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Playa Maderas: A Classic Wave in it’s Adolesence

Playa Maderas NicaraguaAs the comforts of San Juan Del Sur are left behind and the cobblestone roads become muddy, bumpy, 4WD-worthy paths, the feeling that you are on your way for to a secluded and unknown wave for the first time slowly creeps over you. Anticipation, nerves, curiosity… It’s a comparable feeling to when you went in for that first smooch with the cutie you had your eyes laid on back in your grom years. The local residents whose simple, yet effective homes line the way throw friendly gestures in the air and their adopted pet monkeys turn their heads with a curious eye. The natural beauty of the Nicaraguan landscape is captivating and almost mesmerizes you to the point that you forget you are on your way to surf what is an incredibly fun and highly consistent wave.

The trek out to Playa Maderas, located just north of S.J.D.S. is one that takes you back in time. The eventual arrival and first vision of the beach….well, not so much. And as was the case when I went in for that first cutie-smooch and hit the nose of my first crush instead of her lips….the sudden feeling of disappointment.

Playa Maderas in many ways is a microchosim of what happens to many amazing waves and beaches in Central America, and around the world for that matter, as their popularity grows and what is taken from these beautiful beaches far outweighs what is being given back. In many ways it is a classic wave who is only in its adolescence as a well-known break.

The instant you pull up to Maderas you will notice that the town of San Juan Del Sur relies heavily on surfers from all over the world who come to experience the infinite offshores and ride amongst the backdrop of relatively untouched mountainsides. Dumptrucks converted to accommodate massive numbers of visitors come and go with frequency and unload heaps of people from all over the world throughout each and every day. Many of these tourists are very inexperienced, if experienced at all. They come armed with burly longboards rented from local surf shops that double as battering rams once they venture into a wave far exceeds the majority of their skill level. A lot of them have spent large amounts of money to make it here and only have a short amount of time to fill their cup and meet the expectations they have placed on their surf trip. When combining that with a growing number of local rippers who have made Maderas their home break for over a decades time, if not more, it has created a recipe for chaos.

Playa Maderas San Juan Del Sur

Once in the water on a typically over-crowded day, the energy of many in the water, though not all, is quite peculiar. Beginners who are unaware of the unwritten but highly essential rulebook that comes along with surfing unknowingly and, most of the time, unintentionally pose a huge risk to others in the water. Most of them don’t know or think to look before they go, they don’t realize that the huge plank attached to their leg will do serious damage to other peoples boards, and sometimes even their bodies. Sadly enough, sometimes a small number of them don’t even care. I can only imagine what that must be like for the resident locals who have seen their treasured break continually become something they never imagined it would be over the years. This has created a level of untrust in the water that is unhealthy for the surf scene there and I wonder what it is that can be done to correct this. We can’t turn back the hands of time, Playa Maderas is discovered and well known now. In large part, the local economy relies on the growing number of tourists who come to surf here. So what is the answer? How do we change the situation that this has become at Playa Maderas?

As the number of surfers who come to surf Maderas grows, so does the level of man made refuse that is brought with them. The absence of garbage cans, and perhaps common sense, at Playa Maderas has created a situation in which most of what is brought is left. The mind-blowing natural beauty is being soiled daily here and is reaching a sad level with each overcrowded day. Plastic bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers, and so much more is simply left on the ground without any thought to the eventual consequences that come from such disposal. To top it all, this is an area that in known to be a hatchery for a large number of sea turtles who return year after year to lay their eggs. Many who come here are aware of this, yet somehow we are so focused on riding the constant gift of good waves here that we fail to show a little love to the giver who is Playa Maderas, as well as the true “locals” who have called this place home for centuries on end?

Playa Maderas Surf

The good news…. As I stated earlier, Playa Maderas is still in its early years as a classic surf break. While we can’t change the fact that the number of visitors who come to experience Maderas will continually increase, those who call Maderas home and those planning to visit can take charge to make Maderas what is should be- A highly enjoyable, breathtakingly beautiful, and all around magical place. Their is time to still make a difference here, and hopefully any and all who come to visit or already call Maderas home will make a conscious effort improve the identity of Maderas. Without a doubt, Playa Maderas is worth it.


Posted by Shaun on Monday, July 14th, 2008 in Surfing.

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3 Responses to “Playa Maderas: A Classic Wave in it’s Adolesence”

  • Jason- NorCal Says:

    I surfed Maderas for the first time in ‘05 and have been back to Nica every year since then. I found the wave to be super sick, but with each passing year the crowds seem to be getting more intense

  • Lonnie Says:

    Maderas can be an f-in zoo sometimes… they could use a Nicaraguan Kala Alexander on the beach to blow a whistle on all those donkeys dropping in on everyone.

  • Lindsey Says:

    Hola Shaun.
    Maderas does have a super fun wave, but it is VERY overcrowded. I usually refrain from going there because of all the people. It is unfortunate that it is over crowded, but look at it this way… if every one goes to maderas, all the other beaches (that can have better waves than maderas) are completely empty. But, maderas is much more convenient to get to.

    keepn’ it real in the ragua,

    - Lindsey

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