How can El Salvador, a country rich with epic waves but trapped in the shadows of a war-torn past, shine a light on its world-class surfing and establish itself as a tourist destination — especially given continued State Department travel warnings?

Hal Forsen, back center, a docent at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, speaks to a delegation from El Salvador while touring SHACC, a stop during their visit to Southern California to research and tour facilities related to the surfing culture on Thursday, December 5, 2019,
in San Clemente. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

It helps to soak up the surf scene in Southern California, reports the Orange Country Register.

A group sent by the Salvadoran government toured coastal areas from Santa Monica to San Clemente the past few days on a surf safari aimed at learning how surf-centric destinations operate: from how businesses and retail shops cater to wave riders to how the hospitality industry can incorporate sustainability into its practices.

They made stops at surf landmarks and museums along the way.

The tour was the latest step in an effort by the Salvadoran and U.S. governments to find a common place – in the ocean – after visits earlier this year between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and El Salvador’s newly elected president Nayib Bukele.

The El Salvador initiative – called Surf City – brings together the small nation’s coastal towns, with the touring group taking back information learned from Southern California.

Karla Rodriguez, El Salvador’s director of planning, said the government is working on its master plan for tourism, fine-tuning ideas on how to get more infrastructure in remote areas and how to develop surf areas in a sustainable way.

The touring group had a mix of representatives, from a security expert to tourism officials to hotel and surf shop operators already entrenched in the coastal communities.

“It’s more than we expected,” Rodriguez said, of how big the surf influence is in Southern California. “Here, you breathe surf, you live surf, everything is surf.”