In February, the people of Chicabrava invited me on a press trip to their surf camp in Nicaragua. My best surfing friend in NYC had been to this camp previously and had the best things to say about it, so I gladly agreed.
My first experience surfing was three years ago in Costa Rica and while it was the trip that got me totally hooked on surfing, I look back and realize I learned practically nothing there compared to my week at Chicabrava.
It took me a while to digest my experience at Chicabrava and in the country of Nicaragua in general, so I want to break it down into two parts: surfing and the culture / community there.
Part One: Surfing at Chicabrava
The biggest difference between Chicabrava and other surf camps I have been to is Chicabrava’s approach to teaching. Their instructors are so well trained and they all use the same language and methods when teaching. They also break down the movements into a simple set of steps and have you do them over and over again on the beach to get your muscle memory in order before entering the water. While each instructor had a different attitude (all positive, of course) and style, they all wanted you to do the same thing. I really appreciated there incredible positive encouragement, and if I ever felt scared they never made me feel guilty or dumb for feeling that way. Safety was their number one concern and I felt great whenever I was in the water with them.
Oh! I should probably mention one of the most important things: it’s girls only at Chicabrava. It is so much less intimidating to get into the water with a huge gaggle of girls as opposed to learning from dudes. Sometimes I hesitate participating in women-only things because I don’t like gossip or cattiness, but let’s be real, anyone learning to surf is going to be pretty chill.
Now that I am home, I feel totally prepared to go surfing at The Rockaways this summer even after having some major panic attacks there the last few times I went.
Part Two: Culture & Community in San Juan Del Sur
We spent a lot of time chatting with Ashley, the founder of Chicabrava, and one of the things I appreciated most about her business is that she tries to work with the community, not against it. She moved to Nicaragua long before she chose to open a business there, so the was no longer an outsider in the community when she decided to open Chicabrava. One thing that is really important to her is that instead of taking business from other surf schools, her goal is to bring people into the town that otherwise would never have come. Attracting her own set of tourists helps the local economy by bringing five to ten people into town each week that spend money at the local restaurants and shops. Besides being both conscious of and contributing to the local economy, she also provides programming for young girls in the country to learn to surf a few times each year.
The general vibe in San Juan del Sur was incredibly warm and welcoming too. I loved that many of the people we came across were Nicaraguan. Sometimes, when I travel to similar places, everyone I meet is an expat and you never actually meet a local that is benefitting from your visit. I want to go back immediately for another trip and extend my stay to explore Nicaragua a little more!
// My accommodations were courtesy of Chicabrava, all thoughts and opinions are my own.