Testing the Rusty Dozer, 4F, and Jokerr Surfboards in Nicaragua

We love surfboards. My current favorite models are the Dozer, 4F, and the Jokerr. I ride them at 5’5″, 5’7″ and 5’9″ respectively. It’s surprising to me that a 5’9″ now feels like a big board. Granted I don’t surf big open water waves much, preferring hollow beach breaks where it’s nice to have a shorter outline to fit into the curve of the wave. With these three boards, I can surf anything that I want to surf. Check them out at the Rusty website and order yours! Rusty.com

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Promoting Education in Northern Nicaragua with Waves of Hope

It’s natural to want to give back and help people. When professional surfer Holly Beck was looking for a place to run her women’s surf and yoga retreats she wanted to partner with someone who was making a positive impact on the community. Coco Loco was the right place. They run a non-profit called Waves of Hope that is investing in education to teach the people how to help themselves.

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Thoughts on Summer Vacation

An open jar of truffle-flavored honey scents the room in sweet musky earth tones amongst a baker’s dozen young hip lawyers, doctors, and a dancer. They’d come to this party in Cambridge, Massachusetts to admire and celebrate the first home purchase of Kim’s brother Ziad – a recent Harvard Med School graduate. Over the course of the evening only one set down his plastic name-tattooed wine receptacle to tickle the ivories or “tinkle” them as my own ivy league-graduated attorney father would say, though you get the feeling at least 90% of them had the capability. Kim and I stood in the kitchen subdued by culture shock and the afternoon’s IPAs and bucket o’ fried clams indulgence, rehydrating with tap-water and fielding questions delivered with awe and confusion about our life in Nicaragua. “You sound like you have an American accent,” the small energetic Asian girl with artful eye-corner mascara says to me. And she was the second of the day. I guess they figured that since we were so hopelessly out of style in our dress that we must actually be from Nicaragua. Imagine if they’d seen what we look like (cleanliness and dress) at home! Continue reading

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Living the Dream – Surfing, Dogs, and Ridgetop BBQs at Tierra Del Sueno

This is why we live in Nicaragua – warm water, fun waves, dogs off-leash on the beach, estuary swimming, hiking barefoot, and sausage BBQs on a sea-view ridge with cold home brewed Belgian Ales to wash it all down. Life is good. Continue reading

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Green Papaya Thai Salad Recipe

Kim spent 8 years living in Thailand and learned some great recipes for delicious and healthy Thai food. One of my favorites is the Green Papaya salad. It’s super easy to make, fresh and healthy, looks awesome with all the colors, and tastes so good!

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Steve and Danika Choose Their Lot

Steven and Danika Thomas lived in Nicaragua for several years and invested in a large piece of property over-looking the bay they liked to surf. They formed the dream of one day building a home on the hilltop and being able to walk with their kids down to the beautiful beach below. When Danika’s job was transferred back to the States they realized that they’d need some help to get their project going and it might be nice to have a few neighbors. Continue reading

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“Volcan” Cacao-Cafe homebrew Stout


The third, and possibly the best batch, in tropical home brewing adventures, almost met its end in the moldy rainy season condition of June. The rainy season brings clouds of mold that drift invisibly through the air landing on everything.   When I checked the carboy on the last day of the 15-day fermentation, I was horrified to find a layer of mold colonies growing on the surface. Continue reading

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Testing the Rusty Desert Island 8’0 in South Nicaragua

Holly and Lobo try out a Rusty 8’0 Desert Island model in big and small waves around Rancho Santana in South Nicaragua.

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Windmills In Nicaragua

One of Nicaragua’s most valuable resources turns out to be wind.   Super strong (often hurricane force) and consistent winds blow across lake Nicaragua.   These amazing winds are basically Trade Winds that are funneled and amplified as the high pressure on the east coast (Caribbean) rushes through the gap in the Central American Cordillera to the relatively lower pressure on the west coast. Continue reading

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Surfing and Surveying at Tierra Del Sueno

The next step in the process of development for Tierra Del Sueno is getting the GPS surveying done. We had a surveyor from Managua come out and put in permanent concrete markers as well as confirming the boundaries of the property. Of course we also had to do some surveying of the waves out front!

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Make Your Own Cottonwood Balm For Muscle Pain and Wound Healing

cottonwood balm

Kim was in Oregon for an early spring trip and on a hike along the Columbia River found a grove of young cottonwood trees in full bud.  Cottonwood is in the same family as willow, the tree from which aspirin comes, and also has pain relieving and antibiotic qualities.  This is really good stuff for muscle aches, bruises, after surfing massages and also for cuts and scrapes.  Smells really good too.  Really easy to make- here’s how: Continue reading

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Tiny House with Bamboo Construction on the Osa Peninsula

On a trip to the Osa Peninsula last year we looked up someone called “Super Steve” who we were told was building some beautiful things with bamboo. Despite the fact that we showed up out of nowhere, Super Steve aka Steve Jurries invited us in and gave us a tour of his property which included several bamboo structures including the little house pictured here. Steve’s partner Mariela Garcia is a bamboo architect and she designed the houses using Guadua Bamboo, the ideal type of bamboo for building. Continue reading

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Affordable Sea View Lots in Northern Nicaragua

A few years ago I bought a 1/2 acre lot in a small development in Santa Maria as an investment. I liked the location, only a five minute walk down a shady road to a quiet beach and near several good surf spots. Water and power are already installed and there is easy road access. It was also one of the most affordable options around. There are still a few lots available and the developer has asked me to help him fill the community with good people. Since I have a vested interest in assuring the quality of my neighbors I’m more than happy to help. Continue reading

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Earthship in China

Our friend Ben is really excited about earthships. He wants to build one here in Northern Nicaragua. I didn’t know much about them, but undertook a program of self-study reading through all three volumes of Michael Reynolds’ Earthship books. The basic idea is finding the cheapest, most sustainable method for building. Reynolds tackles this problem by using recycled materials such as tires and aluminum cans instead of concrete blocks or bricks, and air flow and passive solar for temperature regulation. Volume 2 takes the methods into more detail, and Volume 3 discusses systems like grey water and solar energy. Continue reading

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Surf Trip to Central Nicaragua

It’s like driving from LA to SD for a swell except just a little bit better….

There are really nice waves all around us in the North, including a few within walking distance, but sometimes when you see a big swell coming you just want to surf somewhere different. I first surfed this spot something like six years ago when there was just one local hotel and just one little local restaurant. The hotel proprietor proudly boasted that the wave out front was “the best surf spot in Nicaragua”.
“Yeah right,” I thought, “of course the hotel owner is going to claim that.” After a long muddy walk, a sketchy paddle across a shipping channel, a quick hop across a sandbar, and then another long paddle out to the shallow sandbar in the middle of a harbor that makes a super long and sometimes very hollow lefthander, I decided I agreed with her. Continue reading

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Growing Guadua bamboo

We had been searching for it for nearly a year, since we learned about it in Ecuador.  Guadua bamboo (Guadua angustifolia and other species) is the giant bamboo species native to Central and South America.  It is one of the strongest and best species to use for load-bearing construction and we wanted to find some to build with.  We learned that it grew in Nicaragua and had been planning a trip to the Caribbean coast to investigate.  Before we could make a trip though, we had a chance to get some seedlings and so ended up with 50 guadua seedlings ready to be planted.

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Our garden grows

We started planting the garden in late October, 2011- lots of  chillies (habanero, jalapeno, arbol, New Mex, serrano and others), various greens, tomatoes, Thai basil, lemongrass, dill, tea tree, sunflowers and a bunch of randoms like purslane and indigo.  Some things never sprouted at all, some sprouted and died soon after, and some flourished.  Holly’s green thumb, diligence and love of tiny sprouts meant that most things made it and by March 2012 we were starting to harvest tomatoes and chiles and few leaves of greens and herbs.

jalapeno harvest destined to be become chipotles

Continue reading

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Extreme Driving to Extreme Luxury in Southern Nicaragua

We were headed down to Southern Nicaragua to check out Rancho Santana and talk about possibly using it as a location for an upcoming women’s surf and yoga retreat. The drive usually takes about 6 hours but we wanted to be adventurous and see how long we could stay on dirt roads. We saw some interesting countryside, blew a tire, got tubed by a tree, went through multiple rivers, and it ended up taking 13 hours, but we eventually made it to the super comfortable beach-front condos at Rancho Santana.

The surf was pretty small while we were there, but we scored a few waves and with offshore winds all day, there was no rush. Easy living!

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Hippy Hop Attack IPA

I’ll admit that I was a doubter. After participating in numerous homebrewing efforts over the years I learned that it isn’t easy, there’s a lot that can go wrong, and especially considering our lack of refined equipment I thought our first effort might not be that awesome. I was wrong. So very wrong…

To read the first part of the story (the why, how, and what went wrong while brewing)…. Click Here.

After the wort exploded, it was all up in the air. We had purchased a stick-on thermometer but it didn’t work. We were trying to keep it cool (around 72 degrees) by adding a frozen water bottle to the cooler every day, but due to the thermometer failure we were only able to measure the bath water not the actual wort. Continue reading

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Coconut-Rolled Cashew Honey Cacao Balls

We are all about the homemade – home-brewed IPAs, home-fermented honey wine, and now hand-rolled cacao balls! Continue reading

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High School Kids Help to Build a New Classroom in Nicaragua

A group of 17 high school kids from High Tech High in San Diego came down to Nicaragua with Surf With Amigas (formerly Suave Dulce) for the trip of a lifetime. They learned to surf, did yoga, went horseback riding on the beach, and boarded down an active volcano. They learned to make tortillas and jewelry while interacting with the local community.

Continue reading

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Homebrewing in Nicaragua

Living in Nicaragua is awesome. Warm weather, warm waves, affordable homesteading, and a simple life lived barefoot. There are however a few things we miss about the US – mexican food, fast internet, and good beer!

Luckily, Kim is an amazing cook, so we get our mexican food fix via homemade guacamole and chipotle chicken burritos. Despite many efforts to rig a fast internet system we’re still confined to the drudgery of dial-up. But, it is definitely better than nothing! Getting good beer has been much more of a challenge. Continue reading

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Dome Treehouse in Ukiah by Jay Nelson

Everyone loves a tree house. This one is particularly pleasing.

Inspired by an acorn, this 8′ domed tree house was made of fiberglass, resin, wood and glass by
San Franciscan artist Jay Nelson in 2007 for Larry Rinder. It was intended to be discovered on his property by visitors and used as a creative space.

For more, click here!

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Holly Beck Surfing In Nicaragua

Check out a few clips of Holly Beck surfing in Nicaragua in Nov/Dec 2011. Good times, great waves, so much fun!

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DIY Guanacaste Stairs

We moved into our new cabana about a month prior and had yet to take full advantage of the loft because we didn’t have any stairs.  We had considered several funky stair designs with notched logs and spiral things, but in the end just wanted to have nice wooden stairs finished in a reasonable amount of time.  We decided to use dimensional Guanacaste with 2 x 6” x 12’ sides and 1.5 x 12” steps.  Continue reading

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Simple Life at Home in Nicaragua

I’ve been in the States for two weeks and I’m getting desperate to be back home. After a year of living homeless, bouncing around from one available cabana to the next, sleeping in a tent, the back of our truck, friend’s houses, my parent’s house, it was so good to finally have a place to call home. Somewhere to unpack, put books on a shelf, cook whatever we wanted for dinner, sit on the porch quietly, watch seeds sprout. Continue reading

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Kauai Treehouse by Jay Nelson

San Francisco based functional artist Jay Nelson built a tree house in Kauai for pro surfer family Aamion Goodwin and Daize Shayne. The top floor is 30 feet up, with 140 square feet of interior living space.

Imagine sipping coffee at eye level with tree-dwelling birds, savoring that giddy heights-induced adrenaline rush with every look over the side, and taking in the freshest oxygen imaginable in every breath.

Who doesn’t have arboreal living fantasies? Vicariously climb into a treehouse home through these photos then start designing your own! Continue reading

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Building An Elementary School Classroom with Waves Of Hope

Imagine you’re a 12 year old kid growing up in a remote fishing village in Northern Nicaragua. You’ve spent most of your life barefoot, chasing chickens and skinny dogs through barbed-wire fences. You learned to ride a horse at age 5 and by age 7 your dad had you herding cattle between pen and pasture. Your parents keep you busy with the chores of survival. There’s a two room school house just down the street but not much incentive to attend so you don’t know how to read. Continue reading

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Wild (and free) Fermentation

When we were at the Real Goods Solar Living Center in Hopland, CA last September, fermented pleasures were not (as usual) far from our minds.  We had already rounded up beer-making supplies to take back to Nicaragua (no more being stuck with just Victoria and it’s twin Tona!) and had been sampling micro-brews on the drive down through Northern Cali.  So when we spotted a book titled: Wild Fermentation, alarm bells started ringing.  Continue reading

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InnerView with Holly Beck on Korduroy.tv

Holly Beck – InnerViews from www.KORDUROY.tv on Vimeo.

Check out Holly talking about growing up in Palos Verdes, CA, learning to surf, falling in and out of love with competing, moving to Central America, pumping a well for water, and inspiring other ladies to push themselves outside their comfort zones.

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Vancouver Island Snowboarder Surfer Gardener

I came across this video on a friend’s blog and was completely inspired to pack a thick wetsuit, head up to Vancouver island and look for land with big trees and a backyard forest.

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Eco Friendly Fire Ant Killer

Fire ants suck! They’re just like regular ants except they swarm, bite, and then leave a painful itchy reminder for hours – usually all over your feet and ankles. I dislike mosquitoes but I hate fire ants.

Even though I hate the fire ants, I still don’t want to spray poison all over the place. We searched the internet for suggestions for an eco-friendly solution and didn’t come up with much. Baking Soda does deter them. Dousing a nest with baking soda scattered the ants causing them to move elsewhere, but they would usually just move their nest a few feet away and start over again. We tried to keep them out of our cabana by spreading a line of baking soda in front of the door, which works fine until you need to sweep the porch and end up sweeping away the soda as well. Continue reading

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The German Mound Garden

As a 31st birthday present to myself I decided to build a garden. I’ve been reading through The Permaculture Garden by Graham Bell and thought the design for a German Mound looked interesting. Continue reading

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Eco-Friendly Bee Hive Removal

While trying to install our signal booster antennae on our new house, we heard a buzzing and came across a buzzing mess lurking under the palm fronds. Kim grabbed a plastic bag and I got in place with the camera. With a quick grab he was able to safely contain the stinging creatures within the bag and quickly chuck the swarming mess over the fence. Problem solved! Continue reading

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Mountain Biking to the Real Goods Solar Living Institute

What is this magical product that I found at the Real Goods Solar Living Institute? Watch the video below to find out…

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Trash Pickup in Baja with Save The Waves

Las Gaviotas is a luxurious gated community just south of Rosarito in Northern Baja that happens to feature a very rippable right point break. I don’t usually like staying at a place like this, preferring the tree house, back of the truck, thatch-roof cabana style of sleeping arrangement, but when you get a group of interesting surfers and musicians together and rent 4 houses within easy hooting distance to the friends in the lineup, it’s worth over-looking the gated gringolandia faults. Continue reading

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Building a Cabana in Nicaragua – Walls up and Siding on

The walls are up, the siding is on, and our cute little 18’sq cabana is nearly finished! We had to leave Nicaragua at this point and are very excited to get back down there and put in the details like counter tops, stairs, etc.

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The Meyerhoffer Pill Surfboard

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A Tiny House in Hopland

Camping in Southern Oregon

On our standard tri-yearly drive between Oregon and LA we finally stopped in the deliciously named Hopland to check out the Real Goods Solar Living Institute.
The Tiny House was obviously appealing – a micro home on a trailer built with recycled materials including a recycled solar panel desk. We liked the size, the feel of the wood, and the fact that it even had an indoor shower and composting toilet. Continue reading

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Geodesic Dome with solar, wind, geothermal power

A friend of a friend’s place in NY, also has old tire terraced gardens, crushed rubber paths and an awesome 40’+ foot inside climbing rope!!

Click the link to watch the video:

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Framing the Octagon Window

Designing the window placement was a fun experience that involved measuring, re-measuring, and measuring again, then erasing, measuring, and changing the dimensions multiple times. Our friendly red-headed framer was smilingly patient as we changed our minds back and forth. Right now there are windows on three sides with the North-Western wall window-free since it gets the most hot afternoon sun. We may end up adding some light penetration on this wall in the future. Continue reading

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Building in Nicaragua – Concrete Floor, Tile, and Wood Dilemmas

Building in Nicaragua is both much easier and much more difficult than it would be in the States. This project in particular is easier than most since we’re building on Coco Loco property with full access to power (except when it goes out) and water, and we don’t have to worry about any sort of permits. We’ve got two teams of guys eager to get to work, but they can’t work without materials and accessing those can be a problem. Watch the video above for my rant about a few little mishaps that cost us some time. Continue reading

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Guanacaste Horizontal Siding

When trying to figure out what type of siding we’d use for our new cabana we checked out the cabanas at the French Guys restaurant (who also have a few cabanas). They used guanacaste horizontal siding and it looks really nice even after a couple of years. Then there was a killer lightning storm! Continue reading

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Designing an Eco-friendly Cabana in Northern Nicaragua

Using the Barefoot Architect by Johan van Lengen to get a few ideas during the design process.

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Longboarding at La Bahia

Small clean waves, no one else out, so fun on a longboard!

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Camping on the Beach in Nicaragua – with Marshmallow Friends

A few years ago I helped build a camper with the goal of driving from CA to Tierra Del Fuego, Chile. We finished the camper and took it to Baja a few times but never made the big trip. My friends Zach Slobig and Sachi Cunningham left their jobs in April, bought a truck and camper, and set off on the adventure I’m still dreaming about. Continue reading

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Building a High School in El Salvador with Surf For Life

In a remote village in southern El Salvador there is no high school, so a group of volunteers with Surf For Life are building a new place to learn.

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Internet Access in Northern Nicaragua

Checking email at La Bahia Beach Hotel during a rainy season afternoon thunderstorm

Trying to get techy, get phone reception, and get the WWW is so incredibly difficult in the sticks of Northern Nicaragua. We’ve spent so many hours trying to figure it out, trying different modems, sticks, smart phones, SIM cards, whats-its and thingies, that we have almost gone crazy. Usually we go to “Chinny” (Chinandega, aka. Chinny-Chinny-Dang-Dang), where we sit in the cool AC and enjoy tacos chinos (Chinese Tacos = egg rolls) while using their WiFi until a thunderstorm comes and stops the fun (the power goes out along with the internet) or they turn it off after 6 hours because they are tired of looking at us. Continue reading

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Building in Nicaragua – Palm Fronds for the Thatch Roof

Accessing the palm fronds for the thatch roof turned out to be one of the easiest things we’ve had to do so far. There’s a property nearby owned by a friend full of the right kinds of palms, so we simply had to have a chat with the caretaker there and negotiate a fair price for the 2.5 fletes we needed to cover our roof with thatch. Each flete costs 1,900 cords so 2.5 plus tractor transport ended up costing about $250 US. The palm fronds get hand woven along the varilla in tight rows and when done correctly will last about five years. Continue reading

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Building in Nicaragua – Is Cutting Mangroves ever Sustainable?

Mangle, mangle, mangle!

Varilla is the thin wood used to hold the thatch in place.

We were told we needed to get some varilla to support the palma (palm thatch leaves used for our roof). So we said “OK, where do we get that”? We could either buy it from a local guy or at the market for 30 Cordobas (cords; exchange rate = 22 cords/US$) per dozen. We’re trying to use local materials and labor wherever possible, so decided to order it from the local guy and were waiting for it the next morning. When it didn’t come we found out that the local guy’s son had been struck by lightning the week before while fishing in a boat at sea and he had forgotten to cut it. Understandable, but what do we do now? Continue reading

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