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‘Empire at Play’ seeks to contextualize the inception of a Nicaraguan surfing subculture in the first decade of the twenty-first century by situating it within the broader scope of the United States’ influence on Nicaragua’s sporting history. By weaving together primary and secondary sources, as well as oral histories from expatriate surfers, Nicaraguan nationals, and members from the local indigenous communities, this article shows how international actors from the United States introduced Nicaragua to three of their major sports: baseball, boxing, and surfing—all of which became part of Nicaragua’s cultural identity. As these three sports grew in popularity domestically, so too did the infrastructure capable of hosting major international events, subsequently garnering international recognition as authentically Nicaraguan sports. While these activities are merely extracurricular in and of themselves, examining their proliferation as part of the expansion of American empire in the twentieth century helps to underscore the varying forms of American imperialism that facilitated each sport’s introduction and popularization—surfing being the most recent of the three.