Off the Gringo Trail

Surfing off black-sand beaches

ONCE THOUGHT TO BE a black-sand gulag, the Pacific coast is now shaping up as Latin America's last surfing frontier. El Paredón Surf Camp, which opened just over a year ago, is tucked anonymously on the beach side of a sandy chickens-and-pigs pueblo in Sipicate-Naranjo National Park, about 80 miles south from Antigua. Publicity is limited to a bare-bones Web site—and if you call, the manager won't tell you how to get there unless you reserve a spot. The spartan camp provides just the sovereign elements of surfing: seven open-air hammocks with mosquito nets, a well for water, a tienda just down the road that sells cold Gallo beer for $1, and meals of fresh red snapper and tortillas provided by a local family. Pelicans glide overhead. Friendly kids and dogs scoot around. And 30 yards from the camp, a perfect, lonely beach fronts sets of five- to six-foot rollers. "In Costa Rica you get 30 or 40 guys fighting for the same wave," says Arturo Azcarraga, a Mexico City surfer who ranks the waves at El Paredón among his favorites. Here, there have yet to be more than seven surfers in the water at once. Naturally, this won't last.

El Paredón Surf Camp (011-502-812-3387, elparedonsurfcamp.tripod.com/Surf/) charges $12 a day for meals and a hammock and rents short boards for $15. Round-trip shuttles from the Guatemala City airport or Antigua cost $45.

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