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This article weaves together data from the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (INTUR), online mainstream media sources, and surfing magazines, to tell the story of the development of the Emerald Coast, a historically overlooked periphery in southwestern Nicaragua that evolved into one of the country’s most high-profile and sought-after tourism destinations. The argument is that it is impossible to effectively explain the development of the Emerald Coast without first understanding the role surfing played in this phenomenon. This also serves to contextualize these foreign surfers as part of another wave of transnational engagement with Nicaragua, a country that has long been impacted by foreign actors from the United States and Europe. The convergence of opportunity – cultural, economic, and political forces – and environment facilitated the rise of Nicaragua’s surf tourism industry, which in turn engendered subsequent forms of leisure tourism. Over the course of three decades, this new industry shifted the economic focus of Nicaragua, as tourism became the leading contributor, in terms of revenue, to Nicaragua’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This article places foreign surfers at the center of this phenomenon by telling the story of the development and evolution of the Emerald Coast through the lens of surfing.