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A common question that Ecuadorian travelers face abroad when meeting on the road is, “what is Montanita like?” For some, they would discourage people from going, reminiscing on the early days where this town had just four streets and dirt roads and was no more than a camping spot for those in search of a great wave. For others, its raves, nightlife, and the influx of tourists is enough reason in itself to go. While Montanita has indeed grown and is one of the biggest destinations when it comes to the lovely Ruta del Sol – a road trip along the Ecuadorian Southern Coast – nobody can deny it’s a top surfing spot. Want to hang 10 in this town? Here’s how.
You’d be surprised at the number of newbies that even forget to put sun cream on. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable on the beach, walking on burning sand or lying in bed for the rest of your stay with aloe lotion all over your body. Pack all the essentials: flip flops, sun cream, comfortable clothes and bathing suit. Carry a stick of sunblock with you: another common mistake is to put sun cream only to have it wash off in the water. Sunburn is not pleasant and will have you trying to get comfortable on your board rather than catching waves.
Ecuador has hefty taxes on anything imported, so make sure you stock up on sun block or any other accessories before heading to Montanita. Montanita does have surf shops, but prices – especially if you come from North America or Western Europe – will shock you when it comes to imported lotions and garments. Food and accommodation, on the other hand, are very affordable in Montanita.
Most hostels will rent or lend you a surf board, so make sure to ask wherever you are staying. They will also be able to guide you towards the best local surfing schools. If you want to buy a board, Montanita is the best place to do so in the country.
Surfing is not just a sport; the moment you go on the water, no matter if you are a newbie or an experienced surfer, you are part of the subculture. Observe how the rules play out in the water – whether there is a line to surf or someone is given priority based on their experience level when it comes to catching a wave. Ecuadorian surfing culture is characterized for being very friendly, but also beware that Montanita is a prime spot for surfers all around the country, so be humble when you step in and ask the locals – that’s the best way to learn about the town, surfing and the culture.
Surfing culture in Montanita has grown thanks to surfers who have taken upon the task of creating places and teaching people in the community about surfing and leading by example. It might not be as developed as other places, so try to learn and make some suggestions as well as listen to other surfers’ advice. Montanita is a great place for surfers of all levels, but do make sure to take it easy before heading to the breakpoint. Always try to go surfing with others; this won’t be hard – surfing is very tribal, so once you meet one surfer, you will meet them all.
Montanita has a vibrant nightlife and being in town means enjoying yourself, but do make sure to go in a group and watch out for each other. If you are traveling solo, friending local surfers or meeting up with other travelers from the hostel is a great way to stay safe. Montanita is a small town but incidents of pickpocketing or spiked drinks have happened.
It’s also important to note for female surfers that male surfers can be over friendly and offer unwelcome advances while in the water as well as on nights out. Be friendly but firm: make sure they know you’re there to surf and nothing else – it’ll make for a more pleasant experience for you if you don’t want the attention and they know the boundaries.
Surfers are very friendly in Ecuador and are part of a small community who know each other and support each other. No matter the wipeouts and the tries, you will find encouragement from surfers in and out of the ocean. Because the interest in surfing is still growing, surfers in the area value very much when you are interested and are willing to try surfing. So do not be surprised if you are invited to the beach by fellow surfers or to new spots – impromptu road trips within the surfing community is not unheard of and can all be part of the fun.