“The water is my element and always has been.”
Glynis Elisa wasn’t gifted with a coast from a young age like most surfers. Instead, she felt her draw to the ocean every time she traveled, watching surfers down the coast of California as well as in France and Spain. It wasn’t until a visit to Central America did she find herself drawn to the ocean so strong that she ended up leaving her life in Germany and starting a new one in the home of our surf trip in Nicaragua.
She’s been living in Nicaragua for a little over two years now, spending more time in the ocean than out. Here’s what she had to say about learning to surf and living in one of our most beloved countries.
What types of challenges did you face starting your life in Nicaragua?
It’s not easy to start a life in a foreign country. I cried the second day I arrived and just wanted my best friends to get me a ticket back to Germany. I was scared. I came here with 200 dollars and 100 of that went to my taxi from the airport for me and my grandpa dog, Mr Muffin – my best friend and 12-year-old golden retriever.
I first lived in San Juan del Sur and worked in a surf shop, but the money I made was only enough for my rent and my food, and I wasn’t even able to go to the beaches and actually surf. One day I moved out to Maderas Beach, and from there on, I was able to surf every single day. I would never take a day off and would surf up to 6 hours daily, if the tide allowed me.
Now, I’m blessed that most of my friends and my family come visit me here regularly, so I don’t really ever miss them. I have a good circle of people down here that I trust and can rely on.
I think it just takes some courage and mostly a positive mindset. With that, in my opinion, everything is possible.
Are there any misconceptions about traveling in Nicaragua?
I lived in big cities like LA, Berlin and New York City, and there were moments where I felt unsafe. I never, not a single time, felt unsafe in this country, and I walk alone in the dark and hitchhike.
Most people are inviting and want to help you if you need help in any way. I think when people worry too much about what could happen, they attract something bad. Bad things can happen anywhere in the world, but I feel really safe here and have had no negative experiences. Everyone who ever visited me here was positively surprised and everyone wants to come back – I just love this country.
How is the life in Nicaragua different than Germany?
I love that people here are happy with what little they have. Mostly they just have each other and the beautiful, surrounding nature. Sometimes we don’t have water or electricity for hours. I’ve learned more and more to appreciate those things that are “normal” in Germany.
Where do you consider home?
Well I just never felt “home” in Germany. Even when I was a little kid I always told my parents I want to live close to the ocean. I think home is more of a feeling than a place, so Nicaragua is home for me. It’s the place that makes me feel most alive – The place that allows me to go after my passion every single day.
I don’t agree with a lot of things over in first world countries – I just can’t identify with a lot of the rules and regulations and the mindset of a lot of people. So often there is more greediness than gratitude for the privilege we have (growing up in a western society). I’m really thankful for the education I was given and the possibilities I have that so many people don’t experience.
What type of challenges did you face as a beginner surfer?
I never had a single surf lesson. I bought a board and was just like, “Can’t be too hard.”
Turns out it’s the hardest sport I ever tried to learn, and I’m usually pretty good at every sport I’ve ever tried! Surfing made me so frustrated from time to time. I’d go through periods of surfing every day for months and still feel and see no progress…those times were and still are tough. But that’s also what I love about it. It teaches me so much – so much patience, persistence, presence and just gratitude for our beautiful planet with its oceans and waves.
Do you find the vibe in the water to be different as a female?
I usually don’t hear any weird comments from the guys in the water, but I’m also half deaf and don’t speak Spanish, which helps me to cut out the bullshit. I don’t want to chat, I don’t want to flirt, I’m just there to surf!
I’m constantly surrounded by people in the water, most of them being guys. In the beginning I was really intimidated by everyone around me and always paddled a million miles away where the waves were breaking shitty, just so I wouldn’t have anyone in my way.
Now that I feel more confident in the water, I don’t mind it that much anymore. Sometimes I feel like some guys don’t take you seriously in the water because you are “just a girl.” I, personally, just respect everyone and just want to have a good time.
What do you like about Nicaragua? What do you like specifically about the surf?
I just love the people here. They’re so happy and welcoming, kind and warm-hearted people. I also love Nica food. I can eat gallo pinto and tostones con queso ever single day. No lie.
And the surf, I love the fact that you can surf almost every single day of the year here. Those off-shore winds are so good, plus the water is, besides in the windy season, bath-tub warm and crystal clear. Even in the off-season I like the waves. I love how the waves break and find it a great place to learn how to surf.
What is your favorite break in Nicaragua and Why?
Because I live in Maderas, I surf that break daily, and I love it. Unfortunately it’s often pretty crowded.
I love when it’s dawn patrol time, and I get up while it’s still dark (4:30am) and run down to the water just to be the first one, having the whole ocean to myself for maybe 45 minutes. It’s priceless.
If I have transportation, I love to go south from here or north. In the south, I love, love, love Yankee. Even though it’s a left wave spot, I always find some rights there for me (I still struggle with my backside).
If I go north, I really enjoy surfing Colorados, Panga Drops & Popoyo, and soon I want to surf even further north at El Boom.
What type of advice would you give to a beginner surfer?
I’ve never been good in giving advice, but I think the most important thing is, if you really want to get to a specific level of surfing (and that is what I’m working on daily), you gotta commit! It’s not going to come to you easy and fast, so you can’ get frustrated. You need to dive in and never forget that it’s all about having fun in the water. You also need to learn to face your fears. I’m scared of bigger waves, and I’m still trying to lose that fear, but you just gotta go!
Ultimately, being healthy and being able to play in the ocean… that is something so wonderful.