Sometimes when your world gets tossed upside down the only real solution is to return to your central and return to the ocean.Nothing finds peace and stability like sitting out on your board surrounded by the beauty of the ocean, waves, jungle and amazing new cultures. I took this retreat into my own paradise when I headed down for two and a half months to check out Ecuador’s sought-after west coast.
My first stop was a small party town named Montañita. I knew that if I was going to a Spanish speaking country for an extended time I should learn the language more. Especially since nothing is more helpful when hitting up new waves than to be able to ask the locals for some inside info on a secret spot or some warnings to keep you safe!! So, I signed up for a couple of weeks at Montañita Spanish School. The teachers were amazing, I lived with a local family and I added an extra week of classes. Because Montañita is a party town every mrning the waves were free to whoever had the energy to drag themselves out of a hammock or off the beach where they slept off their hangover. So needless to say. My surf partner in crime, Tania, and I had nearly every wave we wanted. Save the occasional mind-blowing local who’s love for the wave beat out Cocktail Alley’s sugary, over poured rum drinks.
If you want some pretty epic barrels, amazing vegan cuisine, and barely another person to be seen head to Acampo. Desolate, rock beach that barrels when the tides hit right. It’s a quick wave that if you (not I, but a friend Kew) have the skills for, you will be rewarded with as many waves you feel like taking.
Now the secret to Montañita is definitely the sunset beach breaks. For some reason most days the swell seemed to pick up, the wind died off, and the sun was a neon red that blinded the surfers as we paddled out to get yet another wave. The waves were just never ending. Because Montañita is where the currents collided you still get the warm, tropical waves that needed nothing but a bikini!! And a Rashied to keep some sun off your back when out doing a 3hour surf! Of which we did plenty!!
Another little secret I’ll let you in on is that if you hop on a city bus, surrounded by locals heading up and down the coast, with the sound of chickens stored in twine bags underneath your feet, you can pay 50 cents USD to hop on, up and over the hill, passing an old nunnery overlooking the stunning coast, and end up in Olón village. This was by far the best kept secret I found out about from the surf instructor at Montañita Spanish School. Great waves with an easy paddle out, most of the time! The waves tended to be shoulder high to overhead. Consistent and nearly empty of surfers. The only headache I had was on my last day… Hit by a truck getting off the bus crossing the highway (keep your eyes peeled for people not following the rules of the road, thank god for my catlike reflexes that ended up with me sitting on the hood of the truck, board safe in hand), then stung by some jellyfish on my last day. Being out with only one other surfer on my 6’4 fish made only being able to surf head high waves for 2 hours totally worth it!!
Because of the need for adventure by one of the surf instructors, my American friend Pete, I decided to leave Montañita after the new year’s (fin de año) party week. Pete and I headed inland on the craziest, scariest, most breath-taking bus ride trip. Up and down the awesome mountains, through rolling farm land, passing little old traditionally dressed men and women, and eating fruit and treats the locals would bring up onto the bus at every halt in the trip. We ended up in the adventure town Baños. If you want to bungee jump off a bridge towards you death on the rocks below (I didn’t, but I did it, and I’ll never do it again!!), cable car yourself across mad ravines, rend ATVs and check out the Swing at the End of the World, climb a million stairs in the Devil’s Cauldron, doing a drinking “mountain” bike ride following the rivers through mad mountain ranges, white water raft, eat some roast guinea pig or just buy copious handmade candies from local sugar cane, then this is the place for you!!!
Then I took my leave and made the best decision yet of my trip. I headed to Canoa. Let me tell you… The most amazing waves I’ve consistently surfed. Even though Canoa is a beach break it surfs more like a reef break. You could just paddle out and around and back on the same wave, except when the rip tore you down the beach. Clean, beautiful crumbling waves. The most people I ever saw were when there was 5 of us surfing. The wave was perfect for anyone with a bit of skill and the drive to drop in. Like any break, the longer your surf the wave at that particular spot the better you can read it, the more you realize a crash won’t end you, the more confidence grows in you. By the end of two weeks of sunrise surfs, followed by bolon, an egg and coffee for a dollar for brekkie, nap in the hammock, lunch surf, another nap, and a sunset surf I was living my surf dream. The last couple days the surf really took off and beautiful, overhead waves were my daily treat. Every surf left my arms and legs wobbling and my heart bursting. Two weeks was not enough. I’ve never felt stronger, happier or more at peace.
Ecuador is the tale that you think can’t be true, but it really is. It will forever hold a piece of my heart. The waves, the food, the people, the serenity and adrenaline rushes. Nothing beats an amazing surf trip that becomes more that just a surf trip. This place is battling to be on of my favorite places on earth. I will never forget it and if I had a chance to go again I would snatch that opportunity in an instant.