we needed a massage, and I didn't hesitate.  I had huge knots under my shoulder blades from all the surfing, and my fingers were starting to go numb when I would paddle.  When the masseuse arrived she only said two words: Weak or Strong.  I chose strong and she ground me into a soft mush, but in a good way.


The next day the surf came back up and it was the best it had been yet! W e got some tubes and some rally fun rippable waves.  As our trip was winding down, we kept repeating day after day how awesome this place was and how relaxing of a surf trip it actually way.  We didn't have to deal with frothing surfers and crazy Brazilians, just a bunch of relaxed people sharing waves. 


I'm looking forward to getting back there as soon as possible.  if you're looking to have an incredible trip, look up Nica Extreme and ask for "Buzz", tell him Isaac and JP sent you.  


A huge THANKS to Gordon and Smith for allowing us to have rad boards while we were there, and Bird Surf Shed for loaning me the bags for an epic trip.  I cannot wait for the next one.