I could be biased, so weight that into my opinion as I spit it out here…but Rivas kind of sucks! Yeah, if I didn’t know anything about other regions of Nicaragua and it was 10 years ago and I stumbled on an empty lineup at Rancho Santana, Popoyo or Colorados, I’d be frothing and running back to my friends saying that I had found the new promised land. That’s pretty much what happened…and the sheeple came. I couldn’t tell you exactly how many tour operators there are down there, but I can think of 10 off the top of my head. That doesn’t include every other casita and home for rent for the traveling tourist, most of which are surfers. The result is that it’s pretty impacted. It was waist high and devilishly side shore at Popoyo when we arrived…but 20 surfers huddled on the peak scrapping for waves. Outer reef Popoyo had big beautiful waves that were being destroyed by the wind. Rancho Santana had some fun waist to shoulder high waves at 1st and 2nd peak, but the lineup was shoulder to shoulder making it almost impossible to sneak a set wave from the pack. Locals, Brazos, Learn to Surfs, Speed bumps, Longboarders, Rippers and Rastovich wanna be’s all graced the lineup together. It wasn’t high pressure or bad vibes, but it was too crowded.
While there my friend Jared hosted us and guided for us as we were new to the area (I know…2 years in Nicaragua and this was our first real forray into the most popular surf zone in Nicaragua). Unfortunately with his intimate knowledge of the area came the intimate knowledge of the crime. I was approached several times by drug dealers, including the infamous “Elvis” whose plied his negative trade there for years. Of course the corruption I read about was no where to be found, in fact I think the lack of police presence is part of the spate of petty crime that plagues those who leave their valuable in their cars or even their ‘chancletas’ on the beach. Despite the beauty of the beach and the energetic vacation atmosphere, the underlying bad taste left by the threat of petty crime tainted the whole recipe.
What I sussed from the trip was how lucky we are to be nestled away in our little corner here at Miramar. I realized Shifty’s, Transito, Shacks, Miramar, Pipes and Salinas were all as good as the waves found in Rivas. On any given day we surf better waves with less crowds and with way more surfable hours in the day…which I think is what it all boils down to…how much time can I spend standing up on my board, how many barrels and how many good turns I can burn into my memory in a week. We don’t have the crime that seems to be following the dollar flinging tourists that see only Rivas as a viable destination in Nicaragua. Our roads are paved all the way here, our power outages are fewer and shorter, we have Leon, Lake Managua, Volcanos, Chinandega breaks, Punta San Diego and other spots all within striking distance. Drugs are not being pushed around here and there are still only 3 1/2 surf camps in operation. I hope it stays that way for a while longer. I wouldn’t move away if it got that crowded here….I’d just use my local knowledge to hit the sweet spots and manage the lineup if/when it was crowded. For now though, I realize on a surf trip to Nicaragua, you’d be crazy to stay anywhere else but here! As much as I try to weigh my potential bias into that equation, it still comes out the same…don’t go to Rivas.