ISA World Junior Surfing Games
Winter in Australia and a call up from a young Russian surfer named Nikita Avdeev to accompany him to Nicaragua as his coach. Nikita is a good little surfer living in the city of Yekaterinbug situated in the Russian Urals. He gets to surf Bali around four times a year. He has been selected by the a russian Surfing federation to represent his country. Pretty cool and at 12 years old a big call but great experience.
I fly through Los Angeles, Miami and then on to Nicaragua. 20 plus air time hours in total so a long haul. I decided to break the trip at LA. Huntington Beach is only a 45 minute drive from LAX. Taxis and shuttle buses don't really offer much of an option. You can get a car to pick you up for $150 or most hire a car at the airport because you need one to get around anyway. Pretty cheap but make sure you get one with GPS . I am staying at the Hilton on Pacific Highway about 500 metres south of the famous Huntington Pier. Pretty good value?
First night PT, the very first Pro World Champion picks me up for dinner. He has his non surfing brother with him. PT has been living here for 30 odd years after moving from the Gold Coast. We eat right in front of the pier at Dukes. I have eaten at Dukes in Honolulu and here was the same. Great seafood and cool memorabilia.
Huntington Beach is surf town, maybe a big version of Torquay in Victoria. Plenty of cheap eats and bars. Hard to get a real coffee though. There are a million versions of coffee drinks here but I could do with a decent espresso.
The surf? Onshore 2-3 ft slop. Cool water so will wait for boardies and warm central American temperatures. So instead of hunting surf I hunt all the old surf spots that I used to dream about back in the sixties. You can go north along pacific coast highway up to Malibu and Zuma beach or south down past Trestles and Oceanside. While you are at it you may as well check the skate boys and weirdos at Venice Beach.
Up at 5.30 to LAX. Need to catch a four hour flight to Miami and then two and a half flight to Managua in Nicaragua. I meet Nikita and his father Andre in the transit lounge for the last leg. Andre has been here for work and Nikita does a solo flight from Moscow through Rome to Miami. Gutsy effort!!
We arrive at Managua airport around 7pm local time our driver Martine is waiting for us for the three hour drive to the Tola area. Wet season has just started and it is bucketing down with rain. The last 40 kilometres of the trip is just mud and slow going. Arriving at night anywhere is strange but when you are in the middle of a central American jungle it is even stranger. The road is over grown with vines and trees. We pull up at a big gate made of cane. It takes a while before the security guy will let us in. The owner arrives and while we expect to drive to a hotel of some sort he explains they have 6 rooms spread over a 15 acre organic farm. This is normally a yoga retreat (Equilibrio) run by James and Gabriela, We grab our gear and head off on a muddy track through the jungle by torch light. After 10 minutes of dodging vines, branches etc we get to a small room made of local timber. There is a separate bath room dwelling up the track. All fairly different. We are tired and crash out with the rain hammering down with thunder and lightning thrown in. The room is open with big fly wired windows.
Nikita is up at dawn (5am) we try to ignore him and eventually wander through another jungle path to the kitchen hangout area. The Argentinian team are also staying here which is cool because I know a few of the coaches from a level two course I presented in Mar Del Plata. They are super friendly. Our host Gabriela is very hospitable, she drives us to check the surf. There is a hurricane in the gulf and the swell is huge with no quality surf. We decide to check the contest site and register for the event. The beach is covered with drift wood washed down the river from last nights storm. The water is soupy brown with the surf exploding on a shallow bank. Only a few guys try to get out but not much surfing going on. They reckon the swell will peak tomorrow. The ISA organisation team are concerned the peak swell may crash through the podiums and grand stand set up on the beach. Nikita is keen to surf but we opt for resting up back at the hacienda. There is a deep bricked up well near our room. In the afternoon we join the Argentinian team and take turns jumping down the 7 metre drop. Everyone has a lot of fun. Meals are in the main room, food is good and Gabriela and James are great hosts.
We take off early with at an Argentina. The swell is still massive and about the only place to surf is "magnificent rock". Pretty cool spot but with the swell size a nightmare to surf. We rename it "duck dive point" We have a couple of goes and get pretty cooked on the beach. The Hawaiian and French teams are trading there as well. We all head back to the hotel packed in the Argentine team bus like Sardines. The Argentinians are super cool and very helpful.
Steak for lunch and a well earned rest in the arvo.
We have an early evening meal and head to Rancho Santana for the managers meeting. Plenty of talking of rules and regulations.
We head off early for another surf at Magnificent Rock. The swell is smaller but still plenty of wash throughs. Nikita tries his small board and gets his confidence up with a couple if good waves.
Back for lunch and then the opening ceremony. Major operation. Everyone congregates at the contest site and we bused in to San Juan Del Sur. Pretty cool marching through the streets while the locals cheer us on. Every country has a name banner and flags. Drums, horns, everything is going on. The ISA president Fernando Aguerre shakes Nikita's hand and makes a big deal of him being the first Russian junior competitor.
The whole ceremony mimics a small Olympic Games opening. Athlete pledge, entertainment etc. the cool difference is the mixing of the sands. This tradition requires each nation (30 in all) to bring sand from there country and a designated surfer from each nation is called by name, country and beach and then invited to pour the sand I to a glass tank. Very symbolic and super cool. Nikita is stoked by the privilege. During the whole ceremony we manage to get rained on but no one is that bothered.
We make a quick getaway with Gabriela but still don't make it home until 8.30pm. We quickly eat our dinner and are about to head off to sleep when a few of Andries friends turn up. I think is glad to have a good Russian conversation. Nikita and I sneak off to bed.
We are up early for the start of the contest, the swell gas dropped on the beach break but still majority closing out. Tough conditions. Nikita goes out in the first heat and has a red hot go. Half way through he is in second place but by the end just gets pushed down to fourth. He has down really well. We have been joined by a couple of Andre's friends. We move up the contest site a little and kick back in a beach side Restaurant while Nikita free surfs with the other competitors who are warming up.
Nikita is surfing in the rep round today. We have a surf in the morning to warm up them cruise back to the farm for lunch and a rest up. Back down to the contest at 1.30pm. The Argentinian boys take Nikita for a quick warm up surf and then we wait for the action to start. The surf is pretty good offshore but a little tricky picking the right waves. Both surfers in the water start with good waves but Nikita's is better. He surfs well and wins the heat. Everybody is really happy. Nikita advances to the next round. He has reached further into the contest than anyone thought. Super Kruto.
We move hotels tonight. It is further away from the contest site but Andre has some friends there and i am pretty sure they will be celebrating tonight.