Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learning to appreciate the simple things in Nicaragua

            It is amazing how something less than a centimeter big can cause so much damage.  We arrived in Nicaragua a healthy ten days before the ALAS Latin Tour event.  After unloading our gear into the small room on the beach in Las Penitas,  we set off to check the waves, hoping a surf would wash off the long travel day.  Spotting a few fun ones we ran back to the room to suit up.   That's when we noticed a small flying creature hovering around. With night coming and fifteen geckos living on the ceiling, we figured the mosquito would be a goner.  We headed out for our sunset session and two days later discovered just how wrong we were.  Who knew that single pesky mosquito could give two people dengue?
    Gary got it first,  woke up feeling battered and woozy,  He tried to tell me how sick he felt but I wouldn't hear it.  "Your just tired from the travel day, Cowboy up.  Let's surf!"
 He took a deep breath, most likely cursed under it, and we headed to the beach. 
The waves were incredibly fun- peaky beach break with no one out.  I didn't notice that Gary was severely teetering side to side by the time we got back to the room.
        The next morning I woke up feeling like someone beat me with an electrified baseball bat.  My fever was so hot that I swear I could see my cells evaporate.  I was moaning on the bed in a puddle of sweat and he crouched over me laughing.  "Cowgirl up - lets surf!' he cackled.  Feeling too sick to respond with words I threw him the a menacing look,  wishing I had enough strength to whack him with my pillow.  
    A few days of tormented bed rest passed,  where we'd meekly venture out of the room into the blaring sun and shuffle quickly back to bed. There we could be found laying prone in a swirling pool of dread and sweat.
    Dengue is a mean mean sickness.  I have never felt anything so debilitating before.  Thankfully,  keeping in excellent health can expedite your recovery rate and we were both able to crawl out of bed on the fourth day and get back in the water.  
    The contest flew by in the blink of an eye and next thing I knew I was standing on a stage in torrential downpour being handed a trophy for first place.  A few days after the event, when my health returned to full normal, a little excitement crept in. I won!  I finally realized.  I was so ecstatic I did an awkward little dance that I'm glad no one caught on camera.
    We said adios to the fun beach town, and headed to a spot that offered faster, more challenging waves. The first bit of time the waves were amazing, but the crowd was less so.  Having heaps of people in the line up made it tough to get waves;  even if you were aggressive,  you'd paddle into one and have three people in the way of the takeoff or pushing the section over.  
    Regardless, we had some fun sessions and to our delight, Alan Saulo surfed with us for a couple weeks - which was pretty much like having a live surf video to watch all day.  He is an incredible surfer with a full bag of tricks. We also had the honor of meeting his friends Alex Chacon, Araia Asensio and Daniel Ellwanger of Salty Conscience project.  Alex is also a super amazing surfer,  Araia an incredible visionary,  and Daniel a talented artist.  Check out their project here!

    Our time in Nicaragua was incredibly eye opening.  Living the simple life,  occasionally without things like running water and electricity can really make you appreciate how easy things are most of the time.   Seeing how the locals can live with dirt floors and plastic walls;  many of them have so little and yet they still find a way to smile at you and help you out if you need anything.   Most of the locals attend church to sing and give thanks everyday- imagine the scene in the Grinch who Stole Christmas when the people of Whooville  gathered round holding hands and singing songs in joy even though all of their Christmas delights had been stolen. That is what the village feels like.  Alive with a special joy and a strong reminder that moments not things,  are what happiness  is made of.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stings, Bites, Lefts and Rights - Mexico has it all.

danielle ciminero

danielle ciminero

      As I stand on the street corner and take in my surroundings I smile at the tall buildings looming over head, the smell of five taco shops within arms reach, and the wet salty air breezing through the intersection.  Ah, the lively city of San Dieg - oh?  My thought is cut short when I see a pick-up truck drive by with a dozen menacing looking men dressed head to toe in black body armor, with face masks and ballistic helmets, a pair of steely vigilant eyes the only visible part of their body.  Automatic weapons aren't slung over their shoulders just for show,  but propped up and pointedly scanning the streets. 
      That's right, I'm in Mazatlan, Mexico.  By the surroundings, it can be easy to mistake the area for a city in southern California, until you see those Federales buzz through town packing more weaponry than an army bunker.  We arrived just a few days ago for the ALAS Latin Tour surf contest, and after recently being tucked away in a remote village where collecting water with a bucket is part of everyday life,  Mazatlan was sight for sore eyes. Enormous shopping centers, sky high buildings, movie theaters, SUVs, upperclass mansions, and get this, running water!
    If we hadn't just bussed in from Guadalajara - a five hour trip along a barren country side with the occasional tipping shack village, I would have thought we were in the US.  Just like San Diego, it had a million taco shops, half a million sushi places, burger king, home depot and even a starbucks.  Considering how nice the neighborhood feels, the Federale swat team scouring the streets for troubled youth with guns at the ready seems like a bit of overkill, until you realize that the troubled youth in Mexico are gnarly gangsters and drug lords with armies and automatic weapons of their own.
    Mazatlan is located in the southern part of the Sinaloa,  a Mexican state famous for being home to some of the most fearsome drug cartels. In recent years the cartels have taken to offing each other, earning Sinaloa a lengthy forewarning in the government travel advisory.  But before drug related  murder and violence sky rocketed, many Cruise Ships would port in Mazatlan, unloading hoards of vacationers to explore its white sandy beaches and historical roots.   Unlike many tourist destinations in Mexico, Mazatlan was a thriving city before anyone came relax on its beaches - largely  due to its fishing industry and port. The shrimp capital of the world! some say.  Shrimp in spanish is El Camaron, the name affectionately given to the main surf spot in town, and the location of the ALAS Latin Tour Mexico event.
     Though the travel advisory warns  people off, and the cruise ships have suspended their stops in Mazatlan due to the violent murders,  the vibe in the city is really mellow.  Like, "hey maaaaan" mellow.   We were standing there on the street awaiting the walk signal when a  fierce, could-be-gangster-druglord rolled by in a SUV that would make JayZ gasp with desire.   And booming from his twenty thousand dollar stereo system was "One Loooove, One heart, let's get together and feel alright"  Bob Marley.  Go figure. That is Mazatlan for you, full of surprises.
    The walk signal bleeps and we cross the road with eyes peeled for cars not in the mood to obey the law. From what we had seen so far, pedestrians don't have the right of way in Mexico, ever.  In fact, it often seems that cars speed up when you step into the street to cross.  At first I felt singled out because our appearance, blond americans are hard to miss, but then I saw a mexican woman and her two children almost get plowed down in the same manner. 
      We safely cross the road and make our way along the busy main street to the beach, where the left hand point break called El Camaron is waiting.   For the first few days the waves were mediocre, if not unridable. shrimpy.  The locals were going out on inner tubes with crowbars and snorkles, hunting for oysters.
    Thankfully the point break is only a short paddle out from the sandy shore, but the wave breaks over an urchin infested reef.  It is so shallow that when you are sitting at the takeoff spot if you aren't careful your feet will drag into the urchins and you'll be howling in pain pulling out the spikes.  At low tide when the waves are small it is common for your fins to scrape on the reef as you try to ride the wave, sending you flying off the board.  It is advisable to spread your body like a starfish so as to limit any further encounters with the urchins. 
    With the ALAS event on tap the surf lineup tends to fill pretty fast despite wave size or quality. Eighty pro surfers need to practice and the entire surf population in Mazatlan wants to join in the fun.   It makes for a hilarious thing to watch from the beach, but a hellacious thing to experience from the water.  Gary and I spent the next few days avoiding major traffic accidents in and out of the water - dodging cars and wayward surfboards. 
    Luckily, once the surf contest started a big south swell hit and instead of having to milk baby sized lefts,  the waves grew to a few feet over head the spectators were alight with delight watching the event.    As a powerful longshore current washed north, away from the point,  I could only ride one wave, belly in, then run a hundred meters back to the top of the point to paddle back out.  I  took 2nd place at the event  and was stoked to see one of our friends claim the junior and open mens victory.   (Congrats Anthony Fillingim!)

danielle ciminero

danielle ciminero

danielle ciminero

    After the surf contest we had planned on skipping town and heading straight to a set of infamous secret spots.   But due to a random set of events we ended up stringing days into almost two weeks in the crazy party city.  It wouldn't have been so bad, but for the enduring flat spell that plagued the coast during that period.  If we had been partiers, we would have been in paradise.  Did you know that Mazatlan is home to the very first Senior Frogs and where Pacifico Brewery was first established?  (If you don't know what those are, and you like to party or enjoy beer,  then you need to take a trip to Mexico.)
    Being off the party bandwagon and up at five in the morning jonesing for a surf, we found a beach break fifteen minutes by bus that has waves when everywhere else is flat, so we were still surfing most days.  The wave is strange and backwashy but once you learned its sections, surfing there could be fun.
     With swell, Mazatlan has some incredible surf setups - three left points, one right point, and a decent beachie all within a twenty minute drive.  If you have a vehicle there is a slew of spots to surf within an hour north or south of the city, but you better have 4wd, or better yet a tractor, because the word 'road' doesn't apply to what you have to drive over to get to some of the waves.
    The only major complaint we had on surfing in Mazatlan had to do with something blue.  And bottle like.   The infamous portuguese man-of-war, aka blue bottle,  floated into the lineup for many of our surfs.  The locals were freaking out, allowing us the opportunity to freshen up our spanish swear word database.  Little kids would walk the shoreline with cups and a stick collecting the blue bottles that had washed up, within a hundred feet they could fill the cup!
       Those little blue devils are appropriately called Quemadores in spanish.  Burners. It is like someone is holding your skin to a frying pan turned on high. Under no circumstances are you to scratch where you get stung.  You are supposed to gently wash the tentacle away with salt water and apply some sort of soothing agent -  ammonia or pee would do the trick.  Not knowing this, we'd just scratch and rub and scream, making the burning sensation get worse and worse.   
    To escape, we almost jumped in a rusted old van with a handful of Latin Pro kids that were heading to the ASP Acapulco surf contest.  But between the news reports on the vicious attacks in the warring state of Michoacan (an area we would have to drive through to get to Acapulco) and the fact that the van could barely make a ten minute drive without coughing and sputtering and needing a restart,  we all opted for a different exit strategy. (Can you imagine having your car break down in the middle of a mexican civil war between drug cartels and federales? no thanks)   With a bus system that runs to every nook and cranny in  Mexico you can arrive anywhere for pretty cheap.   We got everything in order and finally set off on our next adventure, heading toward a wave-rich coastal area that got our blood pumping just thinking about it.

Goodbye, Mazatlan, Hello new stretch of coast....

    We escaped the flat spells, man-of war jellies, and the men of war drug cartels, but we walked right into an ambush of biting insects. An empty stretch of Mexican coast has its con's.    Gnats, mosquitos, and horse flies swarmed us with such ferociousness that it became customary to layer up in all of our clothing before leaving the netted sanctuary covering our hammock beds.  To surf, we'd have to spring out of our clothing layers and sprint for the water, lest we run with arms and legs windmilling to avoid the vicious bites.   For how small those bugs are, boy do they hurt.  Come to think of it, they deliver a pain level similar the Quemadores.
    But, all said and done, the waves were worth it. The area itself was so profoundly majestic we wondered if the creators of Avatar had come here for their inspiration.   So magnificent we found ourselves breathless and without thought.   This is it. This is we came for.
    We had followed the ALAS Latin Tour events for the past three months,  hoping that aside from a contest results and building on rankings,  we could keep on our true path. Traveling on a shoe string is tough,  it wears you down to have to figure out how to get by on the road. There is no guidebook mapping out the least expensive way possible, so we have to create our path as we go based on the resources at our disposal.  It feels similar to if someone gave you a piece of string and a match and sent you into the forest and said "On the other side of this forest is a mansion, if you can survive the trek and reach it, its yours."   And you walk for the first five miles giddy with delight and excitement,  only to realize that you have no idea how far it is, and what the bloody hell are you going to do with a string and a match?    That is what taking an alternative route can feel like at times.
    The views alone on that stretch of coast in Mexico had the restorative properties of a fountain of youth.  What we wondered as we stood there stupefied by beauty and being eaten alive by bugs, is if it took the months of hard work and enduring to be able to appreciate that view for what it was?  Is part of true happiness having to suffer hardship?  Does the mansion only become a mansion after you make the trek in the wilderness?   Is part of life coming to embrace both the good and the bad to live fully in joy?
 "Who cares?  Let's go surfing. "  replied the kids next to us with big grins, the ones we have been sharing this empty stretch of beach with all week. 
    So we de-robe, sunscreen up, get annihilated by bugs and paddle out with our new friends.  Waves aren't indo-perfection but they are fun.  The water is so clear you can see the bottom.  I look below my feet and spot a couple of big gray fish, approximately three footers, just hovering beneath us. I could only hope they weren't hiding from something bigger - the nearest hospital, or running water for that matter, is a forty minute drive.  Since we were without a car, we'd be shit out of luck if anything happened.
            I look up an realize that everyone else had already taken a wave, I'm all alone and there is this beautiful crest of energy heading my way .  So I do what any surfer at a secret spot in Mexico would do,  I laugh the fully belly laugh of santa claus and stroke into the wave.  Delicious.
    When we are all exhausted we head for shore one by one.  I'm trailing behind,  always wanting that one last wave that turns into twelve last waves.  Its dusk and I'm walking up the beach alone, the sole dinner platter for three billion feasting insects. My entire focus is on swatting and splatting, when I look up to see this giant monster barreling down the beach at me.   As it gets closer I see two enormous horns coming out of its head and it dawns on me that I'm about to get mauled by a bull.   This is ironic because I am vegan.  Maybe he wants to battle me for grass rights?   I brace myself for the impact, too stunned to retrieve any information in my brain on whether you should run from a bull or play dead,  when he veers up the sand dune to where the fishing boats lay.  He stops short, just a few feet from one overturned boat, and begins voraciously licking its salty hull.  Weird.  Then again, I like things salty too.
    When I get back to camp, a handful of thatch huts constructed by a local mexican and his french wife, both super amazing and chill people,  I am so exhausted and covered in bug bites and thinking about salty things that I collapse into the hammock bed and pass out.
    We spend a while in this remote village,  surfing and hanging with friends,  eating rice and beans, being eaten by bugs, and exploring some nearby waves.     Life in this pueblo is interesting.  Remote indeed.   The nearest place to place a phone call is a half an hour drive  - and when you arrive you will find that is is not only the 'call center'  but the town grocer and water supply. The wooden structure is the size of a bedroom closet,  with a pay-phone dangling from the corner. There is no cell service here.  A small wrinkled women, more resembling a raisin than a person,  will dial the phone number for you, then you have to pick up the phone in the booth when it rings and your call will be connected.  There is an internet service in town too,  but the woman who runs it is never home and if she is, she doesn't want to be bothered, so for all practical purposes there is no internet service.     
    One of the days we decided to film,  the local shoe cobbler came to the beach with his fishing pole.  Many of the locals live off of fishing, taking turns going out on boats or helping shove off or tow in and clean up.  But not him, he fixes shoes.  This is a place where people actually fix their shoes when they break, instead of buying a new pair.    The shoe cobbler sits with me for the whole hour that I film, then with Gary for the whole hour he films, just chatting away.
        Walking back to camp, me and Gary compare notes. This shoe cobbler is happy and content with his life. I asked him repeatedly about sharks, which he claims there are none. He is particularly happy that surfers and their girlfriends have started to come to his town,  it is nice to watch the girls lay in bikinis on the beach.  (As scandalous as latin swimwear may seem to people in the US,  many latin women actually don't wear swimsuits at the beach - they wear shorts and t-shirts, sometimes even jeans or skirts, when they go swimming.  I am uncertain if it is a religious thing, or they simply don't have money to buy a swimsuit.)  
    Like the shoe cobbler, and like many remote villages we have had the opportunity to enjoy, eco-friendly is a word that often comes to mind.  People that have little tend to make the most of it.  It astonishes me how they can make use of things that we often just throw in the trash.  With all of our stuff, we have become so uncreative and wasteful.  They can't afford to buy rolls and rolls of paper towels so they use strips of old clothes for cleaning up messes.  They can't afford their own car, so they carpool in the collectivo taxis or jump on a bus when they need to go to town. They fix their shoes, mend their clothes, catch their fish and trade some of the catch for  rice and vegetables and fruit at the local market.   I marvel at their methods and try to adopt them into my life.
    We always think while traveling through Central America that we could find ways to help people, but the truth is that the people are often the ones helping us. It is humbling and exciting to realize that not everything can be solved with money. 

gary lynn surfing

danielle ciminero surfing air

danielle ciminero surfing

danielle ciminero surfing

A mexico surf with friends

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just Say NO to Tap Water.

When a sign in Central America reads ^ it is best to treat it with the utmost respect and discipline.  When no sign is present, however, it is best to assume it fell under a piece of furniture with a swoosh of wind, and still heed its warnings as you would a stop light at a busy intersection.  If you don't the result could be fatal.  Or at the very least, severely debilitating.
    We have been drinking the tap water in Central America for a long time, mostly because it costs money to buy clean bottled water and our situation doesn't accommodate for that expense yet.   Only once in a while, especially after a hard rain that turns the tap water brown or if we are stressed out, do we get sick from drinking it.  There are all sorts of germs in unfiltered water, but the human body is designed to overcome bacteria, even if your mind is unable to overcome the idea of it.
    Still,  drinking the tap water in one town doesn't mean that your body can handle the dirty water from another.  This was an unfortunate discovery at an inconvenient time,  namely the first day of the ALAS Latin Pro Tour event in Santa Catalina, Panama.  I woke with an ache in my belly so severe I wondered if small people were in there attacking me with pitchforks and a grenade launcher.   The stomach pain was agonizing enough that I barely noticed the sweat dripping down my forehead or the fever chills overtaking the rest of my body.   My first round in the surf contest was around 10 that morning and I wondered whether I would be able to crawl to the event site on by then.  In that moment I could barely stand without propping my hand against the wall.
    Santa Catalina, the location of the event, is a quaint little town with a fairly high pricetag for backpacker standards.  It has 4 dive shops, 6 restaurants, 7 hotels, a teeny market, a surf shop and no ATM's.   There are a few waves to surf within walking distance, but only two break consistently - the reef and the beachbreak.  The beachbreak is rubbish 345 days a year according to the locals.  The reefbreak is an aframe, with lefts that are short, which mush or close out pretty quickly.  The right has a steep take off that will occasionally have a make-able tube, as long as there are not ten people paddling into the corner of it as your going down the line. We saw some seriously mangled waves and mean wipeouts due to the crowd pushing sections over on people's heads as they tried to pull in. 
      If no tube was on offer, the first few sections of the right are very steep and critical, leading to a mushier section that often peters out into nothing.  As the tide drops you really want to watch out for the exposed rock reef; it is most un-fun to be drug across it, as many a surfer bearing infected oozing gashes will attest.
    If you're not into playing chicken with exposed reef at the low tide, you can head to one of the dive shops where they proudly advertise "Sharks Guaranteed!"  to which I gulp in fear and suspiciously eye the water when surfing.  If you decide to go out for a surf as the tide goes low you will be faced with a fifteen minute rockdance on lava reef that is covered in annoying and occasionally vicious barnacles, followed by a fifteen minute paddle out where you may earn a few finger cuts as your hands find purchase on the rocks hiding in shallow water.  There is a friendly-but-sneaky-turtle who lives at the top of the lineup in Santa Catalina who likes to trick unsuspecting tourists into believing he is a shark, making said tourists hurriedly scramble to belly ride the white water the whole way in. Whereupon said tourist realizes they've been fooled and have to paddle the fifteen minutes back to the lineup.  He is very tricksy so don't be fooled.  Again and again.  And again. It's very tiring.

     The day previous to ALAS event, despite feeling slightly lethargic from the long trip and having to battle forty Latin Pros hustling for waves, we were both able to catch a few fun ones.  That was "pre tap water" incident.  As it turns out, when sick our mental and physical aptitude start to decline.  A day later and a dollup sicker, I managed get my act together enough to stand up without leaning on a wall, don a contest jersey, rock dance over the dry reef and paddle out for that first heat. 
    The horn blared and it was time to get cracking.  I paddled for my first wave with the speed of a turtle and got hung up in the lip and pitched over the falls. Eating Sh**t as they say.  No big deal, except that it ripped my leash off and sent my board flying in toward the exposed rocks.   With a 20 minute heat and now a 10 minute swim,  I was thinking the heat was already lost and even more saddening, the chance to finally surf epic looking waves without a crowd.  Despite the fact that I have the swim skills of a pebble, I managed to get to the board before it crashed into the exposed reef, sprint paddle back out to the lineup and get a 5 and a 4  for my top two scores, passing the heat.    Hooray!  I can go home and crawl back in bed now! 
    I hoped that sleeping a few extra hours that night would do the trick, but awoke the next morning with what felt like a new recruitment of  villagers to cause mayham in my belly.  Pitchforks, grenade launchers, and this time one of them brought a bazooka.  Not cool.  When my contest heat was called, I rock danced once again in the bleary haze of someone suffering alcohol poisoning, and floated out to the lineup on the first ripcurrent I could find.  The three other girls in my heat zoomed around me as if I were the big truck and they the fast and the furious.    When I finally did take a wave I wobbled to my feet, stood there for a few seconds like a beginner and then face planted on my board.  Excellent.
     The heat ended and I waddled back in over the rocks with a creeping sensation that I couldn't put my finger on. It didn't really sink in until a few days later,  once I was on a steady diet of clean rain water that we collected from the roof runoff,  the strange emotions that come with a let down like that. 
     But then I remembered that we didn't just go to Santa Catalina to collect points or medals, we went to explore a new place and get to know the locals; to see how surfing has affected their lives, and see if they had any ideas on what could be done to improve things in their town.    It was interesting to learn that despite having relatively little, many of the locals don't want for anything.  They've learned to live with what they have and be content.  
    But then again, their happiness could be due in part to the fact that beer is cheaper than water in Panama.  Every time you go to the market you are faced with a choice - even if you are really thirsty for water,  it's hard to argue the price difference whether on a budget or on vacation.
  "I really want water today" I told gary before he walked into the teeny closet sized market.  "We really need to buy rice today"  replied gary. 
 "Well, beer again I guess "  I quipped, thinking about whether I'd rather drink water and eat nothing or have beer and rice.    At this point in our trip, my stomach was offended at both options.
    Needless to say, we learned a few valuable lessons on that trip.  One: don't drink the water unless you have a few days to lay in bed, rolling around with a feverish sweat and aching belly.  Two:  to save money and your stomach, just drink beer instead of water.   Three: before you sprint paddle for shore make sure the creepy looking shadow is a shark and not just a turtle.   Four: even though the locals say they want for nothing, don't put it past them to steal your flip flops or surf trunks if you leave them out.  They apparently want for flip flops and trunks,  so bring an extra pair.

Here is a video from the ALAS event in Panama.  As for the poor quality, the wave in Santa Catalina is  really really far out over a reef shelf and we had to film from a cliff, for the most part in the rain.  With a bigger lens (we used a 400mm) you could get some nice shots -you can also take a boat to the channel in the morning before the wind hits for some really good side angle views but we just didn't have the spare cash to do it.  The best waves came during the middle of the surf comp, so if you were in a jersey with only 2 guys out you were stoked. 

Bats hanging out under banana palms during the torrential rain

    Accompanied by a heavy rain, our leave day rushed upon us windy and wet.  Lacking the running skills of Olympic athletes,  our mad dash to load a friends pickup truck with our gear resulted in two very wet travelers.  With all of our clothes packed in the board bag, which would be  slammed by torrents of rain,  we set off on a six hour mission to Panama city wearing a slight frown.  The small cab of the pickup was sardined with our friend, her son, another friend, us, a pile of everyones stuff, and  their cute little green parrot. Not to mention the lake-size puddles of water on the floor. 
    We were headed to Mexico for the next ALAS Latin Tour event.   A few years ago we had bussed to Mexico from Costa Rica, which takes twenty hours a day for four days straight,  so flying to Mexico from Panama felt quite luxurious and quick.    To save money, we flew in to Guadalaraja and took the four hour bus to Mazatlan.  We chanced upon a great hostel right near the wave,  the Funky Monkey Hostel,  where we unloaded our sopping wet gear and passed out on a bed so comfortable I shrieked into my pillow upon laying down. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sneaky Santa Teresa

 What a fine piece of beach Santa Teresa is, with it's white sand, howling monkeys, tide pools and playful waves.   We arrived early April to find a swell in the water and pretty light crowd.  Our place was nestled up the hill near a big market, twenty minutes walking one way to Playa Carmen and the other way to Santa Teresa. 
    For how much hype it gets for being a beaten down, overpopulated surf town,  Santa Teresa actually  feels like a sleepy little village. Until a bunch of ATV's whizz by, kicking up more dust than a Saharan sand storm.  The dust is such a health hazard that people wear gas masks, surgical  masks, bandannas, or at the very least pursed lips and a pissed off face, while buzzing through town.  Even still, once the dust settles and you can look around there is a definite feeling of community.  Tons of small shops and restaurants to satisfy your every desire, plus the hand crafted nick nacks and home grown produce displayed here and there for purchase. 
       Waves in Santa Teresa were nicely shaped peaks, usually good for a few maneuvers or even a tube, but there were a handful of mushy or closed out waves too. Playa Carmen was a strange wave to surf, with its outer sandbar and zig zagging reforms -  often on one wave, if you read it right  you could go right and left half a dozen times before jumping off on the sand.  But if you read it wrong you would go nowhere at all.    
    Aside from the crazy driving behavior, the pace of life in Santa Teresa is endearingly slow and we rushed around amidst it like a New Yorker late for a meeting.  With a dozen new projects on the to do list, we quickly settled into a routine of 4 am alarms and all day marathon working, whether on the computer, painting, surfing or filming.
    Both the ALAS Latin Tour and CNS Circuit came through town, and with my mind half on the prize and half on wanting to be free surfing the better wave up the beach I landed in 5th and 4th place.  I had been spending my surfs trying to push everything I know to the next level (i.e lots of big funny looking crashes) and not spending any time 'contest training'.   In the contest heats I'd find myself looking for a punchy lippy set wave,  which worked in my favor for the first few heats, but in both the semi-final of ALAS and final of CNS I could have taken off on a smaller one and done a couple turns to advance.   That's the interesting thing about contests, and life- sometimes, you don't always have to look for the best possible score (10),  but instead look for the score you need to get by which is sometimes only a 3.  This can work in your favor but you have to give up waiting for a better bigger funner wave.   Fail. 
    After the events we chanced upon a really cool group of girls, one of which designs surf bikinis of amazing quality and calibur.   Hand stitched, reversible, and one of a kind designs - hand picked fabrics that are sewn into only one or two bikinis so instead of having thousand run orders of a pattern, there are only one or two in the world. Talk about unique! I was stoked to pick up a few suits from her to test drive and all I can say is that they feel like butter, stick like glue, and I  love em.   If you are in the market for a cute new swimsuit that stays on while you surf I'd recommend buying one of hers:  TicaSurf Bikinis - they'll be available online soon too!   
    Speaking of girls - Santa Teresa is chock full of surfer and traveler girls. It had been a while since we'd seen girls in the line up and boy are they feisty here!   Probably the most aggressive surf ladies I've met since surfing with the ASP chicks - word to the wise,  don't try to take their waves! I saw a few guys be called not-so-lady-like names.... 
    With our bustling schedule, time flew by and  soon we were faced with a decision:  do we stay where the waves are pretty fun and we've settled into a decent routine or do face the unknown and head to the next ALAS surf contest in Panama? Only time will tell.....

danielle ciminero surfing

danielle ciminero surfing
danielle ciminero surfing

Olas altas y Olitas en Santa Teresa

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Snowy Surfs in Rhode Island and Emerald Hikes in San Diego

        Since we weren't able to be around for thanksgiving or christmas this year, we took a trip to visit with our families in march.  The first two weeks we stayed in San Diego where the weather was just delicious compared to the 95 degree blister we'd been enduring in the past few months.  We had a film playing at the Board Shorts Film Festival, which was an amazing eventnight full of laughter and tears of joy - all the filmmakers did an amazing job of reminding us why we love surfing and inspiring us to do more with our lives and be truly grateful for every moment we can spend in the water riding waves.
                  We spent most of our time in SD hanging with family and working on projects - writing pieces for her book The Roaring Surf Ate My Bikini and other mishaps of a wanderlust surfer girl (danielle) and  creating/ painting a new collection of art (gary).  We drove up to Huntington to film a local shredder grom by the name of brian salazaar a couple times, but otherwise didn't surf much, instead trying to get in quality time with the fam and move forward on a few projects.  We did get in this amazing hike on St patty's day and got to play with a baby rattlesnake! 
                  Before we knew it we were on our way to Rhode Island,  where we were greeted by a snowstorm and a few frigid lines of corduroy.   If the Rhode Islanders had caught wind that we wished that snow storm upon them while in town, they'd have been after us with pitchforks - it had been a  brutal winter with no less than five major snow storms and the locals were plain sick of the sight of white.  We, on the other hand, wanted to pretend it was the holidays, sip hot cocoa, sing carols, and get in a snowy surf.  Riding little waves in the snow is such a unique peaceful feeling (as opposed to riding big waves in the snow which has a distinct frigid and menacing ambiance, especially when you get obliterated by a set wave and your cozy 5/4, booties, gloves and hood get flushed with 28 degree water)…
                      I would say that time flies when your having fun, but it has been our experience that time just plain flies,  despite the fact that we were still logging about 7 hours of work a day while visiting our families,  it went by in the blink of an eye and we were onto the next adventure, following the Central America leg of the ALAS Latin Pro tour- Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico.  Up Up and Away!