Fun Central

For big wave riders Olivia Jenkins and Annie Reickert, Maui’s gentle summer season brings little in the way of juicy swells upon which they can get a much-needed surf and foil fix. Consequently, the lure of long and empty waves elsewhere is strong, and only got stronger after they put in a call to their friend, James Jenkins…

Photos: Foil Nicaragua

Our favorite time of year on Maui is from September to April. This is the winter season, when storms brew in the north, bringing big swells and a multitude of waves. However, when April rolls around on Maui, the North Shore goes dormant, and we find different ways to keep ourselves busy. We fill our days with foil downwinders, mountain biking, kitesurfing, training at the gym and, if we’re lucky, waves on the south and west shores of Maui. However, as the summer continues, we both begin to get antsy for proper waves and adventure. 

At the start of May, we Facetimed with James Jenkins (no relation!), a close friend and all-round talented water sports athlete. James told us that in June he was headed to work for Surfari Charters, an all-inclusive surf and fishing lodge in Popoyo, located on the southern coast of Nicaragua. Surfari Charters was established in 2002 and had been running surf and fishing charters since. He explained he had been working for Surfari every summer since he was little and that it was one of his favorite places to travel to in the world. In addition, this year, James partnered up with Lance Moss (founder of Surfari Charters) to establish Foil Nicaragua, an all-inclusive foil experience. Foil Nicaragua is a week-long experience where guests get towed into the best waves of their lives on foil. James said the waves had been pumping there all summer, and that they had an amazing set up at the lodge – a perfect wave right in front of the accommodation, a few boats to find waves along the coast, a jet ski to tow-foil with and, most importantly, an amazing crew. We were fiending for surf, so following this conversation and receiving encouragement from James, we began to plan a trip. 

A month rolled by and the next thing we knew, we were on a flight to Central. As a result of the pandemic, the main airport in Nicaragua had limited international flights. To get there we had to fly into Liberia, an airport on the northwest of Costa Rica. It was near the border of Nicaragua, so the final step was to drive across. We arrived at the airport midday and fortunately Surfari Charters had prepared a driver to take us to the border with our mass of bags. Together, we had two foil bags, two board bags, and two suitcases. As most know by now, traveling these days proves a bit more challenging compared to a couple of years ago. To get into Nicaragua, we had to get a Covid PCR test back in Hawaii within 72 hours before arrival into the country. However, with different time zones, this can get a bit confusing. About 30 minutes before arriving at the border, we realized we had less than an hour before our Covid test results would expire. We had also heard that crossing the border was a bit difficult. We both speak little Spanish, so we tried to communicate to our driver our mishap and the severity of our time parameters. We arrived at the first checkpoint of the Nicaraguan border where they checked our passports. We then drove to the next stop, to which our very understanding driver informed us that this was as far as he could go. The final step was to take the bags off the car and walk across the border. This was about a quarter mile across. At this point, still no one had checked our Covid tests. We quickly removed the board bags off the roof and headed towards the border with haste. One board bag didn’t have wheels, so it was quite a comical experience. We made it with minutes to spare, drenched in sweat. 

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Having passed the border control, we found our next ride organized by Surfari Charters, and drove off towards the Nicaraguan coast. We arrived at the compound late at night, bleary eyed and ready for sleep, so we went right to bed.

At 6am the next morning, James knocked on the door excitedly. Still jet-lagged, we slowly crawled out of bed. Since we had arrived in the dark we had not yet seen the view. Upon opening our door, we realized the bunks were right on the beach, overlooking an amazing barreling beach break wave. “We’re going out on the boat, so get your gear ready!” James exclaimed. Realizing how good the waves looked, we rushed to get the foils assembled and the fins into our surfboards. We had breakfast with a view then proceeded to meet Lance and Kristin Moss, the owners and operators of Surfari Charters. Lance and Kristin are two of the most genuine people you will meet; they are truly stoked on life and stoked on providing others with an epic time! We also met the other surf guides, individuals from both the U.S. and
local Nicaraguans. 

After assembling gear and meeting the crew, we took a quick car ride to a small bay around the corner, where the Surfari boat awaited us along with Gray Gardner, a friend of the Surfari team, with his
jet ski. We loaded everything onto the boat and set off from the beach. The boat was packed full with a massive amount of gear – with assembled foil boards and surfboards for every condition that might arise. 

Two minutes straight out from the beach was a perfect foiling wave. We watched from the channel as huge sets rolled through. The waves would pitch up far outside and make for a perfect empty
face. We watched for about ten minutes, but then the boys decided that there would likely be better waves up the coast, so we continued onwards. 

After continuing about 20 minutes along the breathtaking coastline, we arrived at another wave. For a few minutes we watched the left. It was a large barreling slab that broke onto a shallow shelf. At low tide, if you straightened out, it was likely that you would end up on dry reef. At higher tide, Lance said it was less critical with respect to the rocks but would still lead to a pretty heavy wipeout if you didn't make the wave. There were a few guys surfing on step-up boards, so we then went to check out the right. It was truly the perfect tow foil wave. There was a mellow roll in from the outside that would be easy to tow into, then the wave stood up once it hit the shelf. The shoulder was slopey so it was easy to play around on. It was also glassy, which is something we are not very used to coming from Maui. We jumped in the water and traded off tow-ins for a few hours. Everyone got some insane rides before the wind began to pick up around midday. 

This first day was supposed to be the biggest day of the swell for the first week we were there. It was honestly the perfect day to tow foil on the outer reefs because it was too big for other surf spots around the region and the bigger surf spots were still not ideal for surfing. The following few days, the waves dropped a bit, so we had fun exploring the coast and surfing different waves. Whenever we weren't on the water we were hanging around the Surfari compound. We had such an amazing routine going – wake up at around 6am, surf, eat breakfast, surf again, and then hang around on the porch listening to music and playing card games until we had enough energy to maybe go and surf again. It was a dream, and truly the best setup.

At sunset, about a week into the trip, after a long day of surfing we were all drinking a beer on the porch of the beach house. The waves were not as big out front as the prior days. However, there was still some remnant swell and we all had a difficult time sitting still so we decided that it would be fun to try and catch a few waves prone foiling out front. It was a bit of a difficult place to foil, as it wasn’t that clean, the waves were peaking everywhere, and the waves were breaking close to the beach where it was shallow. We were cracking up and we paddled endlessly catching a few fun short rides. It honestly felt as though we spent the whole session duck diving. After about 30 minutes of foiling and as the sun was setting, we started to make our way in. Annie will explain in her own words what proceeded to happen next. 

Annie: “I was paddling in with my board upside down to prevent my foil from catching on the bottom because it was fairly shallow. A wave hit me from behind which made my mast hit my hand. This then caused me to punch myself in the face right below my nose. I immediately felt something pop loose in my mouth. Not knowing exactly what happened I spat into my hand a whole tooth, root and all. Shocked, I quickly rushed over to James and showed him the gaping hole in my mouth. I then made my way to the beach and called my dentist/close family friend back home on Maui. She explained that because the tooth came out in one piece it could be put back in, but that I only had a limited amount of time to do so. Very unhappy and in a lot of pain I pushed the tooth back into my mouth as Olivia laughed from the other room. The following day I went to a Nicaraguan dentist and they glued it to the surrounding teeth. I didn’t mess with the tooth for the remainder of the trip and when I got home to Maui I got more dental work done. Fortunately, everything worked out as well as it could have and the entire group at Surfari was very helpful. Not wanting to knock out the tooth again or have it get infected I took it as easy as possible for the remainder of the trip. I enjoyed some mellow foiling and surfing and cheered on the rest of the crew.”

On our last day, we took the boat about 45 minutes down the coast to one of the most picturesque waves we have ever been to. The wave was a left point break that broke along a towering rock wall into a large bay. On arrival, the tide was pretty high and the waves broke tight along the wall. It looked super fun to shortboard. We both surfed for an hour or so with maybe two other people out before the tide dropped. With the lower tide, the wave swung wide, generating an incredible foiling wave. It became a bit harder to paddle into and not ideal for surfing, so the lineup emptied out. We paddled back to the boat and got our foil boards ready. That day, we had two jet skis with us. We both hopped in the water whilst Gray and James towed us into waves back-to-back. There were no other surfers or tow foilers in sight; it was incredible to have the choice of any wave to tow into. We could catch the wave from the outside and glide all the way to the inside of the bay before pumping back out to the
jet skis. 

Olivia: “I got a lot of fun, long, memorable rides on this day. However, I think my funniest moment of the trip also happened during this session. We thought it would be awesome for Annie and I to get a party wave together. So Gray and James towed us both into the same wave from way on the outside, and it was really fun carving around each other down the line. I got towed deeper than Annie. I was trying to go down the line while Annie was trying to go deeper. I was a little less confident staying in the pocket and up to this point had been cruising more on the shoulder. I was laughing so much that I didn't realize I had to kick out of the wave before it closed out. Next thing I know, Annie kicked out, and I tumbled over the falls with the foil. I popped up and my foil had floated pretty far to the inside, and I scrambled to get it before it ended up on the rocks, as there wasn't much of a beach. I got washed up on the rocks a bit, and Jeff, a Surfari Charters guide, paddled the board back out for me. I couldn't stop laughing through the whole ordeal as I knew the whole crew would make fun of me when I returned back to the boat, as lighthearted banter of course!”

Overall, we got extremely lucky on this trip with non-stop waves, amazing conditions, and incredible company. We had multiple amazing tow foil sessions on the outer reefs and surfed to our hearts’ content right outside our bedroom window. We filled the void from the summer of no waves on Maui and returned home eager for the winter waves
to return. 

As we both observed, there are endless foiling waves along Nicaragua's southern coast, and these guys really do know the best spots to go to. We had such an amazing time, which we really attribute to the kindness of the whole crew down at Surfari/Foil Nicaragua including but not limited to Lance, Kristin, and James. For anyone who is looking for an epic foil, surf, or fishing adventure, these are your people to call! 

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