Adventure With a Purpose: Surf and Serve in Nicaragua
Clif athletes Forrest Shearer, Pete Devries, and Abby Brown travel to Las Salinas, Nicaragua with Clif content strategist Paige Dunn to surf and serve with Hope Corps.
It might have been 11 a.m. in Managua, Nicaragua, but my body told me otherwise. The red eye in only provided a 4-hour period of “rest,” and the kink in my neck was not the best wake up call. But we had finally made it, and as our crew exchanged hugs, handshakes, and welcoming words with one another, I knew the adventure awaiting us would make up for any loss of sleep.
Clif athletes Forrest Shearer, Pete Devries, and joined us at the airport. Clif invited this threesome along for an adventure that combined ocean time with the chance to give back to the community that welcomed us for the week.
A three hour ride through villages and dry river crossings eventually led us to our base for the next five days—Las Salinas de Nahualapa, an indigenous coastal community situated on the south Pacific coast of Nicaragua. There was no hesitation when we arrived—we dropped our bags, grabbed our boards, and hit the water within minutes.
Perched atop a headland with 270-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, the expansive views from the Magnific Rock Hotel let us take in the most incredible scenery any of us have ever experienced. As the sun dropped into the ocean on that first night, the sky glowed bright orange and pink above the ragged rocks that pierce the shore. It didn’t matter that our time in the water had been short, we were filled with stoke and knew the next few days would give us endless opportunities to explore the waves up and down the coast.
We spent our first night with our Hope Corps hosts, Bo Fox and Lisa Bisceglia. Their organization, which is a subsidiary of Surf For Life, takes volunteers (like our Clif crew) on trips to explore a new culture and do something meaningful to positively impact that community.
Intrigued by the work Hope Corps is doing, not only in Nicaragua but all over the world, we wanted to experience their idea of adventure for ourselves. Bo and Lisa shared that Hope Corps has been doing community service in the Las Salinas area of Nicaragua for many years now, and we would be helping out with their fifth project in the region.
Hope Corps is spending the summer working at the Las Salinas School with the goal of adding a new roof, knocking down a school wall, building a new music room, and supplying the music room with instruments for the student marching band.
During our stay in Las Salinas, Hope Corps needed to knock down walls between three adjoining classrooms to build the music room. Then they’ll sand and repaint larger space to create a communal room where kids will be able to listen to, learn, and play music for many years to come.
As the booming tourism industry in and around Las Salinas attracts more and more families, the number of students in the school has been growing. The school was founded in 1940 to serve 1st through 4th graders. But now there are over 400 students in both elementary and secondary school, all of whom attend Las Salinas School. The school needs help from the community to manage this intense population growth—and that’s where Hope Corps fits in.
We were set to work at the school on our first full day in Nicaragua, but dawn patrol called first. Lucky for us, Magnific Rock is home to some of the best waves in the southern region of Nicaragua.
A post-surf breakfast of fresh fruit smoothies and eggs powered us up for the work that was ahead of us that day. We were on site at the school by 9a.m., where we were greeted by the construction team. Although most of us didn’t speak Spanish, smiles need no translation, and we knew we were in good hands.
The sledgehammers came out and our Clif athletes jumped right in, kicking things off with a bit of demo work. The apple green paint covering the walls cracked off as with swing after swing, the bricks started to crumble. Old bricks were hauled away, walls were sanded, and we prepped the area for the next day.
Back at Magnific Rock, the afternoon discussion revolved around where the next surf session would take place. Our home base is centrally located to all of Popoyo's most acclaimed surf break. There was no shortage of awesome options: Popoyo's main break, The Outer Reef (world-class heavy, heaving wall not for the faint-hearted), and Santana’s Break (fast, hollow beach break that catches the most swells). The group ultimately decided a sunset session at Santana’s was on tap, so we grabbed our boards and off we went.
Over the next few days, we settled into our routine, and the pairing of surf time with work time proved to be incredibly rewarding. We earned our waves, felt good about giving back to the community where we played, and managed to still squeeze in nap time every once in a while.
Five days was definitely not enough time to enjoy the incredible adventure and awesome beauty this area has to offer. But our crew felt lucky that we could contribute to a great project and experience some of the best waves in the world at the same time. And we all left assured that this would not be our last visit to Nicaragua, nor would it be our last experience with Hope Corps.
Our time in Las Salinas reframed the idea of adventure for us. We found that giving back to the community where you play not only makes the adventure more rewarding, but sometimes it provides the actual adventure itself.