Nicaragua is a beautiful country. There are stunning beaches, active volcanoes, mountains, mangrove swamps, picturesque islands and just about every type of terrain you can imagine. But on a recent visit to Nicaragua, I found all of the creative ways that people travel even more fascinating than the landscape.
There are about six million people in Nicaragua but in some parts of the country it can feel like at least that many people are en route somewhere at any given moment in every type of conveyance imaginable. You see people everywhere coming and going from work or school, hauling firewood, or transporting goods to sell on the street or in a market.
%Gallery-181146% There are plenty of cyclists, and it is not uncommon to see two or three people riding on one standard bicycle. (A Nicaraguan friend swears he’s seen up to four school kids on a bike but I never saw that many.) I never saw a cyclist wear a helmet – understandable in a poor country – but it was more than a bit disconcerting to see so many adults wearing helmets on motorcycles but carrying children on their laps without any protection. There are carts being pulled by horses, donkeys and cattle. There are trucks with open or caged areas for human passengers. There are rickshaws and, even more fun, open-air three wheeled moto-taxis.
And then there are the ubiquitous chicken buses, many of which have colorful names, logos and designs. I rode one chicken bus called “El Brujo” (The Witch) because it services villages near Granada where people go to consult witches. Most chicken buses are old school buses from North America and riding them is like a trip down memory lane if you grew up Stateside in the ’70s and ’80s. There were no live chickens on “El Brujo” but we had plenty of entertainment: a blind man came in to play the harmonica and a host of others came in and out at the bus at various stops to sell cold drinks from plastic bags and other treats (see video above).
%Gallery-181145% Taxis in Nicaraguan cities like Granada are dirt cheap and fun too, because they usually will continue to pick people up if there’s even a sliver of space in the car, or even if there isn’t, providing you with an opportunity to mingle with locals. Even ordinary cars can be a lot of fun because many Nicas like to plaster them with slogans, decals and other decorations. My favorite car had logos for Flor de Caña rum, an energy drink and Jesus Christ.
And of course, there are plenty of people getting from point A to point B the old fashioned way: on foot. Some of these people, including a lot of really tough, strong women, carry tremendous bundles on their heads. Check out the galleries to see all the creative ways that Nicaraguans roll. It’s a poor country and many of the people you see on the roads need to get where they’re going just to survive but a traveler passing through this country can’t help but admire their creativity and determination to get where they are going.
I was sitting on the Che Guevara ferry, which was bouncing over choppy waters in Lake Cocibolca on the way back from Ometepe island in Nicaragua, when I heard a sweet melody drifting slowly through the humid night air like a message in a bottle floating in the lake. I peaked around the corner of the boat to investigate and stopped dead in my tracks to listen to a young man and his grandmother singing a beautiful, melancholy Christian song.
They were holding hands as the boat swayed backed and forth and I was struck by how unselfconscious the young man was. One could ride planes, trains, boats and buses for a lifetime in the United States and not come across a young man holding hands with his grandmother and singing an impromptu song for no reason other than fun, but here they were.
I listened to their song and then introduced myself. The young man’s name was Janier Mairena. He was 25 and from a town called Altagracia on Ometepe. His grandmother’s name was Maria Auxiliadova Mairena. After chatting with them, I went back to sit with my family and realized that those kind of moments of serendipitous bliss, bordering on rapture, are why I love to travel. I knew I’d never forget them or their sad song but I wanted to share it with others, so I went back over to them and asked them how they’d feel about singing the song again, this time while I filmed them (see video).
At first, they just laughed and seemed confused by my request.
“I’m going to put it on YouTube,” I told them. “Give me your email address, Janier, and I’ll send it to you.”
But Janier had no email address and wasn’t familiar with YouTube. Ometepe is a beautiful, but poor and undeveloped island that is about to get an airport. I wondered if in five or ten year’s time any young people on the island will still be without email and unfamiliar with YouTube. Janier gave me the address of his church on Ometepe, saying it was all he had, and then he and his grandma happily sang the song again, just because I asked for the encore.
A few weeks before traveling to Nicaragua, I interviewed Amber Dobrzensky, the author of the “Moon Guide to Nicaragua,” and she mentioned that one of the things she loves about the country is its unpredictability. After visiting the country in late February for the first time, I now know exactly what she meant. These were a few moments of unexpected delight that I’d like to share.
One of the pleasures of visiting a country like Nicaragua is that you see things that you’d never see in the U.S. I could drive around Chicago from now until doomsday but I don’t think I’d ever see a man with a nice, big round belly getting an outdoor haircut with his shirt off. So when I saw just that by the side of the road in Ometepe, I asked our cab driver to pull over so I could meet and photograph the guy.
The big man, his barber and the bystanders had every right to wonder who the hell I was and I’m not sure I would have agreed to a photo if I was in this guy’s situation, but he didn’t hesitate to give his consent. I was greeted as a welcome curiosity on an otherwise dull Monday morning rather than an annoyance.
The man was sitting outside a humble home next to a huge pile of freshly picked plantains and when his neighbors got wind of what was going on, a few came out of their humble homes to tease him.
My Spanish is pretty rusty but I recognized that they were calling him gordo (fat). I think that one woman said something on the lines of, “The tourist wants to take a picture of you because you are so fat.” But instead of taking offense, the man started laughing and then I started laughing uncontrollably and everyone shared in the fun.
And on my last night in Granada, I stumbled across two very different musical talents that surprised and delighted me. The first was a group of guys breakdancing on the street. When I first saw them, from a distance, I was surprised – breakdancing? People are still doing that? But when I stopped to watch these kids I was amazed.
They were unbelievably good and the show just kept going on and on and I couldn’t fathom how they weren’t collapsing in exhaustion. I had the feeling that if these kids were in the U.S., they’d probably have their own show on MTV or, at the least, would be invited to perform at big time venues and on TV, but here, all they could do was pass the hat, and since Nicaragua is a poor country, very few people dug deep to recognize their talents.
My last meal in the country was at a place called El Camello and the food was good but the live music was even better. They had a singer/guitarist who had a great voice but whose passion and fire were even more impressive. I felt that if he lived in L.A., he’d probably already have a recording contract and groupies. He was putting every ounce of his soul into the music and when he stopped by our table during a break to ask for tips, I understood why.
His name was Luis Rolando Casamalhuapa and he was extremely grateful for the tip we gave him.
“I hate having to go around basically begging for money, but I really need to unfortunately,” he said.
He explained that he got into a terrible car accident in his native El Salvador that left him in a coma for more than three months.
“I was really lucky I didn’t die,” he said. “But my teeth were totally smashed out and I need all kinds of dental work.”
Luis said that he came to Nicaragua because the extensive dental work he needed was cheaper there but he was still a bit short and was playing in restaurants and teaching English in order to try to earn the rest of the money he needed. When I’m in the U.S., and someone approaches me with a sad story in need of money, the cynic in me often doubts if they are telling the truth, but in this case I believed every word, even though I couldn’t give Luis the $600 he needed to get his dental work done (nor did he ask for it).
All of the people described in this story touched me in some way – because of their sincerity, their sense of humor, their talent, or their resilience in the face of disaster. And the moments I shared with them, as our paths crossed, are what I’ll treasure most about my visit to Nicaragua. Go to Nicaragua and experience it for yourself. They’ll sing for you; they’ll breakdance for you; hell, they’ll even let you take their photo while they’re getting haircuts with their shirts off.
You can learn a lot about a country by walking into it across a land border. VIP’s enter at the airport or zoom through in a car, but when you walk across the frontier, especially in a developing country, you get a window into how ordinary people and traders travel.
Before leaving on a recent trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I tried to research the logistics of how we would get from the Liberia airport, where we were supposed to drop our rental car, to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, but found no definitive take on how much it costs or what the transportation options are. So when a cab driver I talked to at a gas station in Liberia offered to take us from the airport to the border the next day for $80, I wasn’t certain if it was a good deal but agreed to it nonetheless for lack of any better ideas (with my wife and children in tow, we weren’t up for taking a chicken bus).
Francisco, our courtly silver-haired driver turned up on time, but we soon realized that his A/C was broken.
“Too expensive to fix it,” he explained. “Sorry.”
Not a good sign on a sweltering hot afternoon, but he said the ride took only an hour, so I had no problem sweating it out. We puttered along in Francisco’s old pickup truck as swarms of cars passed us on the Pan-American Highway. I knew we were going slow but had no idea how slow because Francisco’s speedometer was also broken.
As we neared the border, we passed a few security checkpoints where police officers checked for illegal immigrants, guns and drugs. The homes on the side of the road were smaller and more improvised the closer we got to the border and even before we arrived in Nicaragua it seemed as though we’d left the middle-class comforts of Costa Rica behind.
Our hotel in San Juan del Sur, the terrific Villas de Palermo, hooked us up with a company called Iskra Travel that was supposed to transport us from the border to San Juan del Sur for $45. But the driver was supposed to meet us at the border at 1 p.m. and Francisco was sputtering along so slowly that we didn’t reach it until 1:30, and we hadn’t even cleared customs yet, so I had no idea if the driver would wait for us on the other side.
There was a long line of travelers waiting to get into Costa Rica but when we asked where to enter Nicaragua, people in line pointed off in the distance. There’s a no man’s land that must be a good mile long between the two countries with very little shade. It was sweltering – easily 90 degrees (probably more) – and we were transporting two small kids, a stroller and a few pieces of luggage.
By the time we reached a uniformed Nicaraguan border guard, my shirt was completely soaked through in sweat. Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949, so the border area isn’t the kind of tense frontier where photography is a problem. I took advantage of the loose atmosphere by snapping a photo of my wife as the Nicaraguan border control officer examined her passport.
I assumed we were going to be waved into the country in a matter of moments but the guard had a problem with our passports. My wife and I both have very mediocre high school Spanish and it took us a few minutes to realize that he wanted us to go back to Costa Rica to get an exit stamp.
He said we all had to go back, not just me, and I wasn’t about to walk the mile in the hot sun with all the baggage again, so I hired a rickshaw driver to cycle us back to Costa Rica (see photo below).
At first, I was annoyed by the hassle, but within just a few seconds of being on the rickshaw my mood brightened considerably. There was a light breeze and being carted around felt like a beautiful little luxury that was well worth the $8 (round trip) our driver asked for.
Back in Costa Rica, we were directed around to the back of the immigration building to a room that was empty save a few officers at their desks. Lots of people were waiting to get into Costa Rica but we were the only ones leaving.
“They sent you back for exit stamps?” asked the Costa Rican officer, watching the beads of sweat pore off my chin onto my T-shirt.
“Yep,” I said, and the officer and a colleague sitting next to him laughed, as if our exertion was the most amusing thing they’d experienced in years.
On the way back to Nicaragua, our rickshaw driver asked me how much I paid for my camera. Given the situation, I wasn’t eager to admit that it cost $1,200, so I lied and said, “$100” (see video).
“I’ll give you a hundred for it,” he said.
“No thanks,” I said. “I need my camera.”
“OK, $150,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said. “But my camera is not for sale.”
“But I need a camera,” he pleaded.
I just ignored him and soon enough we were back talking to the same Nicaraguan official and this time he stamped us in. But our brush with Nicaraguan officialdom wasn’t quite over. We walked another few hundred meters and then stood around in the hot sun wondering where to meet our driver from Iskra Travel. We were 90 minutes late and I assumed he’d given up on us.
A trio of young men came by to hector us about buying forms from them. I was sure it was a scam and ignored them, but my wife, who is from a small town in the Midwest and can’t help but be nice to everyone – even annoying pests and con-men – entertained their sales pitches.
“They have badges,” she said, “they seem official.”
I examined the peskiest guy’s badge and confirmed that he worked for some travel agency, not the government. He wanted us to pay $1 for immigration forms that were supposed to be free. We headed off to the east of the road toward a cluster of buildings and noticed two car rental companies: Alamo and National – good choices if you want to use a company that has offices at the border.
We gravitated to a line where we paid about $4 to a bored looking clerk who then pointed us to another line right across from his booth. As we stood in that line, my older son made a card with his birthday and half-birthday on it to give to the Nicaraguans (see photo above) and a mentally-disabled person began to emit piercing calls, followed by maniacal laughter and ear-to-ear smiles. My older son covered his ears and everyone else smiled nervously or gave him some coins. It was a welcome to Nicaragua I’ll never forget.
A man carrying a sign with my name on it emerged and I was thrilled and amazed that he had waited for us. We made it to the front of the next line and the clerk asked us for $48 U.S. to enter the country. I handed him three $20 bills and then struggled to understand why he wasn’t handing us back our passports.
Clearly there was a problem with our poor Spanish; we couldn’t for the life of us understand what it was. I confirmed once more that he wanted $48 and pointed to the pile of bills I’d given him totaling $60. After a few minutes of mutual incomprehension, someone behind us in line came forward to interpret.
“He says one of your $20 bills is no good,” the man said, before handing what looked like a perfectly good 20 back to me.
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked, totally confused.
“He says there is a crease in the bill.”
The bill looked fine to me but luckily I had another one in my wallet that he found acceptable. After much ado, we were finally, officially allowed to enter Nicaragua.
Within a matter of minutes, we could see the twin volcano peaks of Ometepe Island rising like pyramids across Lake Cocibolca and we were bathed in the lovely artificial frost of fully functioning A/C. It felt great to be in Nicaragua.
The reed thin drunk was just barely sober enough to avoid being flattened by a rampaging bull. The crowd roared when he broke into a nifty little dance, complete with somersaults and a crash but many were also hoping that he’d be trampled (see video). I was rooting for the harassed bulls to teach the dozens of insane men in the ring a lesson, but I dared not admit that to anyone. Costa Rican law mandates that a cowboy should be sober while riding a bull, but there is no such requirement for the spectators, even though many of them choose to be part of the action, right in the ring.
I’m not much of a rodeo guy but they are an integral part of the culture in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, so when we heard about Expo Liberia, a rodeo and carnival that was supposed to be one of the biggest and best in the area, we decided to check it out.
As we entered the fairgrounds just off the Pan-American Highway in Liberia, a regional hub in Guanacaste, a police officer approached us with a warning.
“Be very, very careful here,” he said. “There are a lot of criminals and drug addicts around.”
Not exactly what you want to hear any time, but particularly not with your wife and two small children in tow. Nonetheless, we appreciated the warning and the fact that there were police officers everywhere. We walked past a row of bars that were competing to see who could play the loudest music from the most distorted speakers (see video). I’m not sure who won but the fact that there were so few customers at most of the bars seemed to amplify the noise and absurdity of the situation.
One of the bars had a guy singing what sounded like Costa Rican show tunes and it was completely empty. We felt horrible for him but not bad enough to subject ourselves to the music for more than a few seconds.
My kids had fun squandering a large chunk of our hard earned money on rides, inflatable jumpy houses and cotton candy and I was dismayed but also impressed to see freelance port-o-potty entrepreneurs charging the equivalent of a dollar to use their facilities. A host of small children hassled us to buy them tickets for rides and we almost succumbed until one of the Costa Rican carnies intervened.
“Their parents are here,” he warned. “You don’t have to buy them anything.”
“Where are they?” I asked.
“Probably at the bars,” he said, gesturing toward where the distorted, pulsating music was coming from.
After my kids had exhausted their tickets, we gravitated toward the rodeo ring, where my sons watched in fascination as a group of jeering men and boys poked, prodded and harassed a pair of confined bulls. They were obviously getting them in an agitated state for the evening’s show but I decided that I didn’t want to support their endeavor by buying tickets, even at just $4 a pop. (Though apparently the bulls aren’t actually harmed in Costa Rican rodeos).
But as we were wandering around the side of the ring, we noticed that there were just as many people, it not more, watching the show for free under the stands. Curiosity got the best of us, so we stood alongside other cheapskates and vendors, who flogged little bags of fruity drinks, nuts and other treats, and settled in for the show.
“All these people standing underneath the stands, this doesn’t seem safe,” said Jen, my wife. “What if this thing collapses on us- we’ll all be dead.”
I pondered this prospect and considered what a small news item it would be in the U.S. Dozens perish as Costa Rican rodeo stands collapse. But as soon as the first bucking bull came charging out of the gate, our attention shifted from the rickety stands to the action unfolding in front of us.
There were scores of men- and not a single woman- standing around in the ring, but I had (wrongly) assumed that they would take their seats once the action started. After the sabanero (cowboy) was thrown off of the bull, attention shifted to all the men in the ring. Some of them appeared to be trying to taunt and smack the bull, while more prudent guys hopped up on the side of the wooden stands to steer clear of the beast.
For the first few seconds, the bull was angry and he actively charged a few men. But then he kind of just pulled up and stopped dead in his tracks, as if to say, fuck this, I am not going to take the bait and chase you macho assholes around this ring. A few of the men tried to bait him but he just stood his ground and glared at them. Eventually, as the men became more aggressive, he took the bait and started charging, sending all but the most clinically insane scurrying up onto the lower wooden rungs of the stands.
I asked a woman standing next to us why there were no women in the ring and she chuckled.
“We’re too smart,” she said.
The scene repeated itself time and time again. The men wanted action and needed to harass the bulls to galvanize them to play along. I don’t care for the idea of proving one’s masculinity by tormenting animals and it was hard to reconcile why so many guys wanted to be in the ring.
I didn’t stay long enough to witness any injuries but apparently it’s common for at least a few people to get trampled each night. Brian Wedge, a photographer from Maine who blogged about an evening he spent at a Costa Rican rodeo, actually photographed people lying injured in ambulances at the rodeo he attended in 2011.
But while I didn’t get a kick out of the tormenting of the bulls, I loved the dancing, strutting drunk guy who commanded our attention. As you can see from the video above, he was, when he could remain upright, a very good dancer.
After nearly an hour of watching the spectacle from underneath the stands, we’d had more than enough. I was happy to escape before the stands collapsed or a bull came smashing through the flimsy wooden beams that separated us from him. But I wished I could have taken the bulls with me to spare them the indignity of sticking around to provide amusement to the locals.
I’ve never thought of surfing as a hyper-competitive sport. For me, it’s more of a lifestyle. I’m not a surfer but I’ve met scores of people over the years that have rearranged their lives to be in proximity to the big breaks. I can understand why surfers might want to compete so they can measure their skills against others but the surfing culture doesn’t exactly lend itself to competition.
It’s more dude-pass-that-joint than let’s-throw-down-I’m-going-to-whip-you, so when I was invited to attend and write about a surf competition/bacchanal called Pitaya Fest in San Juan del Sur, (SJDS) Nicaragua, I leapt at the chance to see what competitive surfing was all about.On a Saturday morning in February, I piled into a stifling hot van outside a backpacker hostel in SJDS with my wife and two little boys and found myself sitting knee-to-knee across from a host of beautifully idealistic young American do-gooders and a pair of German girls wearing royal blue T-shirts that read “Christian Surfers.”
The do-gooders were a delightful group of young people who were taking a year or more off after college to help people in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and they regaled us with stories, including one about a girl they encountered who gave birth at age 9. I got the feeling that they’d learned more in their brief time in Central America than they did in college.
As we struggled to hold our ground on the bench seats as the van breakdanced across a rutted dirt track toward Hermosa Beach, outside SJDS, I wanted to bottle up the group of idealistic Americans and release them the next time someone anywhere in the world tells me that Americans are greedy, selfish people who don’t lift a finger to help anyone else in the world.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, next to Haiti, and it’s impossible for anyone with a conscience to visit the country and not feel motivated to help the legions of poor people who live in improvised, ramshackle dwellings alongside almost every major road in the country. Plenty of tourists come to Nicaragua for the beaches and the prospect of a cheap holiday, but are motivated to stay on as volunteers after they arrive.
Playa Hermosa is a lovely, huge, crescent-shaped beach where some scenes from Survivor Nicaragua were shot in 2010. I was told that the abysmal road leading to the beach was even worse before Jeff Probst and company rolled into town. Before we made it into the event, we passed by a security checkpoint manned by a guy with a bulletproof vest brandishing what looked like an old AK-47. In the last few years, a few tourists have been robbed in around Playa Hermosa, so they now have security to protect what is one of the country’s few privately owned beaches.
The surfing competition was already a few hours into its second day when we arrived and the first competitors we saw must have been part of a beginners’ heat, because they appeared to have no idea what they were doing. In fact, none managed to remain upright on their boards for more than ten seconds at a time.
The event appeared to be co-sponsored by the Christian Surfers group (Quicksilver was the primary sponsor) but the DJ’s choice in music wasn’t very Christian. One of the first songs we heard went something like this:
(Unintelligible) Mumble, mumble, mumble Shake that ass girl (Unintelligible) Mumble, mumble, mumble, Shake that ass girl
Later in the day, my wife saw the Christian Surfer group sitting in a circle on the beach, holding hands, eyes closed in prayer. Perhaps they were praying for everyone’s sins.
The sizable crowd was a fair sampling of the gringos who wash up in SJDS as visitors or expats. Backpackers in need of a shower and some clean laundry. White guys in dreadlocks with their tattooed, wasted-looking girlfriends and poorly groomed dogs. Middle-aged North American snowbirds, missionaries and assorted cheapskates looking for a cut-rate version of Costa Rica. Alcoholics attracted by Nicaragua’s cheap rum. Miscellaneous mid-life crisis and I’m here to change-my-life or maybe catch-something-that-I-might-be-ashamed-of types. The aforementioned do-gooders. Surfers, wannabe surfers and their dogs, some of them with coffee colored skin and incongruous orange-colored hair.
Aspiring North American coffee-shop revolutionaries in Panama hats and Che Guevara T-shirts who like totally aspire to stop the military industrial complex, global warming and the genocide in Darfur and various other places they know nothing about. Unemployable Latin American studies majors who aspire to start NGOs with vague goals involving “sustainability” and “empowerment.” Nicaraguans with substantial coolers sitting on uncomfortable white plastic chairs or lying on hammocks plus assorted riff-raff and ne-er-do-wells like me.
The surfing and the music got better. Much better. And the people mentioned above got more drunk and more stoned. At noon, I smelled my first whiff of ganja and wondered whether the surf announcer, who tried to sound like the beachside equivalent of Andres Cantor, the Latino soccer announcer famous for his GOOOOOOOOOOOAL! calls, would ever shut up.
Surfing isn’t much of a spectator sport but surfers make damn good company and they know how to party. I made a few lame attempts to understand what was going on, but it’s hard to stay engaged with a competition that has 56 different divisions and drags on for hours or days on end. From what I gathered, the surfers had 15 minutes in each heat to ride as many waves as they could, but only their two best rides counted towards their overall score.
Set back from the beach, there was a stage and a lineup of bands, plus a host of booths offering everything from $1.50 rum and cokes, chocolate cookies to pulled pork sandwiches.
I met a 40-something expat volunteering at a BBQ pit who told me that he moved to SJDS in 2009 to “do something different.” He said that that the town’s real estate market mirrored that of the U.S. There was a boom from 2004-7, followed by a bust and a sputter that lingers to this day.
“A piece of land that was 25K in 2007 was going for about 15k by 2009,” he said.
My children made friends with some gringo expat kids whose parents moved to SJDS from Lesotho (seriously!) and I met a host of interesting people as well. I was struck by how open and friendly people were and how easy it is to become part of this community in a place that I would assume is as transient as they come. I met more interesting people in six hours on the beach than I would in six months in Chicago. And I found out that the event was a fundraiser for local charities, which inspired me to have a few more rum and cokes, in order to support the good cause.
At 2 p.m., the surf competition DJ, operating under a tent on the beach, wisely shifted from the angry gansta rap to Bob Marley’s “Legend” compilation. What’s a surf gathering without some Bob Marley, right? Fifteen minutes later, a band took the stage and launched into Marley’s “So Much Trouble in the World” as the DJ played “Stir It Up” simultaneously. Competing Bob Marley tunes was still better than the gangsta rap (see video below).
Shortly thereafter, a small Nicaraguan guy in a faded tank top began puking just yards behind my little patch of shade underneath a tree behind the surf tents.
He was serenaded by a group of inebriated hippies who were mashing it up to Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier.”
Fighting on the Rye-ver, Fighting for Survival Wye-yo-yo, Wye-yo-yo-yo, Wye-yo-yo-yo-yo!
Soon, a succession of drinkers followed, one-by-one, to piss in my general vicinity and I decided to move from what was becoming a de-facto toilet.
By three o’clock, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone as a “Grease” cover band called Bario La Planeta launched into their set. Only in Nicaragua can you wash up at a beach and find yourself singing “Go Grease Lightning” in the company of of junkies, flunkies, do-gooders and gringos with baffled looking Nicaraguans looking on in puzzlement (see video).
Late in the afternoon, guys and gals who actually knew how to surf – and how to surf well – got into the act but I still had no idea what the hell was going on and I’m pretty sure that most in attendance didn’t gave a damn who won. I’m told the party raged until 3 a.m. and Agusto Chamorro won the men’s open competition. In the world of competitive, but not exactly cutthroat surfing, I’m betting that none of the “losers” left the beach broken hearted.