of the bus a calf is tied down. The calf is
complacent — staring behind the bus as if
to take in the scenery — like me. But the
pig squeals inside the bag and the man slaps
it to shut it up. Can it breathe? Does it just
wish for the view? Women never ride on top.
Within a week, the 16 girl campers
come to our house in the morning dressed
in skirts and T-shirts. Only one or two
wear bathing suits. Some arrive an hour
early because not everyone observes daylight saving time. Time is a silly concept in
Limon, a small town on the Pacific.
While Jeff, Sharp, Andy and I fill up
water bottles and carry the surfboards outside, several of the girls jump rope. In the
hammock, two cousins drape themselves
over Abby, showing their affection. One of
them has a crush on Elvis, the 17-year-old
Nicaraguan surfer with whom we live.
Rosa, a spunky 12-year-old, climbs down
into the shade of the well, where the air is
cool. The others peer in and watch her.
They have a lot of respect for Rosa. She
has a confidence that draws people to her.
Her grandmother’s house serves the best
breakfast around, and her brothers and
cousins make up the local surf gang.
Professional surfers have started traveling
to Nicaragua to surf at Popoyo. Because of
their influence, there is a growing number
of Nicaraguan surfers. But there are almost
no females in the water. In awe of her
brothers and cousins, Rosa also wants to
learn to surf.
A week before the camp had started, as
Rosa and I played with her pet monkey,
we talked about the camp. I was skeptical
that others would be interested, but she
assured me she would convince her girlfriends. The next day, Jeff, Sharp and I were
hitching a ride to the store to buy instant
coffee and rice, and Rosa yelled for us to
wait. She ran from her house with a list of
25 signatures scribbled on a piece of pink
Most Nicaraguan women don’t have the
same opportunities I’ve had. In a country
characterized by the machismo culture, male
power and dominance, women often have
been forced to be subservient to their husbands and fathers. Their sphere of power is
restricted to the home and the roles of
child-rearing, cooking and cleaning. The
idea that women are weaker and need male
protection has been ingrained in most Western societies and finally is starting to fall
apart, but such ideologies have left many
women everywhere feeling inadequate and
Surfing has been one of the most important confidence-building tools in my life.
Situated in an element out of my control, I
have to trust that I can handle whatever the
ocean deals me. Waves sometimes slap me in
the face and play with my body like a child
pulling on the legs of a spider — seeing
how far they can stretch before breaking.
But sometimes I catch a wave and we flirt
all the way to the shore and nothing else in
that moment matters.
Surfing is a life philosophy, a therapy.
Most Nicaraguan women
don’t have the same
opportunities that I’ve had.
In a country characterized
by the machismo culture,
male power and
dominance, women have
often been forced to be
subservient to their
husbands and fathers.
Above, Rosa cools
off by floating in the
bottom of a well.
are traveling to
Nicaragua to surf at
Popoyo, and they are
drawing a growing
almost all males.
Rosa, shown mug-ging with her cousin,
has an air of confidence that draws the
respect of her peers,
and she helped show
the author that the
surf camp could be a