Monday, July 6, 2009

Our Project in Gigante Village

The village of Gigante lies on the southwestern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. It is an exceptionally scenic and very isolated village inhabited by a few dozen families. Fishing remains the community’s main source of income, and most families make between $4 and $7 a day, depending on fishing yield.

A sleepy village, Gigante is quickly becoming a destination for foreign surfers who want to surf empty, world-class waves. The surrounding waters are teeming with beach breaks, point breaks, and outer reef breaks. In other words, there is exceptional surf potential in the area. Surfers are also attracted to Gigante because of its seemingly timeless feel. The lack of paved roads, reliable electricity, commercial development, and the scarcity of other foreigners attracts surfers who wish to ‘get off the beaten track’.

Ironically, these qualities are adding to the growing presence of surf tourism in this small town. There are already three upscale foreign-owned surf hotels in Gigante that cater to international surfers. There are also several real estate development projects in the immediate area that are rapidly changing the cultural and physical landscape of the region. It is becoming more common to see rented SUV’s with surfboards roll through town looking for a place to stay or a bite to eat. Local community members and foreigners alike see this potential for growth and are beginning to actively promote it.

WOO Program Director Adam Monaghan facilitates a town hall meeting to find out what the local Gigante villagers think about the changes happening in their community

Gigante has yet to develop into a full-blown surf destination, but it is creeping in that direction. Project WOO launched our pilot program in Gigante back in 2007 precisely because it sits in the crosshairs of growing surf tourism and land development. We are organizing with the people of Gigante – as they are increasingly inundated by outside influences – to ensure that they have greater control over the growth of their community.

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