Surfing, Sunzal, El Salvador…

Well, I’m finally doing it… To be honest, at times I had my doubts about quitting my job and running away on a one-way ticket, AGAIN.  Last Sunday I quit my job, this Sunday I’m sitting on a beach in El Salvador.  I’m positive I made the right choice… Ha, duh!

So, here I kick off a year of FUNemployment, backpacking around the world. Note to self: send my mom a postcard… 😉

The weather is exactly what I imagined. During the day, there’s sun, waves, and beautiful weather in all directions.  At night, the thunderstorms roll in and light up the sky, thundering down on to our rooftop like a lullaby.  I’m sitting next to the beach in our house in Sunzal, El Salvador right now watching the lightning storm illuminate the sky in enormous flashes. The downpour is a thundering sound on our roof, but it is peaceful for me.  Reflecting on the too few days I spent here in Sunzal, I appreciate one last big storm before I head out.

We flew here on the red-eye so that we could be on the waves first thing in the morning. I watched the sun rise over a sea of clouds with the most beautiful colors I have ever seen.  It was an unreal experience to watch.  We landed in the small airport of El Salvador as greenery surrounded us in every direction, Volcan San Vicente standing tall in the distance.


As our plane landed, we hopped in Chepe’s truck and went straight to pick up our surfboards, then to the house.  The town of Tunco is a quaint little surf town our house was located down the beach from.  The Women’s Surf and Style Magazine does a retreat here every year, and they have a killer house and location for anybody who wants to surf and chill for the month of September! I would highly recommend coming out to this retreat or to the main surf house out in Puerto Rico any chance you get!  When we arrived at the house, we dropped all of our stuff, changed in to rash guards, and raced to the waves.  The smallest they would be all trip, they were 4-5 feet tall and perfect point breaks. Each day, the waves just got bigger and bigger!  I haven’t surfed in quite a while, so hopping in to 5 foot waves was a great way to completely crush my ego. Ha! I had a blast! Literally, my smile was so big the entire time I was surfing that only the top half of my face got sunburned.  My smile protected the lower half of my face so for the next day I walked around with the most goofball tan in El Salvador. There’s a tan line I never expected to have…

That morning, we learned a few things about El Salvador: THERE ARE SEA LICE.  Our poor housemates were covered in the bites all over their bodies.  That explained why they had asked us to bring a gazillion travel sized bug sprays with us from the US (Side note: the airport security gals just about didn’t let us through security when they found the three ziploc baggies of bug spray we were trying to get through!). The second was the wettest, gnarliest heat I have ever experienced.  I swear, I was just wet with sweat, seawater, or pool water the entire time I was there. Once I got used to it, it wasn’t too bad.  All the reason to go jump in the ocean, right?
After getting in some waves, we settled in to the house and drove to La Libertad. Everywhere we drove, we always got to sit in the back of the truck and get the closest thing to A/C we could find.  It’s a pretty small town as well, but has the closest major grocery store in the area.  If you are going to surf, stock up on the way.  We explored the beach, the town, and ended the afternoon with nachos and a pool party.  Now, that is an unbeatable first day in a new country. If the rest of my travels are even only half as good as the first day in El Salvador, I will be a happy lady.


The second and third days of surfing were equally amazing.  The waves were all over 5 feet tall and went on forever.  It was beautiful, frustrating at times, and so much fun! After a 3 hour surf session, my friend and I went to the tiki bar on the beach for a cold beer.  After all of the paddling and salty water and crashing waves, that was certainly a Top 5 in this lifetime cold beer.  It was straight out of a television commercial, a bottle of Golden, sweating drops of perspiration in the heat of the day. Seriously, Kenny Chesney would write a song about this place if he ever took a vacation here.

At night, we light the tiki torches and stay in the pool swimming as late as we can before the thunderstorms start.  Papusas are 3 for $1 down the little dirt road we live on, so my diet of papusas and beer became a staple for the entire trip.  On Saturday night, we went back in to Tunco to the local club to go dancing.  It’s right on the beach with open walls looking out at the ocean.  The shots flow, the beers are cheap, and the music is pretty good as well.  Because we wanted a sunrise surf session, our crew hit that club like a hurricane.  We came, we danced and went through a couple buckets of beers, and were still home by 11 to get some sleep.  We started the party and everyone began to dance.  When we left, however, everyone else left the dance floor, too!

Sunday we all got up to surf, but the waves were a bust.  I took the rest day opportunity to explore the beaches up north, next to the shanty towns where none of the tourists or surfers went near.  While there weren’t waves to surf up there, there were local families all across the beautiful black beach.  Church had just gotten out, so the children were running around wildly and playing in the waves.  I also walked up the river to see what I would find.  On the way back, I tried to take a short cut across a muddier part of the shore rather than walk around.  A few families stared at me as I sauntered along my “short-cut” and I shortly realized why… Plunk! Both of my legs sank to my knees in the mud! I could feel myself getting deeper as I struggled to make 6 more sinking steps to firm ground, almost losing my Chacos in the process. The local mama’s and kids playing in the river were trying to hide their smiles and laughter, but the littlest children couldn’t get enough of my spectacle! 5 minutes of knee deep, thick, mud taught me that if the ground doesn’t look 100% solid, it definitely isn’t.  I later learned why the mud was so fickle.  When high tide comes in, the river triples in size covering all of the ground I had used as a path.  The mud levels rise and lower, but are never firm ground, leaving thick, sinking mud for anyone who dares cross over.



Further up the beach, I found enormous sea caves.  Walking inside the cavern, parts were at least 20 feet high and others a mere crawlspace.  There were old, eroded steps that I jumped at the opportunity to scramble up on the side of one of the cliffs.  The views from the top gave me a vista point that revealed the entire coastline.  It was spectacular.   Back at the homestead, a crazy (maybe drunk) local was climbing all of the trees and getting us coconuts. The Brazilian paid them $5 to climb 50 feet up and get us a bundle of coco! I climb, and it is my first love, but watching him hang from a palm tree from one arm after climbing up barefoot with no protection was a bit nerve-wracking.  It looked fun, but not exactly safe… Coming from a rock climber, I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, but big walls and palm trees are two different worlds, I suppose.

We sat in the pool, devoured the coconuts, and watched the waves until the papusa hut opened for dinner. $2 for papusas and beer and a full belly. I could get used to these inexpensive dinner options.


The final morning, we all got up for dawn patrol.  Because of the immense size of the waves, I hopped behind the camera instead of on my board.  It was a spectacular morning and sunrise.  The colors reflected off the sea, glassy between the breaks.  Below are a few shots of the sunrise, but they barely do them justice.  In the waves, Tio Pat broke his board, so we had to go to the surfboard hospital in Punta Roca to drop it off for repairs.  There, the waves were equally as big with a ton more rocks.   This country is so beautiful, I was bummed to only have the chance to stay 5 days. What a trip… El Salvador, you have my heart for the moment.

A surfer paddles out as the sun peeks over and finally hits the sea
Sunrises over the Pacific

Here is a link to Womens Surf Style Magazine if you ever want to check out their surf house and make a trip!



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