El Salvador is riding waves as global surfing’s newest mecca

The Four Percent


A 13-mile stretch of Salvadoran shoreline the government has named Surf City is one of the world’s newest surfing meccas. At the center of those 13 miles are La Bocana and El Sunzal, two top surfing spots known collectively as El Tunco after the distinctive volcanic rocks just a few feet off the beach.

It’s a place where the waves are so ripe and the water so warm, tourism officials are hoping it can repair the country’s battered image while the International Surfing Assn. has chosen it as the location of the final qualifying rounds for the debut of surfing as an Olympic sport this summer.

The eight-day competition, known as the World Surfing Games and featuring 256 athletes from 51 countries, concludes Sunday.

A surfer bails out of a wave in the ISA World Surfing Games at Surf City in El Salvador.

A surfer bails out of a wave in the ISA World Surfing Games at Surf City in El Salvador.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A member of the Costa Rican surf team carries surfboards out of the water.

A member of the Costa Rican surf team carries surfboards out of the water and up the rocky beach at El Sunzal.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Team Chile cheers after competing in the ISA World Surfing Games at Surf City in El Salvador.

Team Chile cheers after competing in the World Surfing Games at Surf City in El Salvador.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A surfer walks by a mural of Katherine Diaz.

A surfer walks by a mural of Katherine Diaz, El Salvador’s top female surfer and an Olympic hopeful who was killed by a lightning strike while surfing at La Bocana in March. Her mother owns the small restaurant next to the mural.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Local Alex Hernandez fixes a surfboard at Surf City in El Salvador.

Local Alex Hernandez fixes a surfboard at Surf City in El Salvador.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

People enjoy the outdoors at Surf City in El Salvador.

People enjoy the outdoors at Surf City in El Salvador. The Salvadoran government is hoping surfing-related tourism will create up to 50,000 jobs.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Street vendors sell goods on the beach as security looks on.

Street vendors sell goods on the beach as security looks on at Surf City in El Salvador. Tourism is an underdeveloped economic engine in El Salvador. Surfing could fix that.

(Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times)

Surfing done for the night.

A surfer finishes a day in the water as a dog roams the beach.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Shoppers buy jewelry on the beach.

Shoppers buy jewelry on the beach at Surf City in El Salvador.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Locals and tourists enjoy the evening at Surf City.

Locals and tourists enjoy the evening at Surf City in El Salvador. Surf tourism has led to the creation of 200 business, according to the government.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Edwin Omar Zepeda Morales waits for customers at a surf instructing school.

Edwin Omar Zepeda Morales waits for customers at a surf instructing school at Surf City.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Vendors wait for customers as Salvadoran sailors serves as security.

Vendors wait for customers as Salvadoran sailors serve as security at Surf City in El Salvador.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)



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