MEET: The First Family of Nicaraguan Surfing

Matt Rode

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Updated 39d ago

I met Manny Resano seven years ago on the cliff above Maverick’s.

It was just after sunrise, freezing cold, raining and light onshore—the sort of day that makes you want to stay in bed rather than cracking it early to check the waves. No one else was around and I was standing there wondering what I was thinking, when suddenly Manny walked up behind me, all smiles and stoke. Suddenly the fog didn’t seem so thick. I had no idea who this humble, friendly, eternally cheerful Nicaraguan was, but I’d find out soon enough.

Eight year-old Cande. Yeah, eight.

Eight year-old Cande. Yeah, eight.

Over the next few years, I watched Manny’s reputation grow by leaps and bounds in the big wave community. Largely self-supported, he chased it as hard as anyone. He was a fixture at Mavs, but he’d also pop up all over the world, wherever the swell happened to be pumping. I’d bump into him walking up the beach at Sunset, see him wandering through Europe, or watch from the shoulder as he manhandled huge drops at Waimea. And pretty soon, I started to notice that he had a crew of young girls following him around—all wearing that same toothy smile and all charging with the typical Resano daring.

As it turned out, those three girls were Manny’s daughters whom he and his wife Berri had raised in a remote corner of Nicaragua. They’d had very little in terms of modern conveniences, but an entire world of waves waiting right out their front door. The family lived together in an 18x18-foot room, spending most of their days at the beach and watching the same two movies every night on their little DVD player. They were a two-hour drive from the nearest Internet, with no phones to connect them to the outside world. Manny remembers it as one of the purest times in his family’s life.

Uber-froth sisters and mega groms!

Uber-froth sisters and mega groms!

Manny lived and breathed surf, and his daughters Valentina, Candelaria, and Maxima soon followed in his footsteps. All three girls were standing up on waves by the age of three. They were doing step-offs at Outside Popoyo before they were 10—a legit big wave spot that is beyond most adults. By the time they were pre-teens, the older girls were paddling double-overhead reef barrels and charging Waimea and Mavs, and by 15 they were invited to the Queen of the Bay contest at Waimea. All the while, they were also honing their competitive skills, representing Nicaragua at the ISA Championships every year since they were barely out of diapers. Many of the family’s favorite memories are from the ISA events, where the staff literally watched the girls grow up, year after year.

Manny knew that if his daughters were to have any chance at professional surfing careers, they’d have to start training young, so when they were still small children, he made the decision for them to pursue surfing seriously. But he did so with a caveat—that they also prioritize education and other interests under the guidance of their mother, with the understanding that, when they turned 13, they would make their own decisions about what passions and career paths to pursue, and whether or not a surfing career was what they wanted. The family traveled the world during those years—always to places with surf, but also focusing on culture, museums, and the big cities of the world. They wandered throughout Mexico, Central America, South America, the US and Hawaii, Europe, Africa, and even Asia. All the while, Manny continued to chase his dream of surfing huge waves. He didn’t push the girls to follow him in that pursuit, but when they did, he encouraged and supported them.

Maxi drawing lines.

Maxi drawing lines.

When Manny talks about his family, you can hear the pride in his voice. He credits his wife with making everything possible, expressing genuine appreciation for the work she did and the education she brought to the family—particularly as he began to realize that support in the surf industry is rare and fleeting, and how important it is for young people to have other skills and qualifications to fall back on. He talks animatedly about his girls and when he does it is clear that he wants what’s best for them. When Valentina was 15, Manny and Berri decided to move somewhere the girls would have access to a stronger education and greater opportunities. By this time, all three girls were fluent in Spanish, English, and French, so the family based in France for two years.

At 16, Valentina decided she wanted to shift more focus to her education and to do so in the US. The family moved with her to Encinitas, where she has spent the past two years finishing high school with outstanding grades, earning a full scholarship to a great university in New York. Now 18, “Valen” will miss the ISA Junior Worlds this week because the event is happening at the same time as her high school graduation, something that she sees as being more important. “I feel like this year, as I have grown up, I have had to make a lot more choices and commit to a certain path,” she says. “The ISA World Juniors are really special to me because I have grown up doing them and have met so many amazing people through these events. But despite how important they are…graduating high school only happens once and I consider it really important to end many years of hard work on a good note.”

Maxi - All smiles.

Maxi - All smiles.

Aaaaand all surfed out.

Aaaaand all surfed out.

A couple of years behind her older sister, “Cande” is arguably the best equipped of the three to make it as a professional surfer, and that is ultimately her goal. But she doesn’t want that pursuit to come at the expense of her education. Just as she looked to her older sister to push her in big waves, she also sees how Valen has been successful in academics and is determined to do the same. “Lately we’ve taken a step back from big waves and focused on our academic and social lives as teens,” she says. “It’s hard to balance life as a surfer and life as a normal teen, and to stay on top of everything. But I’m going to do my best to be successful both academically and athletically. I’m not choosing one or the other, I want them both. I know I’m capable—we all are. I just have to make sure to stay on the right path and not let any bad influences or my laziness get to me.”

When it comes to Maxima, Manny is quick to point out that she is only 13 and “still figuring out what her passions are.” And he’s totally okay with that, because his goal has always been for the girls to “find something that they love and to do it at the highest possible level, whether they get paid to do it or not!” In typical tween fashion, Maxima states that she’s “definitely focusing more on surfing rather than education” right now. Her recent trip to Hawaii during the winter of 2022 was “her best trip so far,” with her sisters “helping her a lot in big waves and pushing her to work harder.” One gets the feeling that when the two younger Resano girls show up at the ISA Championships to represent Nicaragua yet again this week, they will have worked as hard as anyone to be there.

Maxima finding cover!

Maxima finding cover!

Despite the fact that this will be the first time the girls won’t all be together at the ISA event, the oldest of the bunch doesn’t see this as the end of an era. Valen will be cheering her sisters on from California while attending prom and earning a high school diploma, and even when she’s away at college, she intends to stay in shape, surf as much as possible, and join the family in chasing waves whenever she has time. She makes it clear that her biggest goal in surfing is to keep pushing herself in bigger and heavier waves. But more importantly, she says, “as a family, I think our biggest goal is to keep spending time together in the water, even as we all grow and follow our own paths.”

I can almost see Manny and Berri smiling as I read that note from their eldest daughter. Forget what you see in the movies (even if you only have two of them to watch!)—this is what good parenting looks like.

Family values, and what a family to be a part of.

Family values, and what a family to be a part of.

The ISA Junior Surfing Championships will be held in El Salvador from 27th May - 5th June 2022. Full information can be found on the ISA website, here.