Nicaragua’s Playa Colorado is home to a world-class wave, nicknamed the “Colorado Pipeline”—a wave that often breaks as a hollow barrel, similar to but considerably smaller than the famous Pipeline in Hawaii. Next weekend, this beach will be welcoming hundreds of surfers from around the world for the 2012 ISA World Masters Surfing Championship.
Over the past five years, Colorado has been featured in several high profile surf videos, which have beckoned thousands of surfers from around the globe to visit the area. The wave is located within the Hacienda Iguana, a large tourism-development project that houses a golf course and beachfront homes for a cool $800,000. While locals jokingly refer to the beach as “La Playa de los Millionarios,” (The Beach of Millionaires), it’s considered by many surfers to be one of the jewels of Central America’s Pacific coastline, providing direct access to Colorado and the outer reef’s Panga Drops—two of the fiercest surf breaks in Nicaragua.
Local developers are wagering that the World Masters Surfing Championship will firmly cement Nicaragua’s place on the global surf destination map. The competition will be broadcast live online on the ISA, Surfline and Transworld websites, as well as on local webpages from each representing country. The big names competing in this year’s event will bring additional worldwide exposure to Nicaragua’s waves and will likely spark global interest among surfers and real estate hunters looking for seaside bargains.
“Every beach that has hosted an ISA championship has seen a rapid development boom in the wake of the event,” says the Nicasurfing.com team, which is working together with INTUR, Grayline Tours, and the ISA committee to produce the event. “Still, we don’t expect this industry to have a full-time impact on the country. Surf tourism is likely to remain seasonal, which means there’ll be many months of the year when only locals and random backpackers will fight for the waves.”
Defending surfing champs Tom Curren, a three-time world champion from California, Juan Ashton, four-time ISA World Masters Champion from Puerto Rico, and former ASP World Champion Sunny Garcia, a Hawaii native who will be competing for his first ISA medal, are all confirmed to compete at this year’s event. Latin America is well represented by 11 national teams, featuring contenders such as former ALAS champion Martin Passeri and Panamanian Women’s Champion Sonia “Pucha” Garcia.
Prior to the event, the Granito de Arenas foundation is teaming up with environmental projects Renisa and Paso Pacifico, as well as the local communities of Gigante and Santa Marta, for an extensive beach cleanup. These organizations have pledged to continue the cleanups throughout and after the event to ensure that only footprints are left behind in the sand. The clean team hopes to inspire locals who are working in and profiting from Nicaragua’s growing surf industry.
The inaugural ceremony will be held July 14 in downtown Rivas, before moving to Playa Colorado. The Rivas event will kick-off with a flag parade and the ISA’s traditional Sands of the World ceremony, which will bring together the teams from all 24 countries participating in the tournament, including: Brazil, South Africa, France, Australia, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Japan, Jamaica, Germany, Switzerland, and Tahiti. The competitions begin July 15 at 8 a.m., with heats leading up to the finals. The closing ceremony and medal presentation will be held July 22.
Though a team medal looks highly unlikely for Nicaragua, which is heading into the tournament with at least one man down (there are generally seven entries per nation), ultimately it’s up to the country’s waves to bring home the gold.
Surfing fans can follow live local webcast everyday here, from July 14-22.
-article by Amber Dobrzensky / guest contributor