I have a confession to make, one of which if you follow my Facebook page, you’ll be aware of. I had NEVER been surfing before. Not surfing of any kind (other than the internet of course). Yes, despite having lived in two surfing hubs, Sydney and Bournemouth and having passed through Coolangatta, Durban, LA etc., surfing was never something I considered or went for.
Recently I put that right and reckon I could not have picked a better spot for it – Barra de Santiago in El Salvador! Firstly this small Pueblo is on a peninsula and spans to the west 17 kilometres of gorgeous untouched Pacific Ocean coastline. To the east is the inlet and the incredible Mangrove Forest with its protected crocodile population.
Organising Surfing Lessons in Barra de Santiago
This is the easy part. I recommend staying in the truly relaxing paradise of Capricho Beach House. This local beach side resort ticks the boxes and you can relax here to your heart’s content. After speaking to Rafael who runs Capricho, he introduced me to local tour guide and proud family man, Julio Cesar Aviles. Julio is not just an expert at local wildlife and tours, he works hard for his family (all of whom I met) and he’s a surfing instructor!! Just check in with Julio and he’ll fit a surfing lesson with you into his schedule for sure. You don’t need to book in advance. Get in touch with the guys at Capricho Beach House in advance though just to confirm your bed for the night.
How much does a Surfing Lesson at Barra de Santiago Cost?
OK as you know, I move pretty fast and time is always ticking, so I chose just a quick one hour lesson. The cost with Julio was $10 US. You can of course do a more intensive course and a few more lessons and get a discount for sure if you’re doing a lot. However, I had just 2 nights in Barra de Santiago and as well as chilling out, watching the sunset and doing the Mangrove reserve tour to squeeze an hour of surfing in was a bonus.
What was the surfing lesson like?
OK so by staying at Capricho Beach House, you are already right on the beach. Julio turns up at 4pm for my one hour lesson just before sunset. We walk a few minutes down the beach with the surfboard and then it’s the briefing. Everything is in Spanish of course, you’ll need a good grasp of Spanish to converse with Julio. If you don’t understand anything, you can just say “no intiendo” and he’ll explain it better or repeat. If you remember I studied Spanish for a few weeks in Uruguay in 2010 and have travelled through over 10 Spanish speaking countries so these days, I enjoy trying to speak and understand in Spanish.
First things first is the surfboard. As a beginner, there is a rope that was attached to my right foot and connected to the board. This is essential for your safety and understanding of what you’re doing.
There was NOBODY else in the water when we went surfing, perhaps for a few miles. There were also no obstacles, no fish and no risk of sharks so all good to go.
Before we enter the ocean, I lie on the board on the sand, following Julio’s instructions on grip. Both hands of course, with your feet at the base of the board. Balance and centre of gravity is important here, as is the imaginary line that marks the centre of the surfboard.
Once inside the water we can tell it’s a day of massive strong waves, “fuerte!” Julio keeps shouting as we crash the surfboard through the waves and he turns it for me to lie on.
The first cruise on the board is inspiring. It just feels good. You lie down on the board and it carries you to the shore thanks to the strength of the waves. You’re always attached to the board via the rope, but don’t lose grip, as of course mother nature is at play here and with the waves and sand connecting with the board, the chance of it hitting you is quite high. So my priorities were to enjoy the surf and keep grip and eye contact with the surfboard.
Of course if you’re a surfer and you are reading this, I sound like a complete idiot and novice, but I am. This was my first lesson and you have to start somewhere.
I can’t remember the number of times I actually surfed from the ocean back to the shore but it was around 15 – 20. After each one, we had to wait until the waves calmed down as it was a hot windy day with some very strong waves! The salt content of the water here at the Pacific Ocean was also very high so we had to be careful not to swallow too much!
A few times, I rose myself on the surfboard but couldn’t get fully standing on this first lesson. In total we had about 40 minutes of only surfing in the water of the one hour which was great. It was actually a tad tiring as it had been a busy few days for me and even Julio admitted these were massive waves.
I got to meet Julio’s son Billy as well who is still at primary school but has been surfing for 2 years already and he showed us how it was done which was just so cool!
Proof that practice does make perfect and given a load more lessons, I’m sure I can get the hang of it.
I was thinking my lifestyle doesn’t allow me 1-2 hours a day to practice surfing just at the moment. For me, that time is better spend on my travel writing, my online work and other tourist related things on my travels. But yeah, someday I’d love to do an intensive surfing course and get it right.
Thanks to Julio for his time and showing me the ropes! I totally recommend surfing with Julio in Barra de Santiago! A great experience!
Here are my videos from surfing with Julio: