El Salvador // K59

The morning of departure from our base in El Tunco arrived. We rose at 5am, set the coffee on the stove, layered up with suncream, waxed the boards, sipped at the rich caffeine filled treat swirling around in our mugs, and made our way through the quiet early morning street of El Tunco. Only the birds singing their morning songs and the dogs hauling themselves off the roadsides accompanying our morning reverie.

We surfed until 10am, right after right peeling across the line up. Smiles plastered across our faces. We only stopped because we knew if we left early enough, we might be able to squeeze in another morning surf at K59 before the arrival of the midday wind. We caught our last waves in, bidding an ‘Hasta luego amigos, nos vemos otra vez, estoy seguro!” to Dennis and his mates. We made tracks back up the volcanic sand beach where the heat of the sun had already scorched the surface. We bought our last papaya juice and quickly packed up our board bags before the heat of the day kicked in. We were ready for a ride over to the next stop on our trip.

El Salvador’s Pacific coastline is littered with limitless rocky right hand point breaks. We had researched the breaks before we arrived, reading up as much as we could about the various spots; where was heaviest (Punta Roca), which break had the busiest crowds (Tunco) and where was quietest, but we still never really knew quite what to expect.

I booked us in for a few nights at the elusive break of K59. I tried researching all I could about it before heading over but it was difficult to find many places to stay. There were only a few options; either an all inclusive surf resort overlooking the break or an expensive yoga and surf retreat hidden not far from the resort. Neither of these options really floated our boat; we wanted somewhere quiet to hide away in between surfs, away from the obviously tourist haunts and away from the usual suspects found at the all inclusive spots.

I found myself searching

Airbnb

to see if there was somewhere more off the beaten track we could stay, but that wasn’t too far a walk from the break. I managed to find a small farm with a room to rent for a couple of nights, just off of the main highway with its own small plot of land, some chickens, a veg garden and a dog; I was sold. A few nights on the farm booked, we were off on our next adventure to K59. 

We caught a ride with a lovely man called Winnie, who, as it turned out we had been surfing with a few mornings earlier. I remembered seeing him in the water on his longboard, sitting further outback waiting for the set waves with the widest smile spread across his face as he hooted and cackled, speeding down the overhead wave with a grace and confidence that comes from years of surfing these perfect point breaks. 

He chuckled all the way along the short ride over from Tunco to K59 as Bob Marley and the Wailers, accompanied by Winnie, Clare and I, blasted out from the car’s stereo. We stopped at various Miradors, giving us a birds-eye view of K59 and K61 from the highway teetering on the edge of the clifftop above. We could see the wave breaking and peeling right the way along the boulder stricken shoreline. 

K59 is a quick wave with speedy sections breaking along the boulders littering the shoreline. K59 is a bit of a race track compared to the slower, fatter waves of Sunzal. It’s neighbour K61 has a much longer paddle out, is much shiftier and doesn’t line up as well as K59. For this reason, we stuck with the easily accessible break of K59 where we could paddle out from the sandy beach, and join the line-up at the rocky boulder point with less than 5 minutes of paddle power.

We arrived at the small farm late morning. Unloading our boardbags from the roof of Winnie’s car, we exchanged numbers and a “Nos Vemos” as we hoped to see him in the water at K59 the following morning.

From our stop off at the top of the Mirador, we could see that the 11am wind had picked up, messing up the conditions for the late morning surf we were hoping for. Instead, we flung our bags into the corners of the room, unpacking only the necessities; suncream, bikinis, towels, boards and wax. We armed ourselves with water and a few dollars in case we found a fruit stand along the way, and set off down the dusty path to where we believed the beach lay tucked away. 

The path lead us down passed small concrete huts dotted along the way, where a few of the locals lived. One of the small huts we believed to be just another person’s house, turned out to be a small church where all the locals descended at sunset to fill the forested area with songs of praise until the night came, and even then the happiness emanated through the branches and cooler air of the evening. Unfortunately, their singing wasn’t enough to completely drown out the relentless noise of the heavy-load trucks pummelling passed on their journeys up and down the Pacific Highway. Brakes screeched and truck horns honked as if they were fog horns warning of danger right the way through the night. Our small, peaceful room on the farm, where the chickens and dogs strolled around so freely, felt as if it were sat right on the roadside when the traffic of the night thundered by.

Meandering passed the church, continuing down the dusty track without passing a single sole, we soon came to the beach. The midday sun was in full blaze but we watched the set up from beneath the shelter of the palms. The boulder point was blown out and too low tide for it to be working well enough. A few locals popped their heads out from under the shelter of the shade and we walked passed a few fishermen, resting in the safety of the hammock, away from the midday sun. The cooling onshore breeze rustled through the palms overhead, swaying an empty hammock side to side.

We smiled and passed by, wanting to walk round to see whether we could spot K60 and K61, the next breaks further North. We came to an empty salt water pool where we couldn’t pass any further but spotted the pebble beach where the paddle out to K60 began. With everywhere looking blown out we decided to cool off in the shade, and wait for the wind to die down in the evening, with the hope of gaining a few rides on K59.

We returned to the beach later on that afternoon, when the sun and wind had finally eased enough for everyone to come out of their shaded spots. With the tide on the push, and the wind easing up we could see the point was beginning to work with a few people now out in the line up. The paddle out was much quicker than that of Sunzal, yet it was already clear that this was a much more powerful wave. The power of the point break wave culminated at the beach where all the swell’s energy descended onto the sandbank in an almighty closeout. We timed our paddle out well, but we were both wary of this for when the time came to get out.

The waves were chunky, heavier and much quicker than Sunzal. Sunzal had eased us in to El Salvadoran surf with its forgiving paddle out, however, it seemed K59 was already showing its true colours. K59 breaks like a racetrack, with its thick glassy walls mounting up with increasing strength.

We revelled in our new found spot and caught wave after wave until the sun set beyond where K61 lay hidden behind the headland. Proud of each other for surfing this new spot, much more powerful than the last. A burning fireball set to our right, illuminating the beach and the ocean’s surface. We shared the line up with some welcoming locals, some loud, retired expat americans and a couple of friendly Brazilians who seemed to like snaking every single person in the water, themselves included. Pleased with our find, we bid our farewells until early next morning, hoping for another special session with even less wind.

We woke early the next morning after a night of feeling like we had slept right at the roadside. We realised that the Pan-American Highway certainly does not sleep, with the truck drivers incessant blasting of their horns and screeching of their brakes round sharp hillside corners; a true deep sleep was difficult to come by. With eyes half open and vision blurry, we set the coffee on the stove as the day was still young and the farm's chickens clucked their way around the cool grass. 

Only the slightest hint of light was beginning to break through the trees. We continued with our morning ritual, set up the coffee, suncream, bikini, wax up, stretch out, drink the coffee, stash the room key and head down the track for a dawny in paradise, with not another soul around. 

My heart still pounds with the excitement I felt every morning I woke up here. It is a real feeling of love and living for the moment, which is so quickly forgotten as soon as you return to the normal every day of home life. It is a sensation I look to recreate in my life; that of the unknown, the slight fear that comes with it, but the innate and immeasurable excitement within. I think it is this addictive trait that surfing, and traveling gives us that makes us keep on coming back for more, day in, day out. 

After stepping quietly down the dusty path that lead to the beach, slowly waking up with the sun, we were welcomed with the lightest of offshore breezes and a solid 3 ft wave breaking at the point. There were already a couple of people out there, so we wasted no time in paddling out. The water was the clearest i'd seen since arriving in El Salvador and the water's surface looked like there had been an oil spill; shimmering in the morning sun, returning almost immediately, to a state of pure calm as soon as you paddled away. 

We spent hours surfing these clean, glassy walls. Practicing deeper, steeper take offs, perfecting our wipeouts and pulling off at the end before the shore dump claimed our bodies and boards. Befriending a few locals sitting out there on their bodyboards with their GoPros and underwater cameras, they pointed their cameras towards us as we glided passed them laughing at each other at the hilarious faces we pulled on our way passed. We revelled in every glorious second spent out here, understanding exactly just how lucky we were to be sharing this experience. We surfed until the tide became too low and our bellies too empty.

There are no shops in K59, however, just a few days before we arrived, a family had opened a tiny Pupuseria on the dusty track that lead down to the beach where we could buy pupusas and fortunately for us, papaya juice! We bought some papaya juice with the dollars we had stashed in our bikinis and slurped the delicious juice to the very last drop. Our bellies craved something a little more substantial but we both fancied something a little different from Pupusa.

Before setting out for our surf that morning, we had seen the local fishermen setting out into the water for their morning. Instead of boats, they used old truck tyres and paddled out against the waves for their morning of work. We watched in disbelief as they braved the swell, in these truck tyres with their lines and nets. It was the first time i'd seen this before and almost couldn't believe it. I was astounded by their bravery and skill in managing to do something like this.

Under the palms overlooking the point, a fishermen with a friendly face sat at the corner of the point taking photos of the surfers. I had heard that you could order a fish for that day and have a meal, under the palms for $10 each. I jumped at the chance to eat a fresh El Salvadoran catch, caught fresh that morning by one of these fisherman. I employed my best Spanish, and asked if we could buy two fresh fish lunches for Clare and I that day. We couldn't wait to sample this incredible treat. We bid an 'Hasta Luego' until 2pm that afternoon, and made tracks back up the road to the farm to hide away from the heat of the day that had already begun to kick in.

We lazed at the farm, delighting in swinging in the hammocks in the shade, reading our books and snoozing off the little sleep we had had during the night.

We had been told the fishermen would be paddling back into shore at 12pm with their catch so we wanted to meet and show our gratitude to the men that would be catching our tasty lunch. We rushed back down to the beach a little before 12pm and watched in awe as they came back to shore, smiles gleaming, proud with their catch.

After seeing the means by which these men were fishing created a whole new level of respect for these brave men. Whilst the swell had died down that day, these men still go out in the wet season which can see swell reaching 6-8ft, even more. These men were an inspiration. Their smiles infectious, as well as their excitement for their catch.

We felt privileged to be able to eat such fresh fish, caught in the most sustainable of ways, with the money paid going straight into the fishermen's pockets. Not into the hands of greedy resorts or hotels slowly creeping their way around El Salvador's coastlines.

We filled our gurgling bellies with fresh coconuts and sought shelter under the palms, chatting away and revelling in the natural beauty of this secluded place.

As we hid under the shelter of the palms, we gazed out to the break where the locals showed us how it's truly done, riding the waves of K59 in the heat of midday, until the moment came for our momentous feast!

We sat down with a view overlooking the break to the biggest feast we had had since arriving in El Salvador. We had two great big fish each, more than we had anticipated with a side of vegetables, rice and a fresh cucumber and tomato salad. It was so much more than we had expected. It was incredible. We couldn't thank them enough, it was such a generous meal for only $10 each, we couldn't quite believe it. We thanked our lucky stars and ate as much as we possibly could. Soon we were befriended by a tiny little kitten on the hunt for a few scraps, along with a few local dogs. I fed the little kitten a few pieces of fish before the bigger dogs caught sight.

In the tropical heat, our appetites diminished quickly, and ashamedly unable to finish all the food, we packed away all the parts of the meal we couldn't finish and took it back to the farm where we ended up cooking up a fishy breakfast feast after a surf the next morning. We didn't want any of it to go to waste. With bellies as full as possible, we thanked everyone for our incredible feast and returned to the farm for a post-lunch siesta.

We snoozed the afternoon away, until the heat of the day died down and our bellies returned back to normal. We ended another incredible day in paradise with a sunset surf with only a few others out. We returned to the farm after sunset, with hearts full of gratitude and love for this country.

That evening, we chatted away outside our room, swinging in the hammocks whilst the church goers sang their songs of praise, with the birds calling out in unison, filling the night with a unique sensation of calm, love and gratitude. We talked with an American expat who was friends with the farm owners. He had moved to El Salvador years ago, and now lived in a small concrete hut just a few feet away from the farm. We talked about El Salvador, its beauty, its waves, its politics and its gangs until the little sleep we'd had the night before took hold and bed called to our tired limbs.

We had made plans to move the next day, to a break called El Zonte. After researching, I had heard this place offered another peeling right hander, not as heavy as K59 but not as fat as Sunzal; a perfect inbetweener it seemed. El Zonte also seemed to offer a few more places to eat and drink, we couldn't resist a peak at another beautiful spot and wondered how much better it could actually get. We bid our farewells to the expat, and fell asleep almost as soon as our heads touched the pillow; dreaming of what adventures lay in store for the day ahead.

Emma x

* All swimwear worn by Clare and I is

Kobe Surf

.