Nicaragua is well-known for its surfing, available year-round, with beaches for both beginner and experienced surfers. From San Juan del Sur to Popoyo, there are many great places to surf in Nicaragua, all along the Pacific coast. With its beginner beaches, affordable surf lessons and a variety of accommodation options, San Juan del Sur was the perfect spot to try surfing for the first time in Nicaragua.
Learning to surf was an activity I really wanted to try in Nicaragua. That and volcano boarding, however, volcano boarding is something very different from surfing, but also super fun.
If you haven’t tried surfing before, or are a beginner, here is the one thing you need to know:
Be prepared to fall, and I mean A LOT. While learning, I fell so many times that I lost count. Every time, I would get back onto the surfboard and try, again and again, all day until my body was exhausted, but it was so much fun.
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Surfing in San Juan del Sur
At beginner surfing beaches, from the shore, you walk out into the water until you are about waist height, climb up onto your board, which can be its own challenge, then laying on your tummy, you use your hands like a paddle to bring yourself further out into the water. You wait there while checking over your shoulder to see if a wave is coming.
When you spot a wave, you begin to start paddling forward towards the shore as fast as you can, and if you catch the wave, quickly move into a standing position and ride all the way in towards the shoreline. Then you repeat the process, over and over again, until tired or the sun sets.
When your surfboard enters the wave, you have to be quick to stand up. If not, you will fall off your surfboard, or miss it and have to try again.
Note: You will strap your board around your ankle so it won’t be separated from you when you fall into the water.
Safety Tip: When you fall off your board and go underwater, make sure you place your forearms in front of your head, to ensure the board does not hit your head. The water isn’t crazy, but you never know how or where you are going to fall, or where the board will land. It’s always important to keep safety in mind.
What Do I Need to Know to Learn to Surf?
You don’t need any special skills to learn to surf. Some upper body strength and balance will help make learning to surf easier.
Surfing is similar to snowboarding on how you ride the board. It is different in other ways. If you know how to snowboard, chances are you find surfing easier than if you haven’t snowboarded.
Advice for a Beginner Surfer
Take a surfing lesson if you haven’t ever tried surfing before. Without a surf lesson, I would not have known what I was doing, and probably not had any fun or gotten the chance to ride a wave.
I always skip lessons of activities if I can, to save some money, but with certain activities like surfing, I recommend taking a surfing lesson, unless you already know the basics. If you have already completed a surf lesson, you can grab a board and head straight to the beach.
What To Pack / Rent to Surf:
Rashguard (optional, but recommended) – mine was provided with my lesson
Surfboard – should be included with a surf lesson, if not, you can rent/bring one
Your willingness to learn and not give up too easy
A small amount of money for food and drink
Where to Rent a Surfboard in San Juan del Sur
There are a few surf shops in San Juan del Sur to rent a board from for the day. That’s what I did. I apologize that I don’t recall the name of the particular shop I went to.
You can possibly arrange with the shop to deliver the surfboard to the beach. This is easier if you are taking a lesson with them. The shop delivered the surfboard to the lesson location, I had my surf lesson with them, then at the end of the day, they came and picked up the board.
Beginner Surf Beach – El Remanzo, Nicaragua
El Remanzo is located just 20 minutes outside of San Juan del Sur. There are also intermediate and advanced beaches nearby, although I did not go to either of those due to my lack of surfing experience and limited time in Nicaragua.
Remanzo beach is a good beach for beginners. The water is not too deep, the waves are not too high, and the beach is not very crowded, which makes for a great first experience.
Tips for Surfing in Nicaragua
Tip: Be careful with your personal belongings. I arranged with the beach restaurant owner to watch my stuff for the day. A fellow traveler at the beach got his wallet and belongings stolen from the beach while he was surfing all day. His items were placed on the beach.
Even though the beach is not crowded, it’s always good to protect your belongings, as this can happen in any country, not just Nicaragua. I lock up my stuff whenever possible, or stay near it at all times while traveling. Don’t carry large quantities of money or any valuables with you to the beach.
Bring only what money you will need to buy food and drinks, and keep your valuables in your accommodation safely locked up.
Tip: Wear a long sleeve rashguard, if possible. Unfortunately, our rental only included a short-sleeve rashguard, which I soon learned wasn’t the best idea. I ended up with board rash all over my forearms from all the friction of my arms on the board, but the board rash quickly went away the next day or so. It was painful to the touch, but it luckily healed fast.
What It’s Like – Surfing in Nicaragua
It was my first time surfing, and I was excited to be trying a new activity, in a country I was visiting for the first time. I had heard such good things about surfing in Nicaragua online and at my local adventure show, and although, no one I know had gone, I was ready to give it a try.
I visited San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in late June. It was a beautiful day, sunny and windy, which was perfect for surfing.
We started our day at a surf shop, arranging a surfing lesson and transportation of the surfboards to the beach. We headed to the beginner beach, El Remanzo. Once at the beach, I admired the beauty and the lack of people at the beach. It was perfect. Definitely my kind of beach – secluded and beautiful.
It was time to learn how to surf.
The surf lesson began out of the water. We practiced foot positions, learned where to stand on the board, and surfing safety. Once comfortable with all the knowledge acquired on land, it was time to apply it in the ocean. One at a time, we would go, and the instructor would watch.
I let Patrick go first, so I can see what it’s like and if I would be able to handle it. He did pretty okay for a beginner, so that raised my confidence.
Now it was my turn to try surfing. Here I go. I picked up my surfboard and headed straight for the water.
Once out in the water, fumbling a bit, I was able to get on the board and paddle out to slightly deeper water.
I started looking for waves. I was ready to give it a go.
Here comes a wave. Paddle, paddle, paddle, and I missed it. Awk shucks. That’s okay, I’ll try again.
Here comes another wave. Paddle, paddle, paddle, okay, I’m catching this one. Try and stand up, nope, nope, nope, can’t get up quick enough. Down I went, falling off the board and crashing into the water. That’s okay. It felt good to catch the wave, at least for a moment. I will try again.
Another wave. Paddle, paddle, paddle, here I go. I managed to stand up, and woohoo, I’m surfing! Look at me! I’m actually doing it! I was so happy that I made it and could actually stand up.
Our lesson completed, it was time to spend the rest of the day surfing.
Throughout the afternoon, I went out and I was not very good at surfing, but I was having fun, so that was fine by me. I don’t really have beginner’s luck with adventure activities.
P having more upper body strength than me was much quicker to get his body upright in time to ride the waves many times. I managed to get part way up a few times, and only up entirely once, but that was successful to me.
It’s so much fun when you get up, but it definitely makes for a tiring day.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t physically paddle anymore, my arms exhausted. But then again, I don’t have very much upper body strength, so maybe it was just me.
Surfing was surprisingly fun and I would definitely be willing to go surfing again sometime.
Hope this information helped you with surfing in Nicaragua. Happy travelling!
Have you been surfing in Nicaragua or tried it elsewhere? I’d love to hear all about your experience. Haven’t gone surfing? I would love to hear whether you would try surfing or not in the comments below.