Salvador, el Zonte - 2nd of april 2002
"Surfing under tension"
Escape to El Salvador
That's it, we are leaving Guatemala, its lakes, its volcanoes, its
religious processions, the head full of images all more beautiful
the ones than the others. In a few hours, we pass from 4000 meters
high to the sea level. Heat, dryness and dry wind accompany us in
our infernal way down. We are delighted by finding again our favorite
element, the ocean.
Being informed of the endless problems of violence in this country,
we decided to drive towards a secure place. We are all expecting
that nothing will be able to disturb our progression in Central
America. According to a friendly English girl met in Antigua, we
move towards the Surf Camp of El Zonte, held by a semi-Japanese,
| > Shots of the site
Click on the pictures to enlarge
A place nearly too calm
The spot seems calm. Its configuration is like a little track with
a T shape. On one side the surf camp, on the other side, a ground
to be selling. On the opposite, 2 or 3 poor tiendas act as restaurant.
You take the whole, you compress it between some hills, a Rio and
the Ocean and you obtain the village of El Zonte. As much to say that
this place is suffocating by its narrowness. We are well far from
great spaces of Guatemala and Mexico. The surf camp is imposing and
distinguishes itself from all that surround it.
pieces of broken bottle encrusted, 6 feet high netting and electrified
barbed wire delimit the camp. Inside, some small houses as individual
rooms, a swimming pool in the bean shape, a hammocks dedicated place
beneath a huge hut. Finally, a kind of keep, overhangs the wave and
the animation of the street. In short, much of security compare to
the apparent tranquility of the place. Two peaceful days go. We sympathize
with the other occupants coming from all horizons: Americans, Englishs,
Israelian, Frenchs, Guatemalans, and Salvadorians. We try the wave.
Even if the waves are absent, a surfing contest must take place the
next weekend. As foreseen the waves are not here.
that could have been foreseen
As foreseen the waves are not here. The quietness of the place is
suddenly disturbed by the arriving of two buses coming from "El Salvador".
Bond of Salvadorians are piled up like cattle. They all run to the
beach and the street. Most of them are already drunk. In spite of
the lack of waves, the contest starts with all body boarders, surfers
and long boarders together. Into two times, three movements, under
the blows of 09 am, the small peaceful street is transformed into
a true battle field. How, will you ask me? Quite simply! You take
a Salvadorian with several blows in the nose, equipped with a gun
machine and here is. He starts provocating its counterparts (gangs).
All goes very quick. The initiator becomes the alive target of the
others which lapidate it almost instantly. The streets are emptied
themselves. The tiendas' owners (restaurants) take refuge behind their
Our camp is threaten
Us, we remain with the shelter in our surf camp, witnesses of these
unexpected scenes. The first victim has his head and body almost entirely
covered of blood. He is transported out of the stone throws by its
colleagues, using a surfboard like stretcher. Some are improvising
themselves of the "Cruz Roja" (Red Cross) and in a ludic way try to
reanimate him without any success. The local TV channel, in the absence
of spectacle in the water, does not miss to shoot the scene. Part
of the actors of this riot, probably "the goods", comes into the surf
camp to protect themselves. Fearing any kind of feedback, the tension
goes up and here we are all hiding us behind the showers and WCs.
With some lack of imagination, others will choose rather to hide themselves
under their bed. Imagining the worst, we are now all projecting in
our mind any kind of escapes or defense strategies. And the police?
In fact the army. It will spend a good hour before it arrives on the
spot. Before it will have caught and roughly punished most of the
occupants of the two buses that were going back to their origin. They
will pass the day here until the tension falls down. They will as
well continue two or three principal agitators in escape.
The days which followed, the tranquility had taken again its place,
as if nothing has happened.
| > El Zonte surfing
Click on the pictures to enlarge
Surf in El Salvador
This small country between Honduras, Guatemala
and the Pacific Ocean has one of the best wave potential of Central
America. Its ideal exposition to south and south west swell, its rocky
underwater bottom and its coast with bays and rocky points make Salvador
the ideal destinations for surfing. The best season to go there is
during the wet season from May to October while the large south low-pressure
systems produce ground swell. East Salvador, in El Cuco area, offers
long, powerful and hollow waves on reef bottom. Surfing here can be
amazing. It is also the ideal place to stop and train before confronting
the Nicaragua and Costa Rica waves. West Salvador, on the balsamic
coast named like this due to its black volcanic sandy beach, proposes
more than ten World class point breaks and reef breaks such as La
Libertade, El Zonte, Zunzal, Km 59 or Km 61. Often right hand, these
point breaks are quick waves sectioning and wrapping around rocky
points. This surf potential of El Salvador takes all its dimension
when strong swell hits the coast. At this time, only a small non significant
swell is forecasted for the next days. That already does more than
a months that we haven't surfed good waves. Determined to find a wave
as big as our hunger, we choose El Zonte as our take off point of
this " Salvadorian search ". Ideally situated, this small bay is located
to couple kilometers from La Libertade, from Kms 59 and 61. Arriving
there we noticed the crowd of starving surfers waiting since several
days for the swell to arrive.
| > Surf trip to km59
Click on the pictures to enlarge
To get away from the crowd of starving Americans, Europeans or locals, we decide to leave at five o'clock in the morning and hit northwest to Km 59. Hardly accessible by car, we need to walk 15 minutes to access to the wave. It is an incredible set up. On the west side of Km 59, Km 61 is also a great alternative when swell is over 4 feet. It is a 500 meters walk from 59.
From the road it is easy to see which one is the best to choose. This day, except for couple rare sets, Km61 wasn't happening. Though, it is supposed to be one of the best waves of the country.
Despite a session of " hot dog surfing " in small waves, we didn't had either KM 61 or 59 pumping. Nevertheless this early morning expedition was a total success because of the beauty and the quietness of the place.
When we came back to El Zonte, at about eight o'clock, the light offshore wind gave us a good surf shared with hungry other surfers.
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