I am conflicted writing about our surf trip to Paredon. Surfers, like fishermen, don’t give up their spots to a broad audience. But the word is already out (yay, internet!), and for many, a trip to a “town” like Paredon holds much less appeal than a trip to a resort in the likes of Costa Rica. Guatemala is the least explored surf frontier in Central America. Maybe it’s because the waves actually aren’t as good (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador all offer world class breaks); maybe it’s rumors of unsafe travel conditions; or maybe the demand just simply isn’t there. Hey, if you’ve got plenty of established and consistently reliable spots to surf in other parts of Central America, why bother? But as far as I’m concerned, Guatemala meets the standard.
My typical day at the surf house began with soft light coming into our lofted bungalow – directly into an open-air window then filtering through the tiny holes in my mosquito net like water through a sieve. With semi-comatose impatience, I’d lift my head to see any peaks breaking just offshore. Kind of like camping, there becomes no need for a clock…when it’s light it’s time to get up. I knew that through the night the wind had shifted back offshore, glassing over the bumpy sea, and that there was a pot of coffee waiting at the bottom of the wooden stepladder leading downstairs. With a full cup, I’d walk the couple steps out onto the black sand (really, a grey ash) beach for a full dawn patrol inspection.
In the week I was in Paredon, the surf was predicable. The wind patter is the same each day, slightly offshore or nonexistent at dawn, then as the land heats up through the morning, the cooler air from the ocean is borrowed and slowly drawn in, becoming a steady onshore breeze by about 1 or 2 pm. Just as the day before, and the day before that, and every other day, the wind dies down in the evening, and as the land yields its warmth, the temperature-steady ocean draws back the wind it had out on loan. This is the cycle of rise and fall, give and take.
Knowing this pattern, and that I’d have at least 5 or 6 hours to exhaust myself in the water each day, there was no rushed or hurried feeling to get on it first thing. There was no crowd all trying to get in a surf before work or school and no “urgent” emails to attend to. There was nowhere else to be (or go, even if you wanted). Each time I paddled out in the morning, I did so alone. Other surfers staying at the house would paddle out at various times, but none were too bothered by the schedule of anyone else. Usually there would be a local surfer within site somewhere down the beach, and occasionally a small group would drift to the same peak. It can be fun to surf and chat with the locals, because beyond what we were doing on floating foam boards in the water, there is not much else we’ve got in common (maybe Jack Johnson…too). But living in California, and surfing with a few thousand of my closest “bros” every time I paddle out, I was generally content to shift a few hundred yards down the beach for some “Zen me time.” No one cared. Though the weekends are a different story, when groups of Guatemalans from the capital show up, each representing their interpretations of imported surf culture. Pero por la mayoria, todos estan tranquilos.
On days that I did it right, I’d time my surfs and meals to perfection. The morning session was great each day. There is something supremely satisfying about walking down to the beach minutes after waking with nothing but shorts and a board, and getting into an ocean without even a suggestion of a chill. After an hour or so, I’d head back in, eat a proper breakfast (generalmente, Guatemalan “tipico” with eggs, beans, tortillas, fried plantains, and the surf house’s signature pineapple hot sauce), have another cup of coffee, and get ready for the main session. That would last anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours, depending on the swell, tide, and winds. Around the ten o’clock hour is when things just seemed to work the best. If the sun was out, you’re best to leave your sandals waiting for you on the black sand beach…
The rest of the day was filled with food, drinks, and naps. All drinks are based on an honors system fridge. Take what you want, and mark the board. After more than a few hours in the surf, beverages went down easy. We’d kill time during the day reading and writing, sometimes throwing on the fins and going out for a bodysurf, playing volleyball, jumping in the pool, or simply lounging. By the time the sun went down and the sand had cooled off enough to walk on, cocktails were on the mind as was the communal dinner. No one made a big to do about the evenings, though there was plenty of fun to be had. In the back of everyone’s mind, we all knew the wind was shifting offshore, and the surf we’d seen deteriorate the afternoon before would soon again be head high and glassy.
As for giving up a secret spot…the people who run and work at the house were genuine people whose business I have no problem supporting. Though if you want me to tell you where to pull off the highway somewhere north or LA on big south swells, take the walk out to the bluff, and see the lefts line up….you’re out of your mind.
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