Rode the Nose in Mompiche

We returned from Otavalo and Met Gabbi one last time for dinner before leaving Quito at 11:45 PM hoping to arrive in Mompiche soon thereafter. Dinner was goooood. Crepe place.. umm.. you all should try it sometime. Got to relax for about 40 min at Gabbi´s before we had to catch a cab to the terminal and then we were off. OFF TO SURF!!!

We woke up as the bus came to a halt. We were assured that this was Esmeraldas and directed to where we could catch our next bus to Mompiche. We were on the corner at 6:00 AM at cross roads, there was a gas station, and a sign telling which road when where, and told us that the bus would come. Indeed buses came. Quickly. From the left, from the right, from in front of us, from behind us. After half an hour the cross roads became busier with people.. which was good? vendors started selling breakfast rice and school kids lined up next to us and then quickly hopped aboard their respective buses. We were still on the corner, now with an unmanageable amount of gear… because of said purchases in Otavalo, picking up and putting down was becoming frustrating to say the least, attempting to catch a bus that doesn´t stop was not something I was looking forward to. As one bus rolled by and the conductor shuffled people aboard as the tires rolled at a visual speed, Jon was able to ask what he knew about the bus to Mompiche. We were relieved to hear ¨it was coming¨ and ¨from that way.¨ Another 10 minutes and sure enough a bus rolled by, ¨Mompiche, Mompiche, Mompiche!¨ It passed us. ugh. Then stopped, actually stopped, 40 meters away, ugh. The conductor seeing our interest in His bus, hustled over to help us with our gear, confirmed that we indeed wanted to get to Mompiche and lugged both us and our gear aboard. Another bus, another view of the country from a well worn and dirtied window.

The bus stopped and the water was right in front of us, the only thing that stood between us and it was the fleet of fishing boats that make this small town viable. About 30 different boats, some large dinghies, and some dugout canoes, there was the smell of fish, outboard motor fuel, and more fish in the air. The waves in front of us peaked and broke, not a surfing wave, but at least there was a swell. After some inspection and negotiation we found our place. It was tough to beat… really tough. Tough to imagine leaving too.

For $5 dollars a night each we shared a small two room palapa, a small bathroom and only cold water, but that was okay as no matter what time it was, the weather was balmy and hot.. is hot included in the term balmy? Perhaps. There was a small deck that we shared with the adjoining residence which was unoccupied. The deck was ours. The locality of Mompiche was small, manageable, and a little of a walk off of our place down the beach. Our place was surrounded by coconut palms and sand and we were no more than 10 meters off the high water line. Our view looked right out into the large bay that Mompiche sat to the south of and we were situated to look out at the southern boundary, the point from which the surf arrived. That night we enjoyed some good fish – fresh, some Cold Beer, perhaps the coldest beer in Ecuador.. or maybe it was just so hot that the beer seemed colder.. it was good, and then hit the sack because travel and heat wipe you out. Woke up in the morning, got ourselves some food and then some boards. We surfed. I walked the nose in Mompiche We surfed some more.

While relaxing after a session in the water a curious boat steered right at us on the water and landed. From it jumped three German tourists, and thus we had German friends while in Mompiche. There was a daughter, sturdly built – like any good German girls should be, working in Quito for a mission, as a missionary.. something, then her parents had come to visit her. Her mother was a happy woman, who smiled a lot in our company, I presume some of that was due to her lack of English. She was short in comparison to the family, but by no means tiny. Then there was the father. A very friendly man, who knew enough English to converse by himself with us and seemed to be energetic to talk to us, almost like he wished he had sons. He was an Economist as it turns out and did consulting work for German companies in their marketing and development strategies, who was also quite interested in, and had read quite a bit about, the U.S. Civil War. The whole family had quite the character, perhaps the German character? Nice folks. We had dinner with them that night and then breakfast again the following morning.

After breakfast Jon and I had decided to leave the allure of Mompiche simply due to lack of waves the previous day. We found when the last bus leaves back to Esmeraldas, and discussed options for where to spend our last 5 days. Then we promptly rented boards for the remainder of our time there and jumped in the water. As we got in and paddled up to the point, catching little waves on our way out, just in case we didn´t catch anything later, another fellow was getting in the water. Smarter that us, he had walked out to the point and strategically jumped into the water from the rocks, my arms were tired. This guy was a local so all we had to do was sit right off of him and we´d be in position, right? As it turns out we didn´t even have to do that, he told us where the good olas were, with a point and a shout and a paddle, it´s an international language. Shortly after we were in two more fellas got in, by the sames means as the first – stupid us – then the waves came. Good sized waves, about 2 meters for the big sets, but meter and a half consistently, fairly quick, and right on the rocks. It was awesome. Drop-ins were fast and fun and I just wish I had more experience with the short board speed. The session was great and we caught waves in to toy about in the shallows where the waves peeled like Rincon – no joke. It was no problem putting the board right down the line and lovin´ it every second. Jon got out.. so turned my board backwards, caught the next wave, spun the board around, 180, and kept riding. Awesome! A perfect end to a great session. I offered the German girl a quick surf lesson and hopefully inspired another surfer.

It was 3:45 we had to pack and decide: the Jungle, another Beach, the Mountains… we landed on Cuenca and hustled to the bus to barely catch it at 4:45 PM. Tired, it was too hot to sleep, so we watched the towns go by. We stopped for one pick up where a rival bus cut us off and subsequenty our bus driver got in a fight with the other – it came to shoves, and watches were removed, but it never came to blows. It was still Very Hot and yet we had no cold beer. I was hungry. I broke out the last Dogoba chocolate bar I had and we ate half. We change buses in Esmeraldas, ate a boxed dinner courtesy of Jon, and were on our way again. Military Check Point – twice. They don´t bother to ask for my passport, but the give Jon the run down, we both got the pat down. Hands on the bus. Caught a new bus out of Guyaquil at 5:55 AM. Out of the terminal witnessed a taxi run head on to a bus.. 0 injury incident fortunately. Still hot, still tired. Passed a crew of folks shaving a pig before hanging and carving for the days sale. Flat land right up to the Andes. Lots of banana farms. lots of bananas, ate a smashed and fried banana for breakfast on the bus, it was good. I went back to sleep. Beautiful View back toward the planes as we moved slowly, then quickly into the lush mountains, steep, vicious, we passed a rock slide as it was occurring.

Arrived in Cuenca at 10:00 AM. We´re back in the same awesome hostel, we´re tired, we looking forward to having something to eat and drink. I´m looking forward to Thursday´s arrival in Phoenix.

— Surf Club Post —

I named the place ¨Shark´s Cove¨ because it made me feel like there was danger.

Jon and I spent the weekend in Mompiche, a small fishing village in the north of Ecuador. We stayed in a two room palapa about 10 meters off the high tide line for $5 a night. Waking up in the morning we looked right out at the point. We found the guy who rents surf boards and learned that wave height is about 3 meters during the ´winter,´making it a perfect place for a surf trip over winter break, eh? but not that great during the spring, summer, and fall months. Surfing the first day was fun – the kind of fun that goes with getting back into the water after spending a month out.

The break comes from the open ocean onto the point and slowly raps around into the cove. The wave peaks like the shore break on a New Port Jetty, crashing against the rocky point and pealing from the rocky reef bottom (the reason Jon limped for a number of days after). With zone about 3 meters wide the first meter puts you against vicious rocks, your limited in where you could take off and it was easy to be intimidated by the proximity of the shore. But the wave pealed perfectly and there was always the option to bail because of the limited size of the curl. There was no close out with these waves. These waves (Olas) moved along the shore about 100 meters to where there was a lull..this was Shark´s Cove. It was a nice place to rest and had a bottom 5 feet below, mostly sandy (again, Jon´s limp). After the swell rolled past Shark´s Cove (another 100 meters) it began to peak again and then pealed all the way to the beach, another 100 meters, are you counting? This second break was such a nice mellow but well shaped wave that I give it second only to the waves of Rincon that I´ve surfed. It was easy to get to the nose, stand up straight, and make any old goofy pose you wanted all the way till the fin dug into the sand. So there´s the picture.

The first day of surf was filled with scoping the place out, testing the bottom for big rocks, riding the shoulder, watching boils turn into dry land, and in general not sackin´ up. Fortunately our second entrance into the water was followed by three locals. Friendly enough to point out the place they were going to take off from, it made it easy to sit off and examine the local technique. After a set or two, we were ready, I was ready, or so we though we were. As it turns out – we were. The waves rolled in fairly consistently for the next hour and a half at about one and a half to two meters and made for fun quick drop ins. I´ve still got to work on my short board speed skills, but for the most part I think I´ve got take offs and drop ins down. The waves were fun and the locals really nice and willing to laugh with us – at us.. there was laughing done, I´m not sure where it was directed. Probably at Jon.

After the session outside we all slowly gravitated to the inside break where more fun was to be had. Now we ran into a 4th local – he was about 5 and wore only a white loin cloth and surfed a 6 foot board. That guy was on fire. Jon and I practiced our same wave surfing, exchanging high fives and shoves and I was able to pull off a clean 180. It was awesome – I mean I am awesome – err… yeah, I´m awesome. With this eir of awesomeness I promptly skipped (yes, skipped) up to our place and offered to teach the female German missionary to surf – or at least give her the opportunity to give it a shot – in the spirit of the club. Accepting reluctantly, I found out later she didn´t like to get her hair wet… that made for difficulttutelage, but none the less she was smiling.

In summary – Mompiche had the surf, I´d suggest bringing your own board, but definitely coming down. Oh don´t forget your 50 spf, rash guard, and tropical wax.

Home in 3 days, I´m ready for some summer surfing with the club.

John