Down Time

Aloe Driscoll wake surfing in El Salvador.

One day while I was paddling out at Las Flores, I saw an unexpected face. No way. I did a double take. It was Casey, from Costa Rica. “What are you doing here?” I called out jokingly. He was on a trip with his friend Red, and like me, they had decided that Las Flores was the call for this swell. Unlike me, they had brought along a jet ski to simplify their trips to Punta Mango. Unfortunately, it was having problems. After a few minutes of use, a warning light went on, at which point it wouldn’t go faster than 6mph.

Luckily, you can also drive to Punta Mango, and eventually Casey came by to see if I wanted to go with him. Of course I did. It was late in the afternoon, and neither of us had high hopes, but I’d never driven to Punta Mango before, and was, as always, up for an adventure.

It was a glorious afternoon. The waves were well overhead, clean and glassy, with only a few people out. What I remember most is the light. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, it lit up the picturesque green mountains and the fluffy white clouds like a fairy tale Avalon, highlighting the fine details of each rich piece of texture in soft rainbow hues.

When the swell dropped, Casey and Red offered me a ride to La Libertad. I wasn’t quite ready to leave, but I knew that feeling would change once I was stuck in Las Flores with no waves. Plus, I had a hunch that if I stuck with these guys, a good time was guaranteed.

We packed up and headed out, jet ski in tow. Casey got some oil, hoping that it would fix the problem. Weather permitting, he said we could take the ski out for a spin in one of the estuaries near La Libertad.

Casey and Red were staying at Bob Rotherham’s hotel near Punta Roca, which was a bit out of my price range. I had met Bob on previous trips to El Salvador, and the guy is a legend. He arrived in El Salvador in 1972 and is a pioneer of surfing at Punta Roca, as well as a savvy businessman. Bob took pity on me and set me up at the Rancho, his not-quite-finished property near the hotel. It was a little funky, but the price was right. It was perfect.

The waves were dropping rapidly, so once the rain subsided, Casey and Red made the call to bust out the jet ski. These guys sure know how to have fun during down time.

The estuary was breathtaking; silvery smooth water dotted with vintage boats, framed by emerald green islands thick with trees. Casey and I had drinks at a restaurant on a dock that jutted out over the water, as Red did laps on the jet ski. As soon as he pulled up to the dock, the warning light came on. I was disappointed, thinking that our plans for the day were ruined, but comforted by the fact that I wasn’t missing anything in terms of waves. Determined to make the best of it, I decided to swim across the estuary, for some exercise.

One of my favorite things to do on a flat day in Santa Cruz is swim to the kelp beds. The swim out is always cold, rough, and a bit frightening. But it makes the reward of the kelp beds that much sweeter. During low tide, a thick patch of kelp is literally a bed. You can climb into its welcoming arms and float effortlessly, stare at the sky, feel the blood return to your frigid body, watch otters poke their heads up inquisitively, mere feet from where you lay.

The water in the estuary was warm, and there were no kelp beds, but when I reached the nearest boat I found that I could rest on the ropes of its anchor. With my back against one rope, and my toes wedged on another, I had a makeshift recliner to catch my breath for the swim back.

And when I made it back to the dock, a nice surprise: the jet ski had cooled down and was ready for action. Casey encouraged me to take it for a spin, and I insisted that he come with me, since I had no idea how to operate it. Once I got the hang of it, and a wide span of water laid out in front of me, he told me to hit it, and I squeezed the throttle hard. The ski galloped down the homestretch, leaping over bumps of wake.

Amazingly, the jet ski was golden for the rest of the day; the warning light never came on again. The guys pulled out a tow rope and a 5’6 twin fin and we took turns wake surfing behind the ski. Casey and Red had all the moves – huge turns, air reverses, jumping the wake – I was happy just staying on my feet.

As the day drew to a close, Casey asked me if I wanted to drive the ski one more time. What I really wanted was to hop on behind and let him drive. I did, and he didn’t disappoint. We rocketed away at full speed, hit turns so hard I was almost flung off of the back, darted into the waterways between the islands, jumped over wakes.

There’s something luxurious about being a passenger, not having to think, or try. What a stroke of luck, hopping on board with these guys during down time. I just got to sit back and enjoy the ride.

5 thoughts on “Down Time

  • Posted on June 18, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Hi Aloe! I can’t figure out which country you are in, the map on this blog shows you as being inland in Guatemala. Is that right?

    • Posted on June 19, 2015 at 3:42 am

      Yes, I was in Guatemala, just left today!

  • Posted on June 18, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Awesome. You can never have a bad time with Rojo and Casey! Miss my negra/junq’s bro’s..

  • Posted on June 18, 2015 at 6:11 am

    You are such a legend! I love reading your posts. You do such a great job taking us with you. And the pictures, fabulous!!

    • Posted on June 19, 2015 at 3:43 am

      Thanks Dom! I miss you guys and am looking forward to seeing you on my way home if you’re around. (Not sure when yet but I’ll keep you posted!)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.