Just got back from Nica and thought I'd chime in. First ooff, I wasn't there at Green Surf I'som not commenting on the alleged Thing that allegedly Went Down but on security in Nica. I spent time on beaches and traveling other parts of the country, at ground level, backpack strapped on and riding the chicken bus on dirt roads.
the vibe at Popoyo/Guascate and Playa Gigante is chill, safe, welcoming (as it is atRancho Esperanza & Las Penitas breaks up north)
First of all Nicaraguans are very solid, honest people; they love their kids and raise 'em right. The Nicas want you there and look out for tourists. they earn good scratch from tourism so they're in it for the long haul: those on the outside of the tourist game might feel resentment and want to steal something, but locals in the surf destinations all know each other and protect what they have. End result? any known thieves are pegged as such. Cops in Nica are heavy and low-level scrubs don't usually have money to buy off the cops so it's jail time. So aside from the occasional huele-pega walking off with your expensive stuff that you left on the beach, it's really safe. And fijate boludo, you ain't in Carslbad anymore you're in the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (and if you don't know what a huele-pega is then you didn't really do much research about that third-world country you were traveling to, didja now?) so don't leave your stuff on the beach.
At Popoyo there's a few hotels with surf-racks in the lobby, and I saw dudes just leave their boards unguarded while they ate in the resto, chilled on the beach. Nice, new boards they brought from home. Seems like a generally safe move, but I could have walked off with one no questions asked. The smart, obvious move is to stash all your gear in your room at night. You don't need me to tell you that.
I never heard of any strong-arm stuff, and I asked a lot of people both in the tourism industry and not in the game.(I speak near-fluent spanish and am more likely to hang with locals than sit in the hostel with other surfers. Sorry, I don't need to hear about that 360 you almost-coulda pulled and how you once saw Kelly Slater in the airport blahblahblah). Kuta Beach felt way more sketchy than any beach in Nica, and though I didn't hit San Juan del Sur/ Playa Madeira, it seems about as "edgy" as Costa Rica.
Plus it's crowded down there-some Canadians told me there were 80-plus people in the line-up at Madera (schools, kooks, local rippers and surf-tourists like you) Skip that **** and work your way north from Playa Gigante. Helps if you speak spanish, and have a 4x4 truck (or a ****box two-wheel drive rental that you want to destroy one dirt road at a time). With that set-up you are golden.
As a surfer you ar win the vanguard of tourism in many places up north. so maybe some assholes will take a run at your shiny, expensive, re-sellable gear. But rich Managuans who own/run the beach-tourism infrastructure ain't gonnna let a good thing go sour. Not likely to become some kind of crime wave, 'cause cops will crack down on local thieves and things will be safer for the next bunch of surfers rolling through.
As for the rest of Nicaragua it's very safe: I spent a lot of time in Matagalpa, Granada, Masaya, Olmetepe, and Managua. Climbing volcanos and hiking through coffee plantations, sitting in the square at night hangin with locals, trying to meet fine Nica jainas. Couldn't have felt safer, though you got sketch-ball druggies and meat-head drunks looking to **** with somebody, anybody, after a night of getting' shut down by nice wholesome Nica women (Same as the assholes in The Elephant Bar, BJ's, or whatever chain-resto suburban bar scene you roll with back home).
The one warning I would offer is to stay the **** out of Managua- unless you like the smoke from burning plastic in your eyes and lungs, brutal traffic, and people staring at you with desperate eyes. There's nothing much to see, and people glared at me in the marginal areas like I was a skewer of meat grilled to a nice, rob-able medium-rare. Never, never, never take a local bus. You will get jacked, maybe at knifepoint (why not?) and all your gear will disappear, even your shoes, and especially your good time. I offer this as a seasoned traveller (Nica is country #33) who speaks spanish and who has surveyed some ****ed up places (Lima, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Manila, Mexico D.F. and of course, Los Angeles CA)
Warning #2: If you want bedbugs, go to the cheap hostels. You don't want bedbugs, then stay the **** out of the cheap hostels. This is seriously some effed up **** to have happen. Lucky for me, the nasty welts showed up on my last day, so all i had to do was ditch my stuff before I to home. Small price to pay for not having to go Defcon-4 on the whole house.
Go to Nica, it's rad, uncrowded breaks are easy to find, and you're so not likely to get jacked at gunpoint, or machete point, or whatever thing went down.