If there’s something you never want to be up against, it’s time. Running down San Juan Del Sur’s colourful main street with no shoes, I’m on a mission. I follow the messy power lines above me and shoot a friendly smile at my smoothie lady. I’m tempted to stop for my $2 ‘tropical’ but I see the sign.
The building is hard to miss. I walk into Good Times Surf Shop, a flaming sun painted above the archway. Three local Nicaraguan guys sit on the bench out the front, smoking. All have a long curly black hair that’s blonde at the ends.
The middle guy smirks at me, in a way that makes me feel like I should know what he’s thinking. Maybe I’ve met him out before – you get to know each other pretty quickly here.
My Aussie mate runs in announcing ‘I’m here.’
“Thank God, because I wouldn’t have been able to carry two boards by myself,” I laugh.
“Cool. The other guys, Eim, Payet, Wilson and Carlos, have gone up to Casa Oro to grab the other boards.”
I flatten the crumped Cordoba notes from my purse and lay them flat on the counter, while Jeremy rests the boards on the ground outside.
“Rental is for one hour,” the guy says – but I don’t think he really cares when we bring them back. Time isn’t really a thing here, unless you’re trying to catch the sunset.
I can see the guys from the end of the street, carrying the boards one at each end. They looked the part. I forgot for a moment that I don’t have shoes on, until the hot bitumen reminds me. I grab the two, oddly-heavy paddles and run back down to the water, one street over.
I know the sunset is close because the people are starting to turn into silhouettes and the boats, now dark shadows. Every night, I pinch myself that I’m here. I think the sunsets are the thing that seduced me. No two sunsets are every the same. As 6.00pm creeps closer, I start to wonder what the skies will soon deliver.
Tonight, the sun put on a show. She danced her way across the horizon, burnt orange tones adjoining the water’s line, inviting us.
“Let’s go guys!” I run to the water’s edge, eager again. The soft waves had made ripples in the sand. My footprint piercing the beautiful line.
There’s two of us per board. We take turns paddling and laying down at the back. I’m with Eim, my Lithuanian friend. Laughing at how uncoordinated we are both trying to stand up, I lose my balance. I fall in, mouth open, still giggling.
“My turn!” I say, cheekily. We manage to switch spots, ever so carefully, and I’m in the ‘skipper’ position.
I find my rhythm pretty quickly. I’ve always felt most natural and close to myself when I’m in the water. ‘Go mermaid,” Payet shouts from behind.
It’s an odd sensation standing up on a board. I’m used to surfing where I’m laying down most of the time. Here, though, I can see everything, feel everything more intensely.
My focus is broken by the boys trying to race each other. I forgot that I’m the only girl here. I gently swivel and pass the paddle back to Eim and slide back. This time, I’m laying down. The board’s big enough to stretch out my legs, my hands behind me, fingers pointing to the shore.
Weaving carefully around the many boat ropes, a pelican sits perched on the top of a boat, looking at us. A local walks out and my friend asks him if he has beer.
He shakes his head but I don’t think he understood what we were saying.
“Beer would top this off right now.”
As the clouds started to detach its shapes, an almost-blinding radiant yellow appears. I stretch out my left arm and caress the glowing water – in awe at how the sun glistens it, turning it purple.
‘Come closer, guys,” I say, as I wave them over. Slowly, we align our boards, one by one, and watch in silence – our boards facing the sun-drenched horizon.
She’s disappeared now, and we wait, in that special moment between the drop and darkness.
The time, only known now by the cycle of the sun.