Playa El Tunco– leave it to the pros.

This post’s title, when translated into English, actually says– “I surfed El Tunco and almost didn’t make it.”

Don’t think you’re totally safe, even with a teacher. I was out in the surf with this allegedly expert guy I had hired, I ended up bloody, and he still insisted I pay him the full amount. I protested, explaining that I should have a discount, seeing as I had bashed my cabeza into some of those crazy rocas under the water, and people who were bleeding shouldn’t have to pay. Well at least not pay all of it.

When I reached my fingers gingerly up to my scalp to do that dreaded exploratory damage assessment, they were of course a shiny orangey red upon inspection. Luckily there was actually no further damage worth writing home about, and I had a pretty grand time five minutes later at the fruit shake stand, nursing my fresh-squeezed orange juice while theatrically blotting the general area above my left ear with a paper napkin. Some cool surfer dude walked past with his super rad board and made a disgusted face at me as I parted my hair around my virtual non-wound. No doubt he could have heard (from all the way down the street) my accented rantings to the Salvadorean shop keeper lady who was every bit as sympathetic as I could have hoped. She used the word pobrecita several times, and this had been the exact sort of soothing I was hoping for. So anyway the surfer dude throws me this condescending sideways glance, and I screech out something along the lines of You better take it easy out there today. You watch yourself. You see what happens. Yeah, I told him.

Mere moments later as I dragged my war-torn self back towards my hostel, a pile of something plopped on the street after emerging from my bathing suit bottom and traveling down the inside of my left leg. Oh come on! Really?! I started to panic and quickly spun around in a frantic little circle to see who else had seen.

I suppose I was happy when I realized that the unidentified object exiting from my suit was in fact a bunch of clumpy black sand. You ever seen babies at the beach? How their soggy off-white diapers fill up with the stuff as they play along the water’s edge? I had a load of it in my bathing suit bottom. Sweet! I guess it just shows you how much I got spun around in there.

How had I gotten to this point? I recall, when I first met this surf teacher, that I suggested that perhaps we could move a few hundred meters farther down the shore, away from the obvious rocks, and it also looked so much calmer where I had suggested.

After emphasizing for ten minutes that I was a beginner and had surfed maybe ten times before in my life, Jack (not his real name) deemed I was fit for El Tunco. Was he wrong. Was I ever stupid to get in.

I am under the impression that at least a handful of my readers personally care for my well-being, so I will spare you of some of the frightening details of my icky aquatic experience. All I will say is that my surf lesson along El Tunco’s shores in fact comprises my least favorite 30 minutes in water of all the times I have been in water in my entire life. It was one of those experiences where under the water, up starts to look the same as down, thanks to the swirling black sand that isn’t accommodating enough to help you out any (and you’re not supposed to be opening your eyes anyways because you have your contacts in, and they’re not cheap). On top of the sand’s bad mood, throw in the fact that you’re getting strangled by your leash. On top of that, when you’re 10 feet from the beach (thank goodness, finally), throw in the fact that a wave sneaks up behind you, pulls you under again, and on top of being scared all over again just when you thought you had escaped, you look like a total absolute tool.

Have I mentioned yet that these waves were really small? Have I mentioned that before the horror began, I managed to catch three different waves and look like I knew what I was doing for .02 seconds? Compared to the waves in Muizenberg (where I took lessons in South Africa) that felt big, tall, and slow, these El Tunco waves seemed really short and really zippy, like they were really clever and out to get you or something. And the current was sort of diagonal, so they were never coming from where I thought they would be coming from.

Obviously those surfing lessons in South Africa last summer (winter) didn’t help me out in El Salvador. For whatever reason I thought that after surfing in waters frequented by Great Whites, I should “be fine” anywhere else. I was clearly wrong, so like I said, let’s leave it to these guys:

This rock sits there right on the beach in El Tunco like it’s nobody’s business. If you (like these guys) have the guts to jump, then you have the guts to surf.

Disclaimer: If you ever go to El Tunco, please don’t jump off this rock. I actually don’t know whether these two goons jumped. After taking this picture I fell asleep in the direct hot sun, and when I woke up they were gone. I can only assume that they jumped, because when they climbed up, they looked like they were really on a mission. This huge rock is practically on the beach, so I can’t even guess how deep (or rather shallow) the water is around it.

If you have your game face on and think El Tunco sounds like your cup of tea, it’s easy to get to Playa El Tunco from San Salvador. My Tica bus dropped me off there. From there, it’s a forty-five minute taxi ride straight shot south down past La Libertad (another famous surf spot, though I hear it’s a little “sketchier” for being a port town, whatever that means), and then El Tunco is pretty much right after that. El Tunco is basically two sandy streets (perpendicular to each other), so once you get there, you’re there. And you’ll know you’re there once you’re there, because everyone walking those two streets looks like they know what they’re doing. Except for one certain 5’2” gringa.

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One Comment on “Playa El Tunco– leave it to the pros.”

  1. Karen June 30, 2011 at 13:12 #

    Silver lining quote:

    “If it was easy, anyone could do it”! Hang in there (or maybe hang 5).

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