Destinations / Chinadega • Nicaragua

Jungle Juice + Other Surf Camp Observations

March 9, 2016

When the shininess of the new year started to fade in mid-January, I retreated to Rise Up Surf for a much needed vacation. It’s a surf camp in Northern Nicaragua that provides the perfect balance of being active and relaxing. I would wake up as early as 5am to surf, volcano board, horseback ride, practice my downward dog, eat deliciously healthy meals, and drink on boat trips until my liver begged for mercy. Once I completely exhausted myself I would eagerly surrender to the seductive wiles of a low-swinging hammock.

This recent trip was my second time there. I usually don’t visit a place twice (so many places to see in the world!) but it has a liberating narcotic effect on me. It’s like suddenly all the things I used to care about at home just dissipate into the sea salt air and all I’m left with is the most essential part of me that just wants to run and laugh and live.

I wouldn’t say that I become a different person, just more shameless.

Home-Me is civilized. Home-Me is somewhat respectable. Home-Me wears a shirt and shoes to get service at a Tim Hortons.

Travel-Me? All bets are off. There are no Tim Horton’s to get a sour cream donut from so where’s my motivation to put clothes on?!

At home, society acts as a mirror reflecting what is acceptable which keeps your behaviour in check.

For example, I have discovered that drinking gravy is NOT socially acceptable. When in the presence of others; respectable company (or easily offended company) only have gravy with your turkey. If you DO happen to drink it minus the fowl in the privacy of your own home (I’m not saying you do! Just in case you do…) don’t tell anyone. My experience has been that non-gravy drinkers never understand (#Trust). Random tangent.


Here are 9 of my Surf Camp Observations:

If you’ve been, you’ll be able to relate (and want to return). If you were on the fence and I’ve now persuaded you to go, maybe you can pick up some tips for your trip.


No worries if you can’t seem to coordinate work schedules with your friends! Rise Up is full of awesome and welcoming souls who work there. The camp hosts about 20-ish people at a time so you end up becoming a family with the other guests who arrive at the same time as you. You may even find you like your newfound friends so much that you plan another trip together! If not, considering that you all chose to go to a surf camp ensures that you have at least ONE thing in common.


I pretty much live in my bathing suit when I’m at Rise Up. I’m such a heathen that I don’t even wear shoes, much to the disgust of whoever is giving me my post-vacation pedicure. I would pack in favour of more swimwear and less actual clothing except for loose, quick-dry coverups, shorts, and jumpers. There’s no point trying to be clean because even after surfing you’ll probably be jumping in and out of the pool or playing some beach volleyball. You’ll only need one nice outfit if you want to go salsa dancing in Leon.


Cover up! Bring zinc for your face, 60 SPF sunscreen, wear a rashguard, cover your head with a hat when you’re in the sun and wear sunglasses. I know I sound like an over-cautious grandma but trust me. Skin cancer isn’t sexy. You know what is? Being carded at the LCBO when you’re well over the legal drinking age.


If you want to wear a bikini, you have a hard decision to make. Your can either potentially lose your bikini bottoms to a strong wave, washing away to shores unseen, or wear bottoms that are a size or two too small. So essentially you’re choosing between inappropriate bottom flashing or muffin top. Neither is an option that will allow me to sleep soundly at night so I avoid the choice all together by wearing a well-fitting one piece, weird tan lines be damned!


Not only are you going to get a weird tan from where your rashguard ends but you spend more of your time on your stomach paddling than actually riding a wave. Guess where you’re going to get the most tanned/burnt? Your legs and bum. It looks weird especially since not ALL of your bum is burnt. It makes boyfriends laugh at you which will force you to not speak to them for a week in indignation.


The hardest thing about surfing (other than balancing and picking the right wave…) is all the exhaustive paddling! For each glorious but short-lived ride on a wave, you spend more time paddling back out to the break, against the current like a salmon swimming upstream. To prep your body to fight fatigue, strengthen your chest, shoulders, back, and arms. Work on your core for balance as well!


When does one shower?! Should I do it in the morning before or after my first surf? How about before breakfast when I’m all sandy and sea salt covered? Maybe after the second surf session? But what about if I decide to play beach volleyball? If I shower before dinner am I ruling out the potential of a spontaneous midnight skinny dip? I hate wasted effort so this was a particular struggle of mine. I would usually shower before dinner so I could remember what it felt like to be civilized for at least one meal of the day.


When I travel, I’m usually so active that I revert to baby schedule – eating every 2 hours and snacking in between. I’ll eat everything on my plate and shamefully sneak bits of bacon from others. But then the HEAT in Nicaragua suppresses your appetite (or so I’m told). Rise Up is really good at providing meals packed with protein for energy but are light enough that you’re not siesta-ing the rest of the day. Plus they’re great at accommodating people with specific food preferences (i.e. GF, vegan, etc…). But most importantly, the jalapeño salsa is bomb. Put it on everything.


Most of my Nicaragua stories involve jungle juice so let me clarify what it is. Actually, I don’t know exactly what’s in it besides rum and mango juice but pretty much it facilitates good times. Really good times. I describe it as the Nicaraguan version of a Long Island Ice Tea– it tastes delicious; like there’s no alcohol in it at all, but you’ll end up twerking to a Bieber song on a bar when you didn’t even think you knew how to twerk.