By Christopher Lux
Brian Benson grew up surfing in Southern California. His wife Tabitha was born in Cuenca and moved to the United States when she was very young.
“When we met, in San Diego, I was intrigued about her country,” Brian recalls. “We had been to Ecuador on vacation together several times. She also has part of her family in Guayaquil.”
Their plan was to move to Ecuador — a of homecoming for Tabitha and a new experience for Brian. “Moving to Ecuador was an adventure from the day we decided to do it,” he says. “There is so much you don’t think about until you totally commit to the move. Doing research on what you can and can’t get here was a huge help to know what to pack and what to leave. The culture is so much different but if you stay flexible and adapt, it is such a great experience.”
They wanted to be near Guayaquil, close to Tabitha’s family, but wanted to be on the beach where they could surf. Having traveled to the coastal region of Ecuador and volunteered in the area, they knew they’d like General Villamil Playas — known simply as “Playas.” He says, “Playas was a great choice for us since we made close friends through our volunteer Bible teaching in the past and also because we both loved living near the beach in San Diego. Also, being able to surf in the warm Playas waters helps from missing home too much.”
“Moving to Playas was fairly easy. With three bags each, we brought only the basics. But there are many things that are not available in Playas that we take for granted. Mostly food varieties and shopping options — such as certain spices or other culinary amenities.”
Yet Playas has a small beach town charm that Brian and Tabitha love. “Playas is so different from the big bustling city we came from, but that’s what makes it so special,” says Tabitha. “A sleepy fishing town with kind people and a slow pace. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to slow down.”
Playas has a tiny, tight-knit Gringo population and a very welcoming local population. And when it’s not the weekend or a holiday, it has a fairly small population. The coastal city is a short drive from Guayaquil, making it a popular tourist destination for the residents of Ecuador’s largest city. It’s known for its seafood cuisine and fishing industry.
After moving, Brian and Tabatha wanted to open a business, but they weren’t going to be one more seafood restaurant. “We originally were planning on opening a coffee house and have waffles as an option. But on our last trip to the States we kept seeing and hearing about these waffle type places,” Brian says. “We went to some and loved them. There are so many options from sweet to savory to salty; it can really be a base for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.”
That’s when the couple decided to open Longboard Waffle House. With their love for surfing and a growing surfing community in Playas, the name seems fitting.
They have waffles with 14 toppings to choose from. Then, there’s the unique BBQ pork waffle sandwich. It’s a pulled pork sandwich with waffles as the bread, topped with cheese and BBQ sauce. Although waffles are their specialty, they have a full coffee menu which features coffee from the mountains of Loja. They also have milkshakes, natural fruit juices, burritos, and wraps. The Surfer Burrito — loaded with eggs, potatoes, cheese, and bacon — is particularly delicious.
While Gringo business owners around Ecuador can tell about the hardships of opening and running a business here, Brian and Tabitha have found the experience to be an enjoyable ride so far. “Starting our business here was fairly easy compared to starting one up back home,” Tabitha says. “Getting the right permits took about a month and didn’t cost too much either. We have done everything little by little like the locals do, so it did not stress us much.”
Then again, maybe they’ve had those same problems other business owners face, but they take it in the laid back way “problems” seem to be approached here at the beach.
“We have had great customers and stories that will last forever, like having no water for New Year’s and having our street closed on our opening weekend,” Brian says. “Those are the things that happen when you step out of the comforts of the first world, so just hold on and enjoy all the bumps on the road because at the end those are the things that make the best stories.”