When I graduated Highschool in Florida, my best friends and I did a surf trip to Nicaragua for 40 days. Our physics teacher had pretty much convinced us that it was the perfect place to escape. Also, this being 2007, one needs to understand that Nicaragua at the time was a country in which the government had just recently been taken by the communist party, the Sandinistas, who defeated the Contras in a civil war 1989. Americans were largely afraid to travel here and most went to Costa Rica for the same price to fly to and better known for its surf. Thus, Nicaragua was a surf gem that nobody talked about. It was perfect.
Well, we lived on the beach for less than $5 a night and woke everyday to ride perfect offshore barrels. We traveled up and down the coast scoring a-frames, point breaks, and hollow reef breaks. We drank and made friends with the locals and expats from other counties. We caught lobster, speared fish, attempted salsa dancing and attempted bull fighting.
Two of my friends, Josh and Halfy, were with me for the whole 40 days and for a few of those days we lived in a town called Popoyo, which happens to be home of one of Central America's biggest and most incredible waves. The outer reef, which runs about 1/2 mile paddle out can be triple overhead when it's firing. We decided to go for it and somehow caught it all to ourselves for an entire day. It was 10ft+. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time. Every take off beyond vertical. Every wave beyond words capable of describing. 3 screaming and yelping Florida surfers caught the best waves of their lives that day. But that's not the story.
The story happened the next day. We were surfing the inside wave which also breaks hollow and had lefts and rights, but it was much smaller and crowded. Sitting on my board I could see the outer reef exploding with nobody on it. Josh and Halfy wanted to stay on the inside so I went alone and paddled my way out there. The paddle felt longer that day. As I approached the wave I notice that it was much thicker. The lip must have been three feet thick at least and it was HEAVY! Then I noticed the water around be being sucked towards the wave. It was low tide. The wave had sucked so much water off the reef that a massive jagged lava rock exposed itself dry. It was almost a relief. "Nobody can surf this wave at low tide," I thought, "the bottom of the wave looks like a portal to hell."
So I sat back and watched.
I must have watched this beast of nature break on the reef for 30 minutes by myself. I just couldn't pull my eyes away from something so beautiful and so violent. Being a half mile out probably helped too.
Out of nowhere two guys showed up paddling on their guns.(long shaped pointed boards for surfing big waves) Their boards must have been 7ft+. Mine was a mini gun, 6'4". We gave each other the nod. I figured they most likely just realized the low tide wave is unsurfable too.
Then these 2 old guys started surfing. It was unlike anything if ever seen. They would take off fast and when the wave sucked the water off the reef, they just stayed high up on the face, safe above the slabs of volcanic death. Then they would exit from a faultless barrel. I continued to watch them surf. I continued to watch until I convinced myself that I could do this too, even if had a much smaller board. It would mean my take off would be later with more potential of the lip coming over me as I'm standing. "I can do this", I thought. "I just can't fall."
So I paddled into the line up with the 2 charger old dudes. I waited for a wave that was going to be perfect. Then came my set.
I paddled hard, really really hard. I stood, up turned down the line. The clear ocean under my board was lifting and bending so fast that it made the reef below it look warped. I had it. I can do this. But the water was sucking up into the wave too fast, too fast for me. I felt my board get ripped out from under me. I fell on the wave's belly.
I can still recall everything from that moment. My heart sank in slow motion. I could feel my body getting pulled up the face. I was going up in the curl. I opened my eyes and saw the dry reef down below and then I realized that what was going to happen next was bad. I had watched the break enough to know. My body was gonna get slammed with the lip downward from about 10ft into the reef, dry fucking reef. I remember praying, "Please Lord protect me." I covered my head with my hands and tensed every muscle in my body to prepare to take the worst beating of my life.
This is where it gets weird. I didn't hit the reef. I got totally rag dolled to an inch of my breath but I didn't hit the reef. I should have hit the reef. I was looking down at it from the roof of a massive wave. I was ready or my maiming.
I'm not sure exactly how it happened but it doesn't add up to me, and still never has. I don't know if I landed in some small human sized hole that shot me to safety or what. All I know I that I definitely should have hit the reef.
I was so freaked out that when I surfaced to breathe and cough up water, I took the next wave in to shore. It was a wall of white water from a wave that had just broken afterwards.
I told Halfy and Josh what happened and they were stoked I was okay. I tried to explain how I should be seriously injured and/or dead right now. They laughed.
Thirty minutes later the two old dudes who were riding outer reef showed up. As soon as they saw me, they yelped with joy! I was confused. They explained that they we're looking for me after I didn't show up from the wave I took. I realized they hadn't seen my fall or paddle in because I took the very next wave. They being further out, had been wondering why I didn't come up. We had a good laugh and I thanked them for looking.
I still don't what to call that day. Was it luck? God? The universe? I like to think it was something unexplainable, like a miracle. I just know I should have hit the reef.