San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua is the Pacific coast’s tucked away gem to the masses, yet a town with a burgeoning skate scene. Surf culture permeates the intimate town, yet the skateboard scene is merely eight years-old. Last winter, the downtown marketplace was abuzz about the scheduled skate demos—consisting of Chico Brenes, Tory Pudwill, and other fellow pro skaters—at the Surf Ranch Hotel & Resort skatepark. Lying in the outskirts of town, the Surf Ranch is home to the only skate camp in Central America! Here, Outdoor Technology speaks via email with one of the founders, Lucas Boychuk (his brother, Travis Boychuk, is also a founder), about Surf Ranch Hotel & Resort’s beginning and the budding surf-skate town of San Juan Del Sur.
Outdoor Tech: Why did you choose Nicaragua as the location for the Surf Ranch?
Lucas Boychuk: Back in 2008, I was 21 and my brother was 19, living at our parents’ house, working at gas stations. One night we picked up a case of beer, drank it in the hot tub and came up with some crazy ideas. It eventually led to pulling out the laptop and doing a Google search for “cheap land for sale.” Philippines and Nicaragua came up. Nicaragua was closer, so we booked two plane tickets that night to check it out. We spent two weeks in Nicaragua and on the last day, met an American with land for sale and gave him a $1,000 deposit. We went back to Canada, worked at our gas station jobs for a year, and saved all of our money to pay off the land. Long story short, we found an investor to give us initial funds, sold everything we had, broke up with our girlfriends and moved to Nicaragua. We have been here ever since.
OT: Did your initial concept for the resort fully come to fruition? If so (or not), what major challenges were presented?
LB: We knew we wanted to build a resort, but had no idea where to start. Eventually we had the idea of starting the world’s first “action sports resort,” because at the time it did not exist. Our concept was to have a resort, but with fun stuff to do within the resort like a skateboard park, rock climbing wall, jungle paintball, and a huge tower drop to airbag. It was a unique concept and we ran with it.
OT: At what point did Chico Brenes become involved with the camps you host? How has the partnership enhanced the direction you both are working toward for the Surf Ranch?
LB: We grew up skateboarding. So when we had Chico Brenes, Transworld Magazine, and many other pros pulling up to the resort when we just had a shack on it and part of the skate park started, we were speechless. They have been our idols for many years. We kept in touch and when the resort was finished, as well as the skate park, Chico Brenes started coming down three times a year bringing other professional skateboarders. One day, we brought up the idea of starting Central America’s first skate camp and he was in.
We have already done three skate camps and many contests and demos for the locals. Chico has started the first skate shop in Nicaragua. With the Surf Ranch having the largest skate park and first skate camp in the country, we have the tools available to continue promoting skateboarding throughout the country of Nicaragua and even neighboring countries. The talent of Nicaraguan skateboarders have increased tremendously over the past three years and more and more kids are getting involved.
OT: What’s been one of your favorite highlights—based on events or an experience—since opening the doors?
LB: I would say my favorite highlight would be meeting Chico Brenes, as well as other professional skateboarders, and also famous actors and athletes who have all stayed at the resort and who we have stayed in touch and became good friends with. We recently just got back from a famous actress’ wedding in California who stayed with us at the resort. You get to meet all sorts of crazy and amazing people. I think that is the best part.
OT: What is so unique about surfing in Nicaragua versus other countries?
LB: The surfing in Nicaragua is amazing because you can surf 360 days of the year. The whole Pacific coast is lined with surf spots; most of them secret with no one else surfing them. Surfing is one of the main sources of income for the country, so it is easy to get to the surf spots, buy or rent boards, as everyone seems to be promoting and helping it grow in some form or the other.
OT: Name a little known fact about skate and surf culture in San Juan Del Sur.
LB: Both the skate and surf culture here are very new. The surf culture has been around longer, but the skate scene really only started around 2007. Our skateboard park was the first in the country and now there are over ten parks. Also in 2007, there was probably around 100 skateboarders in the country of 6 million people. Now there are around 2,000 and growing with around ten of them almost at pro level; but with no sponsors or media for skateboarding here, it is impossible for them to get noticed which is also something we are working on.
OT: What’s the plan for the balance of the year? Any competitions planned?
LB: We plan on hosting another skate camp by the end of 2015. As part of the skate camp, while the pros are here, we also dedicate one day and hold a demo [and] contest for anyone to enter. This usually attracts around 400 skateboarders from all over Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala.
OT: What is the concept for the future Popoyo location?
LB: The Surf Ranch Resort in San Juan Del Sur is two acres. The Surf Ranch resort in Popoyo is 25 acres, all ocean view [and] right by the ocean. The resort is ten times larger, and the concept will still be action sports themed but on a higher scale. We are building the largest pool in Nicaragua with water slides, the largest skateboard park in Central America, a nine-hole golf course, night club, restaurants, stores, condos, apartments and houses. The idea is to have everything you can possibly need in one resort, like a small city.