How we came to live in this incredible paradise: Getting to know a little bit about the owners of Giant’s Foot Surf Tours.
Hola! We are Tara and Trevor, the owners of Giant’s Foot Surf Tours in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. When you read our guest reviews on TripAdvisor and Google Reviews, you will see our names over and over again. But, who are we? How did we end up in here in paradise?
Here’s a little insight into how we came to live in paradise…
When we first introduce ourselves, Tara and Trevor, many people respond with, “T and T, like the song, so that’s easy to remember!”
And we exploded onto the scene!
Actually no, that’s not how it happened at all…
Prior to coming to Nicaragua, Trevor and I were both in our respective careers for 15 years. I was an economic consultant and rising nicely in my career. Trevor was on the nuclear response team at Bruce Power, and was very cozy in a promising life-long career, but neither of us were feeling fulfilled.
One night, in the middle of Canadian winter, Trevor messaged saying, please find us a surf camp or some business for sale, I want out of here! He was cold, he was bored, he was done. We had traveled often to Central America and to us that was our paradise. It was warm, and it wasn’t too far from home. Since my career at the time was also no longer fulfilling what I felt my purpose to be I immediately consulted the almighty Google and searched, “surf camp for sale Central America” and Voila! Giant’s Foot Surf Tours, turnkey business For Sale. I sent the link to Trevor within minutes.
It couldn’t be that easy to move to paradise, could it?
We jumped on a flight within a couple months and headed to Nicaragua
Upon connecting with a real estate agent we proceeded to schedule a viewing. We arrived via Liberia, Costa Rica and Costa Esmeralda Airport. The flight with Sansa Air was a beautiful, low flying flight up the emerald coast, an excursion in itself! A quick and beautiful drive from this airport to Playa Gigante.
We toured the town and the surf lodge. Then that night we went to Juntos Beach Bar, so our realtor could introduce us to others who had also left their home countries to live in Gigante. To my surprise, many of these people were also Canadian and gave similar reasons for coming to Nicaragua to find their own paradise.
We hopped on the GFS boat, named Vale la Pena (which means, “Worth It“, because we wanted to find out if it was). We caught some fish and a drizzle of rain created a rainbow that burst across the sky, even dolphins began swimming with the boat! Come on, seriously?
Then back to the lodge where the kitchen staff made the most amazing ceviche, so that night in our little cabina rental at Dale’s Cool Places we were all smiles. This was our paradise and it was absolutely worth it!
What our next visit to Gigante looked like
Trevor was out surfing with his buddy and I sat on the beautiful sunny beach writing our offer. We gave the offer to our realtor and nervously but excitedly returned to Canada.
Among much back and forth between us and the seller, Trevor and I put our respective houses up for sale. Mine sold in less than 24 hours and I remember telling Trevor, they have GOT to accept our offer! There was no way I could buy back into the Ontario housing market! A few weeks passed and still no acceptance. We were at a standstill, a gap in what the seller wanted and the maximum we were prepared to invest.
Christmas Eve 2017, Trevor with his family and I with mine and an email came from the realtor saying, Merry Christmas and a VERY Happy New Year! He accepted the deal!
I immediately received a text from Trevor, “Did we just buy a fucking surf camp?!“
Christmas passed, and upon returning to work I entered my boss’ office to tell him I was giving my notice to leave Stokes Economic Consulting. I was moving to Nicaragua where Trevor and I just bought a surf lodge. His mouth dropped.
How our families took the news
Long story short, they were shocked, mouths dropped and there were tears, but they were supportive. And now that they’ve been here and they’ve seen our paradise, they understand.
Trevor’s Mom was hoping the surprise was a grandchild, I mean, that is what most do at our age. You don’t throw all caution to the wind, quit your career and sell your home and move to a place where you barely speak the language of the staff you’ll be managing. Right?!
But, that’s what we did.
The big move!
On St.Patrick’s Day, March 2018 we boarded a flight to Nicaragua and a taxi to our new home. WTF???
The acting manager during the sale and a previous surf guide of GFS were amazing to us and stayed for a period of time to help us get on our feet. They showed us around Rivas, the nearest town where most people go to get supplies and introduced us to the staff, our staff. Mind still blown!
We were already receiving surf guests and what an experience it was! We loved meeting and hosting everyone who came to stay with us in our little slice of paradise. Then the real test, their online reviews came in…
Our first reviews
“This place rocks! The new owners are great and only seem to be concerned if every guest is having a great time.” – Jameson Kroeker
“…the new owners -Trevor and Tara – are extremely conscientious and make every effort possible to make sure we were having the best time.” – Allison Schoeneck
We were really doing it! My eyes are tearing up now as I think back to our experiences with our amazing first guests. Happy tears for the opportunities and sad tears as I remember what was immediately to follow.
April 2018, a crisis hit the country
Just one month after we arrived, which had many residents and their government on opposing sides. Many countries initiated travel bans and tourism halted so cancellations began flooding our inbox. Many expats who did live here began leaving, so now what? Do we leave?
No income coming in and no jobs or homes to return to in Canada, plus we now have staff who are our responsibility. Most of whom didn’t have savings for buying even the basic necessities. We provided minimal hours to our staff to keep a presence at the surf lodge and give them what we could from our own savings. With fingers crossed and prayers that things would calm and tourists would soon return.
Getting back on track
June 2018, we began to receive a sprinkle of surf guests again. May through September is high surf season in Nicaragua, and the few who frothed for those waves and continued to travel… really saved our asses!
“Tara and Trevor run a great business! They go to great lengths to ensure their guests are comfortable, the staff at Giant’s Foot is an extended family – I came to Giant’s Foot as a guest, I left as a friend. Suffice it to say – I’ll be back – this was a fantastic experience!” – Peter Clark
“While Tara and Trevor are relatively new owners, they are already deeply loved by everyone they employ. The dynamic between the owners and staff is one more of family than of employers and employees.” – Emily Smith
How our team thrived
Most of the staff with us now have been with GFS for over a decade, and being with us since we arrived over four years ago, they are our family. They are the most incredible team we could ask for! More surfers were coming in over the remainder of 2018, and 2019 was starting to see bookings. It looked as though tourism was really coming back and we could start to breathe easily again. We were happy, our staff were happy, and our guests were having epic vacations in paradise again!
“Everything about Giant’s Foot is as genuine of a throwback classic surfing experience as it gets. Delicious local food that leaves you full yet coming back for more, and mere steps to the water kissed by jaw dropping sunsets, and world class surfing with expert guidance.” – Russell Hill.
“They were good at picking the right waves and breaks based on my skill level and conditions. They gave good easy to understand instruction when I needed it and backed off to let me get my flow when needed. I found the video sessions at night helpful and above all felt my surfing improved over 6 days.” – Ariel Amster
How we showed our values through our surf camp
We continued to bring in more guests and send them away as new friends. And, while they would all describe the surf as some of the best they’d ever experienced, another common theme among our reviews, was the people, our team. Our attention to detail is something we pride ourselves on and it was so heart-warming to see that it didn’t go unnoticed because We ARE a team!. We ARE a family! And we work together to make sure that those who take their time and money to spend their vacations with us get what they deserve, the most epic surf vacation experience!
What our guests had to say!
“They have done an excellent job of selecting surf guides and my instructor summed up the philosophy really well by saying: “I am not here to teach you to stand up, I am here to teach you to surf”. He spent the time to make sure that I learned about the different aspects of surfing (reading the waves, paddling, positioning, standing techniques, …) to ensure that I really progressed in my surfing. As a consequence, I was able to catch my first ever green wave. Super thrilling!” – Geoff Spielman
“If you want to surf, and want to have the full range of the coast, with good food and company, look no further; because you will not want to come home.” – Trevor Wagner
Everything was amazing, life was good! Before the end of 2019 ended, our 2020 surf season was already filling with bookings. For the first time we were suggesting alternate dates to inquiring surfers whose first request was already fully booked! This was the most incredible feeling!
March 2020, I traveled home to Ontario to see family. Because we were busy and it was winter in Canada, Trevor decided to stay back and before leaving we discussed a spending budget of all the Amazon items to bring back. Trevor said, “Spend it all, we’re doing great!”.
Then covid hit
Just before the end of my visit the word Covid appeared, and the cancellations began to flood our inbox once again so now it became, Stop spending! Stop spending!
I had JUST made it onto one of the final flights that would enter Nicaragua for months to come. I arrived home to Gigante, quarantined in one bedroom for the recommended duration and tapping toes with Trevor each evening as our way of saying goodnight. Once it was “safe” again to do so, Trevor grabbed me and gave me the longest, tightest hug. We couldn’t believe what was happening and again, we were heartbroken. For what felt like the collapse of our dream in paradise, and for the fear and sickness spreading around the world. Was it all still “Worth it”?
Again our team were given temporary hours and many would ask us if we were closing like others were finding it necessary to do, but we couldn’t. The minimal income we were giving our staff was everything they had. I know it wasn’t enough. I know they were still receiving food donations through the amazing fundraisers supported by Projects of Playa Gigante.
Later in 2020, we did open the rooms of the surf lodge as self check-in hotel rooms for local travellers to enjoy the beach. It was a difficult time for everyone but luckily, we all stayed healthy and did our best to be grateful for the empty beaches that were now our own private paradise. Walking our dogs alone on an incredibly beautiful beach is a dream, if you don’t think about financials.
When life got back to normal
February 2021, surfers were getting antsy and inquiries began to trickle in again. In June, guests began to arrive. It has remained a struggle with pandemic travel restrictions, but we’ve continued and have come out on the other side of it all, again, as a team.
“Trevor, Tara, GFS – Thank you for truly one of the best weeks of my life.” – Soomin Song
“The surfing was epic. We scored every day (7 days in a row) and the different breaks accommodated the different types of surfers we had on the trip.” – Mark Brizzolara
“Giant’s Foot Surf Tours blew all of my expectations out of the water.” – Mason Comerford
“They took us to all of the perfect spots working best for the current tides and swell; either by boat or truck. Got the best, longest, biggest, and emptiest waves of my life.” – Nathan Alvarez
How our surf camp stands out
Now in 2022, travel is opening more and bookings are starting to return to our inbox. There are a plethora of beautiful surf lodges, camps, hostels and hotels along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, and we all have the same waves within our reach, so how to do we stand out?
We believe the best way to do this is to have the best surf guides/instructors on our team to take guests to the best surf spots. And we truly feel that we have the best!
“Amazing crew that will bring you to the best waves always!” – Leo Kerhir
Our second main focus is the out-of-water experience. We know you have many choices when planning your vacation and so we are incredibly grateful to those who choose GFS! Our in house cooks make amazing food and I love when they take initiative and create new and delicious recipes! The guests will sometimes ask, what is in this, to which I will reply, I have no idea! Our wonderful GFS housekeeper makes every room spotless every single day! And as your hosts we do our best to always make sure you have everything you need so that you’re having as much fun in this slice of paradise as humanly possible!
” We made friends leaving there and it was a true life experience that we will never forget!” – Angela Percy
If paradise life was easy everyone would do it
It has been difficult, and it has been an adventure! We arrived super stoked to be living our dream in paradise, and quickly feared that it was all a disaster. We survived the 2018 crisis, we’ve survived covid and we ARE living our dream in paradise. I continue to remind myself that, if paradise life was easy, everyone would do it!
We’ve made a lot of wonderful friends and we have an incredible team. Learned the resilience of the Nicaraguan people and our own resilience. We’ve realised that everyone has problems no matter where they live. We had problems in Canada and have problems here, and the ones we have here in paradise are the problems we want to have. We will continue as a team to provide you, our guests, with the most epic vacations! It is still paradise and it is still “Worth it”.
Some lovely guest reflections
“… both Tara and Trevor (owners) made sure to make us feel welcomed and well taken care of. Real, genuinely great people. Staff member Kevin was our local guide/instructor. Absolute legend of a guy. Made sure we got our fill of waves/cold beer. Then had some constructive criticisms post surf that I’ll take home to and work on(credit to resident ripper Alex here too). The kitchen staff made some truly incredible meals. Huge servings. Perfect pre/post surf fuel so hats off to them. Thanks also to Maximo for getting us on the waves safely. And to the housekeeping crew that had the place super tidy for us throughout our stay.” – Morgan MacDonald
“Such an unreal place to stay. From the moment we got there we felt welcome. It was quick and easy to get comfortable with the surroundings. Trevor and Tara were outstanding hosts and always going above and beyond, which made complete sense when I learned Tara is originally from Cape Breton. Everything from the phenomenal food to the top notch surf guides were beyond compare. Everyone was super supportive and invested in you getting better at surfing which meant a lot to an old chunk a coal like myself. I’m already looking to book another trip down there. Thanks again for everything! – Ryan MacDonald