Going Solo

May Kwok Explores the Pleasures of Traveling Alone in Her Central America Surf Travel Diary

January 4, 2018

I’m sitting here on the beach, toes in the sand, staring at the Pacific Ocean in Popoyo, Nicaragua on my last day of a three-week solo surf trip. I began the trip not knowing the people or waves I’d encounter, but I ended my journey with new lifelong friends and stoked that I got to ride some of the best waves of my life!

I’ve always been a late bloomer.

I’ve always been a late bloomer. I was definitely an ugly duckling who luckily has grown up to be an empowered woman, partly because over the past few years I’ve fallen so deeply in love with surfing and its history and culture. I’m proud that I’ve challenged myself to become a female surfer—I did it after years of admiring surfers, watching videos, wiping out, overcoming fear, and dedicating my life to the lifestyle—but there is still so, so much to learn. Despite all this, I was nervous about going on a solo trip. It made me feel nervous and uneasy, especially heading to a country more known for its violence than its beautiful beaches.

I don’t believe in religion, but I do believe the universe has a plan for all of us. I enjoy spiritually connecting with myself and because of my hectic career and lifestyle. I am constantly surrounded by people and I’m always socially connected—so I craved being alone with my thoughts and the ocean. I set out with the hope that this trip would help me reset, manifest my desires, and allow me to appreciate all the beautiful experiences this universe has given me and open me up to new creative flows for 2018.

Me at El Sunzal

Week 1

I arrive at Casa De Mar right outside of El Salvador’s El Sunzal’s Point Break—the hotel is quite nicely done but really all I cared about is the fact that I could grab a board and immediately paddle into the ocean. The break is a long, fat, very forgiving, easy rolling right point break—a challenge since I’ve become accustomed to left breaks in NYC. But the waves are super consistent with a channel for me to easily paddle out, and it’s a very popular spot for longboarders like me. I surf twice a day, two hours each session and practice my backside all week. On the second day, I paddle in with 19 guys and just me… talk about intimidating. I still line up—and I’m proud of myself for not giving into the fear… On my last day, a bigger swell comes in: 4-6ft face waves. I get nervous and hire an instructor—a.k.a. safety blanket for this day—and catch probably one of the biggest wave of my life, maybe even almost get barreled? All jokes aside… This break is So. Damn. Fun.

Surfed 0 waves at Maderas

Week 2

I head over to Playa Maderas, Nicaragua. I’m here to DJ at Maderas Village’s annual NYE event and am hoping to catch some waves as well. Of course, with my luck, there is very minimal swell, but I do end up hungover party waving with some of my new friends on New Year’s Day. So not a total loss!

Sunset Popoyo

Week 3

Fragile and exhausted from Maderas, I head to Popoyo, Nicaragua for some rest and relaxation—and of course, I’m hoping for some good rides after being shut out at Maderas—but the conditions are a flat bummer. I do manage to catch a few very tiny rides on my last day which is all one can really ask for and also got to experience some of the most beautiful, fiery red Supermoon sunsets ever I’ve seen.

I will be taking many more solo vacations in the future in search of another perfect wave. I left this trip feeling so inspired and really understanding the true meaning and intention of the classic surf film Endless Summer. I’m lusting for the chance to surf a swell similar to those El Sunzal waves and can’t wait till I find it again.

Overall, surfing is very intimating whether it’s joining a crowded lineup, battling heavy waves, or paddling in with a badass surfer you highly admire or watching everyone else be so goddamn good at the sport that you end up feeling small and overwhelmed. But I accept the challenge every time I paddle in, and I appreciate learning something new about the ocean, the waves, or myself every time. I encourage all other girls who want to one day surf, to just… surf. And to remember the best surfer is the one who’s having the most fun.

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