“My God, I’m Sharing The Camp With Eighteen Maniac Bodyboarders!”
You never know where you’ll end up and who you’ll meet on the road through Nicaragua.
Finding last minute accommodations for this trip required I lean into the role of Blanche Dubois.
Heavily depending on the kindness of strangers, it only really came together thanks to the lovely assistance of La Barra Surf Resort, Thunderbomb Surf Camp, and tomorrow’s destination, Two Brothers Surf Resort.
It’s a five-plus hour drive from Aposentillo, where Thunderbomb is located, to Popoyo, where Two Brothers is hosting me. It’s an adventure I’m looking forward to with equal parts anticipation and dread.
But I’m currently still relaxing poolside after my second session of the day at Thunderbomb.
Jonathan Griffin, the owner of my current stop, was more than accommodating when it came to lending me an air conditioned bed. But, he said, the place was already booked so he’d need to ask his guests for permission before he committed to anything.
They gave the go-ahead within twenty four hours and plans were set in motion.
I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a group of friends, that it was some sort of yearly trip. That was all.
I did not expect to be greeted by a booming redhead bear of a man the moment I set foot on the premises.
“Welcome to Kevin Opie’s Nicaraguan Barrel Bash!” he exclaimed. “Make sure you put that name in your article!”
Kevin was pounding beers, cracking jokes, and having the time of his life. He’d organized the entire trip, pulled members from close friends, neighbors, and internet acquaintances.
This was the third such trip he’d organized, the largest one yet.
The view from out front of Thunderbomb Surf Camp.
It slowly dawned on me: My god, I’m sharing the camp with eighteen maniac bodyboarders!
I was only partially correct. Five of the guys ride surfboards, and only Kevin is truly a maniac. I mean that in the best possible way.
The rest of the crew included Brian Press, former professional boogie rider, his two sons, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Kim from Kenya works in software and has the most beautiful speaking voice I’ve ever heard. Rico is an aerospace mechanic, Ryan an engineer.
The eponymous Kevin runs a catering company specializing in smoked meat. Matt Kitchen works for United and produces an online cooking show in his spare time. Jason’s a farmer, Jarred a janitor, Nathan is a mechanic. Jeremy works in pest control, Nick is a union carpenter. Bobby Z is a successful artist/jack-of-all-trades. Dan is a production assistant masquerading as a soft core porn star. Ray manages a pizza joint. Chris Todd lives in Arkansas and is a construction contractor.
Trevor Ellis is a friend I haven’t seen in over a decade because the world is tiny and it’s impossible to travel thousands of miles to meet a group of strangers without already knowing at least one of them.
The camp is more than large enough to fit everyone comfortably and the staff is busting ass around the clock to keep the food coming, the beer cold, and Land Cruisers running to nearby reefs.
It’s the latter point that struck me.
“Wait, so you guys are all mobbing up to spots together?”
“That’s crazy. Aren’t people freaking out?”
“Not really. There’s no one here.”
It’s a fair point.
Aposentillo is as devoid of tourists as the rest of Nicaragua. Doors are shuttered. Lineups are barren. (Or, at least, they are when spared the presence of Kevin’s Barrel Bash.)
I’ve been invited on each jaunt, opted out without exception.
Given the choice between joining a frothing crew or enjoying empty a-frames all alone I chose the latter. Can you blame me?
The local bar/market is ecstatic about our presence. The Nica staff reiterates what every one of their countrymen has said so far.
“It’s safe, it doesn’t involve you. Please come visit. Spend your money. Spread the word about what our government is doing.”
It was roughly four days of beers and cheers in Aposentillo, each day blending into the last until I can’t swear to that number. Good vibes, new friends, one old, and a near total lack of static among the group.
But no large group can maintain smiles indefinitely. The last day turned wild, a few members of the group cracking beers before I’d left my bed. They were bruised and battered from a sunset horseback riding excursion I’d foregone due to the facts that:
1) I possess a mild fear of horses.
2) I do not enjoy the sensation of being kicked in the balls for hours at a time.
The sun set, libations flowed, people started jumping from the second story balcony in to the too-shallow pool, and the inevitable impromptu wrasslin’ fest turned ugly.
(Why is it that, in the absence of women, groups of otherwise hetero men always end up rolling around on the ground together?)
It began with laughs and ended with tears. The offending parties were pulled apart and attempts were made to calm them. When it failed I turned to a tactic I employ when my typically friendly wife falls into a drunken mean streak.
“Let’s do some shots!”
Three rounds of rum later there was hugging, vomiting, declarations of undying love, and the peace and quiet brought by besotted slumber.
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