When one thinks of Guatemala, one of the last things that one would image is surfing here. However, the way the waves pound the sand on the outskirts of El Paredón, a fishing village in Escuintla, makes it the perfect place for it. This small coastal town is the home of one Abner Rivera, a 31-year old former national surf champion better known as “Macaco” who spends his days teaching local kids how to surf and repairing stuff.
As he walks to his usual surf spot in the afternoon, a few children run out of their houses to join him for an after school session. Among them is Lucero Batres, an 11-year old local surfing champion in her category, and her brother, 13-year old Nery Batres, came in fourth in the last surf competition.
Macaco’s students are only allowed to surf after school. For him, they the seed that will eventually grow into a brighter future. “I think that if I teach a kid to surf today, in the future, they will become a champion and I’ll get a golden ticket,” he explains.
The group gathered by Macaco’s before heading down some 400 metres to the beach. They were accompanied by Lucero and Nery’s mother while as they walked and talked about surfing. Once they got onto the sand, the kids darted off to the water. Over the next hour, they trained under Macaco’s watchful eye. Lucero, who’s perfectly comfortable in the water, began training in a nearby freshwater canal just a few hundred meters away from the ocean. There, Macaco explains, she learned how to swim and breathe correctly until she was ready to be thrown into the ocean.
The kids swam the ocean decidedly, being led by the current local champion, Milton Calderón. The 12-year old seems more like a triton than a regular pre-teen. There was also 14-year old Josué Valladares, a local who began surfing just a few months ago. Since he doesn’t have his own surfboard, he usually has to wait until someone’s done using theirs. However, Macaco managed to get him a spare one this time around.
After completing some of the drills and running some waves, the group cleaned up by the nearby river and mangrove reserve. They sat and paddled on their boards in the estuary as they joked and laughed, as all kids do.
The road to surf, for our friend Macaco, was a pretty short and straightforward. He grew up on the coast, in the town of Champerico. There he learned how to surf along with his brother. According to Macaco, a life guard taught them how to do it. “He has saved over two thousand lives, and taught us the wisdom of how to get into the water during high tides, hurricanes and strong sea currents,” Macaco relates. Now, he spends his afternoon trying to pass on that knowledge onto the next generation of Guatemalan surfers.