The whole prAna crew arrived into Managua around the same time, from different places on the mainland, and me from Hawai’i. It was surreal seeing my friend Will Adler who I went to Lainaluna High School with briefly and used to surf with as a grom, show up as a part of the crew. After what seemed like ten years later, here we are in Nicaragua. Memories of surfing with Will, his brother and his mom came flooding in. A comfortable feeling of family sunk in. Turns out, Will was there to shoot with one of his best friends, the great Morgan Massen, our feature photographer and videographer. What are the chances?
We make our rounds, meeting new faces, and giving hugs to familiar ones. Amy Ippoliti and I had been on a trip with prAna the year before, and were all smiles in greeting. Nole Cossart was new to the prAna team, but long friends of Morgan, Will and Chadd Konigg. The world suddenly seemed more connected.
We all hopped into a large van, boards sky-high strapped to the roof, and began our two-hour drive to Playa Gigante into the night. From the headlights we could only gather that we were passing by ranch and farmlands, with hardly any homes in sight. As we neared our destination, the driver stopped to point out the black tarantula spiders crossing the road. Thrills and curiosity ran up my spine realizing the wild we were in. I couldn’t wait for day.
In the dark of night we arrived to a Spanish-style home easily able to sleep the seven of us. As surf pounded up the cliff walls, we settled ourselves into our living quarters for the next four nights, sleepy excitement fluttering around the house.
With morning wafted the smell of rice and beans, effortlessly bringing me to my feet. I came up the stairs to a local woman breezing through the kitchen, preparing the glorious breakfast that nourished me throughout the day. Her sidekick was a striking woman, nearly my age, with a rosy-cheeked smile that instantly magnetized me to give her a hug. Without saying much I knew Carly and I were soul sisters.
Carly and her boyfriend, Bo, were residents of Playa Gigante who ran a non-profit in the area, and who also surfed. Having lived there for years, Bo and Carly were able to take us directly to their favorite spots for surfing, hiking, doing yoga, stand up paddling and cliff jumping. Carly was a yoga instructor and, before we knew it, we were dressing her up and having her shoot the fun with us!
It was nice having Carly and Amy for female company amidst all the men around us. “The boys” are awesome, don’t get me wrong, deh my braddahs, but as a woman it’s always nice to have other gals to help balance the scene. Not only that, but to have another gal to surf with makes for an easy-going session. Guys are high-octane. They jones for the beast: the beast wave, the beast cliff dives, the beast whatever the adventure. It’s really amazing, and terrifying, for me to imagine doing half the stuff they do. Having another girl to go to a mellower spot with, where we can have fun and still push ourselves, I feel, is the best way to elevate to our own potential—the girly way. And that’s exactly what we did.
The days went by in a blur, each day more amazing than the last. From beautiful yoga sessions under a (I can think of no other word than the Hawaiian word) Hale over-looking a magical bay, boat ride adventures seeking waves of solitude, sunsets beckoning a moment to reflect, to oddly entertaining circus performances in Playa Gigante. The dream was real. I was living it.
One boat ride, we ended up at a mile-long stretch of beach with perfectly peeling, head-high, glassy waves, fantastically made for my longboard. The sun lit the waters into an amazing array of aqua hues. The forgiving faces of the wave let me dance up to the nose, feeling ocean flowing through my dangling toes. Giggles of delight bellowed from my grateful chest, giving thanks to whatever magical force created this planet, and this place, and me. After each wave I’d kick out to look back at my prAna brothers, Nole and Chadd, crouching into playful barrels, coming out with sun soaked, saltwater smiles. It wasn’t just me giggling.
Standing waist deep in the shore break, I could hear Will and Morgan cracking wise between waves, cameras at the ready, reminding me of childhood days: care-free and happy. I would sit up on my board and take a few minutes to take in the scenery, and the people surrounding me. One goal of mine I try to live up to everyday is to slow time down by taking moments like this to breathe in all the goodness in life. I came to realize we were all kids doing grown-up things, living out our wildest dreams: traveling to exotic locations and playing, all in the name of work. Pains started shooting through my jaws from the smile plastered on my face.
Life in Playa Gigante seemed so slow and relaxed: fishermen stood by their boats at the ready, livestock meandered through the dirt streets, women casually took care of the days essentials, hogs nearly my height rooted around unperturbed by our fascination, colorful homes adorned the vibrant green jungles, and the smiles. Every person we passed seemed to have the same smile I had, the smile being our main form of communication.
After traveling to a different part of the world I always take a piece of that place home with me, incorporating some part of the lifestyle into mine, to help remind my senses to connect back to that time I was in Nicaragua. So I smile.