Americans treated her so well during the war, Tam says, that she's been friends with them ever since. Now the Da Nang native takes U.S. veterans to former battle sites and helps them reconnect with Vietnamese friends and ex-lovers. She'll also rent them surfboards or motorbikes for $5 a day.
Many tourists skip Da Nang on their way to nearby Hue, the ancient Vietnamese capital, or Hoi An Ancient Town, a 15th century trading port turned UNESCO World Heritage site. But Tam insists her hometown is worth a visit.
"Some foreigners don't want to visit Da Nang because they think there's nothing to see, but others think its beaches are very nice," Tam said one afternoon over cheeseburgers. "More and more people are coming here because they want to surf."
To wit: A few months after we visited Da Nang, Tam moved her surf shop closer to the beach.
Derrick, the Australian surfer who moved to Da Nang in 2008, is promoting surfing among young Vietnamese through the nascent Da Nang Beach Surf Life Saving Club. But for now, the city's surfing community largely consists of amphibious expats.
One local couple, Gunnar Moeller and Ngo Thi Thom, have converted their home into a long-term (and unadvertised) guesthouse. They don't usually host short-term travelers but they happened to have a vacancy when we met them, so they rented us a room and two surfboards. Their guesthouse — Hafen, German for "haven" — is so close to Non Nuoc Beach that we walked to and fro barefoot.
Moeller, 38, told me he likes Da Nang because it is much cheaper than Spain's Canary Islands, where he found it hard to surf regularly and pay rent.
It's clear that he surfs a lot here. Standing on Non Nuoc Beach one morning, I watched the sandy-haired German ride waves as if they were horizontal escalators.
Da Nang's surfing conditions aren't perfect, Moeller told me afterward, and its waves tend to fade by lunchtime. "But at least there aren't a lot of people here," he said.
The only people around were some Vietnamese guys tossing a volleyball. It seemed remarkable that such a cheap, quirky and peaceful place was not teeming with backpackers.
My face was sunburned and I felt like napping, but Moeller, whose face was bronzed, was eyeing the sea. If the breaks returned after lunch, he said, he would probably surf them again.