Skateboarding Purity in Jiquilillo: A Nicaraguan Dogtown

The local boys didn’t grow up watching cleverly edited videos, reading well designed magazines, or seeing professional contests. They grew up in a little colorfully painted lancha boat rolling around in fish guts. They grew up looking out to the sea because that was the only thing that changed around them. When they got their hands on surfboards five years ago from the first guys that discovered the place, they were enamored. In the five years that passed they really learned how to fucking shred. They knew the waves before they had ever been on a board. Traveling up the pacific coast of Panama, Costa Rica, and southern Nicaragua, I had seen some crazy surfing. I had seen contests and big cameras with massive telephoto zoom lenses. I had seen two floored surf shops, tanned bikini babes, and unknown beach breaks with nothing but coconut trees and a few California ex patriot rippers that had the money to drive a truck down there. I had seen a lot of surfing since the beginning of December, and I had fallen in love with it. But watching these fifteen-year-old boys in the warm green water on the northern pacific coast of Nicaragua, in the small village of Jiquilillo, was the most beautiful surfing that I had ever seen. It was because of how unblemished it was, how essential their connection with the ocean was. Each cutback, each bottom turn, powerfully existed in that moment and was unrelated to any other surfing in the world. These kids had never left their village and had no sense of competition. Being in the water with them was so incredibly fun, all hooting and hollering, silly and natural. Their wave was theirs, and it was not infiltrated by the mainstream world of surfing that had begun to spread up through Nicaragua from Costa Rica. These boys had nothing to lose, they had nobody to compare themselves to, and I was captivated by it.

 I bought a skateboard for them from Elliot, an Australian surfer bum who drove me up north to Jiquilillo from Las Penitas in his Westfalia van. Quite an improvement over the busted pick ups, cow cages, and 70’s school busses. One day in the water the boys had told me about an old foundation behind Chupita’s shack, which I visited periodically to make crispy tortillas and play with her puppies, now cute, but would grow up to be savage beach roving gang members. The sea had roughed it up during the rainy season and now nobody was building on it. It was just a clothes line for some villagers. One afternoon when the waves were down, I met up with the local crew, who had one busted up board between the eight of them, on the corroded and cracked concrete. I arrived riding in a Cadillac. The brand new 8.5" wide deck with some Indy 149’s and 85 durometer wheels from Elliot. Soft and smooth. They took turns, fighting over who was next, cruising around on it with their dirty bare feet, dusting up the grip, pushing and getting low to the ground as if they were riding a wave. Here, all these boys had were las olas,  and when they weren't pumping, skating was the next best thing to avoid the stench of burning piles of trash and their alcoholic fisherman fathers. The skateboarding was just like their surfing: pure. That afternoon, while the sun was setting low, and the waves were closing out, I had the best session of skating in the fifteen or so years that I had been pushing places. It wasn’t in some maze of amazing marble ledges, or in a perfectly smooth California skate park. It was in a fishing village on an old broken down concrete foundation under the wafting smells of freshly fried tortillas with a bunch of dirty smiling faced boys who wouldn't rather be anywhere else.