Surfing with Lead [READ]
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What does surfing and two AK-47s have in common?
In the quiet backpacker town of San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua, Mad Mike was at war with the locals. He was one of those loud-mouth Americans who’d moved to Central America, threw a bunch of cash at a luxury hotel, totally killed it and now lives happily off the profits in paradise. We had crossed paths with him because he was a friend of a friend and our friend was a wayward hippie chick that we affectionately dubbed ‘Essex,’ reflecting her hometown. Essex had adopted us when we first turned up, as she’d been there for quite some time and prided herself in knowing everyone, which in turn took us on several adventures with amazing people. And Grace and I never turn down an adventure. Todays escapade, however, involved Mad Mike, and soon enough we would understand the meaning behind the name.
San Juan is famous for it’s epic surfing; beaches all around the area are littered with beginners and pros alike, all battling for the best waves. But Mad Mike had lived in San Juan for a long time and didn’t surf with the commoners, instead he wanted to take us to HIS Private Beach. By ‘his’, what he actually meant was a secret beach, which was in fact owned by local Nicaraguans of the calibre you don’t want to cross.
Although they’d been fine with him surfing there originally, over time and countless Gringos turning up making MM look as if he was running some kind of private Gringo surf tour, some tension had broken out and MM was no longer welcome there. Last time he’d turned up the locals had ambushed his truck, machetes were drawn, a wallet was stolen and a message had been sent. But the message had obviously not been powerful enough to deter MM from surfing his perfect paradise. But it was all fine because that day MM had a plan…
We pulled over halfway up a hill outside of a house, which was actually more of a shack. A huge Nicaraguan man strolls out stone-faced with an AK-47 under each arm and hoists himself onto the back of the truck alongside us. He sits on a toolbox and stares straight ahead, not even glancing at us. Grace and I share a look and a little giggle about the ridiculousness of the situation. MM seems proud of his hired guard, since he cruises back into town just to show him off, or perhaps to send a message to anyone thinking of ambushing us later that day. All I can think about as we drive along is if something did happen and there was an all-out brawl, I was right in the firing line of those rifles. What a strange situation to end up in…
We arrive at the beach and it’s perfect, just as MM promised. But at no point was I able to relax and enjoy the surf because each time I glanced at the beach, my eyes would fall upon our guard, pacing back and fourth, patrolling, keeping us super safe. And we were super safe, because at no point were we ambushed that day. Grace and I were very happy about that, and even more excited that we could finally tick off ‘hire an armed guard to escort you on your chosen recreational activity’ from our Bucket List.