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Hazards to Watch Out for when Surfing in Costa Rica

Surf CR logoIt’s called the Domi-shuffle for a reason. You shuffle your feet when walking out to the waves because at certain times of year there are sting rays that lay in the shallow waters and if you step on one, they can use barbed tail to stab you in the foot, which causes extreme pain for a few hours. The way to heal it is to sink your foot in really hot water, which allows the barb to loosen up the stingers. Then pull them out with tweezers, clean with soap and water, and then do not cover the wound.
 
Sharks should always be respected in the water as they are called top predators for a reason. However, in 20+ years of surfing in Costa Rica, I have yet to see a shark while I was surfing. I did see a few at the Sierpe Rivermouth and imagine there will be one or two chasing fish migrations or larger rivermouths. Most of them are looking for fish, not humans, to chomp on so don’t get alarmed if you see one. Keep eye contact with it, and slowly back away. If it does try to bite you, hit it in the eye or the gills.  

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What I Love About Surfing

Surf CR logoToday I drove to the beach around noon. There was a storm on the horizon and the winds had already turned onshore, whipping the waves into a silvery soup. It didn’t look that appealing, but I paddled out anyways. I felt a need to wash away the dirt and sweat from a morning of hard work. My worries washed away as soon as my head ducked under the first wave.

The author surfingSurfing is my place to meditate. Sensing the wind, scanning where the next wave is going to break, watching the pelicans skimming over the swells—my vision expands to encompass all the beauty around me. There are no phones ringing, no sounds of traffic or construction. My breath slows down when I sit and stare out at the horizon, emptying my mind of all thoughts except the movements of the ocean around me.

The ocean is my gym. Often I am up at dawn, driving to my favorite break to catch while the tide is right and the winds are still offshore. I keep my body flexible through yoga and stretching, with the goal to make each ride longer with more powerful turns and the ability to contort into barrel sections. I run on the beach to expand my lung capacity for long hold-downs or three-hour surf sessions when the waves just keep getting better. And I paddle for miles, month after month, which has kept me in the best shape of my life.

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Seven Ways Surfing is like Playing Poker

Surf CR logoI’ve had a good run of both surfing and poker in Costa Rica lately, and while watching the Pipe Masters online I had time to reflect on two of my favorite hobbies. Both I had learned to do at a young age and when I do either activity there is a connection to my dad. He was a Navy Diver so I grew up by the coast and we have sailed, snorkeled, or swam a large swath of the East Coast. He also had taught me poker and chess, and he still plays some online home games to keep his mind sharp (although my mom has been winning the tournaments lately). 

Surfer on a big waveBoth surfing and poker have histories going back over 500 years, but the poker I’m talking about is Texas No-Limit Holdem, not your play money, five card game where threes and one-eyed Jacks are wild. Here are seven ways they are similar to me. Maybe you can think of a few more? 

Surf breaks and players can both be categorized, but no two waves or hands dealt are exactly the same.

Some will pound you while others you know will let you off easy. Some are easy to read, you know what they are going to do every time. Both can be unpredictable. Waves and cards can start out easy and then turn murky at the river. You have to go into each with a plan of action, but be ready to change course with the cards dealt to you. And after each session you take what you’ve learned and apply it to the next one, remembering it is all part of the bigger picture. 

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My Favorite Waves – The Quepos River Mouth

Surf CR logoAnother great surf break near Manuel Antonio is right in the heart of Quepos, the river mouth. If you are headed to the Marina Pez Vela it is just to the north of the jetty and can break well out past the rocks. 

This wave does not appear very often as it needs a considerable size swell and a swell direction from the Southwest. It starts working when other beach breaks are two feet overhead or bigger. The wave bowls up on the north side of the river mouth and then extends for 200-400 meters depending on how big it is, the tide, and the direction.

Quepos river mouthIt is great for Stand-up Paddlers who want to catch it way outside, and for long-boarders who can snatch some walls from the shoulder. Once past the steep section on the drop, the wall towards the inside is fairly crumbly. The break should not, however, be surfed by beginners unless you are with more experienced surfers, and if it is over waist high can have very dangerous rip currents for the inexperienced surfer.

The jetty and the steep hill behind the break block the winds a little so here may be glassier than other spots. The best time to surf it would be around an hour after low tide. At mid-tide coming in it tends to swamp out and the wave disappears. Also, there is more water flow from the Quepos river during high tide, which pushes out more pollutants from inland.

You can park right in front of the river mouth in a small lot, and there is a park with benches and lots of shade. Be sure to secure your vehicle and leave nothing inside. Then you can walk to the left towards the jetty and there is a path down over some rocks to the beach. At low tide there’s lots of sand and you can paddle across the river (20-40 meters) and walk out on the sand bar or let the current pull you out to the break.

This break can be very localized so show respect and space yourself so you don’t crowd the peak. Often there’s a set that swings wide and you will actually be in a better spot to catch the wave. Most of the time though there are only 3-4 other surfers out so there will be plenty of waves for everyone. For more advice on where to surf on your vacation, just visit CRsurf.com.


My Favorite Waves – Playitas in Manuel Antonio 

Surf CR logoIf you are a surfer and are visiting the area, be sure to check out Playitas in Manuel Antonio. I will tell you how to get there and when to surf it.
 
As you drive from Quepos to Manuel Antonio, there will be a plateau about half way over the hills. When you get to the plateau look on the right for the Barba Roja Restaurant and just past that signs pointing to Arenas del Mar Resort. Take a right at the sign and then go all the way down the hill. Four wheel drive is recommended since some parts are a little rocky and the road back up is steep. You will end up right on the beach and can either park right there or drive a short distance back north. Do NOT do this if you think your car will get stuck in the sand or you think the tide is coming in. Check the link above or crsurf.com/costa-rica-surf-report/costa-rica-tide-charts-2019 for the tides.

PlayitasOnce you get there, be careful to not leave anything of value in your car because if you are out surfing you can’t watch it. Then as you walk out towards the break, you will see a big rock 2 meters high that makes for the southern end of Playitas and a rocky point, which is the northern end. There are peaks on both ends, plus another two peaks in between. My favorite time to surf it is one hour before high tide and in the morning before 9 a.m. while the winds are still offshore. Be careful of the smaller rock boulders that jut out at lower tides in the middle of the break. 
 
The wave can get crowded with locals who are good surfers, so the earlier you go the better. The beginners end up surfing farther to the south as there are 2 kilometers of open beach between Playitas and Manuel Antonio National Park. The best angles for swell are from the South to Southwest, and the perfect size is chest high to a foot overhead. More size than that and 90% of the waves are closeouts. 
 
Be sure to check back next issue to hear about my other favorite wave in the area—The Quepos Rivermouth.


10 Ways Not to Get Your Stuff Stolen on a Surf Trip

Surf CR logoIt happens to a lot of tourists. You stop to get a bite to eat. You lock your car with all your stuff in it, except maybe your phone or purse, and you’ve parked it close by in a well-lit area. Then you get back and someone has keyed into the car and taken everything right under your nose. Don’t let it happen to you. Here are some tips. Overall, when traveling, unless you know you are completely surrounded by nature for miles, is ‘EVER VIGILANT’.

1. Leave the TV or radio on when you leave your room. 

Yes, it uses up some electricity, but either that, or the crooks will be sure that no one is home or awake. With the noise, they can’t be 100% certain, so they will often go to the next quieter room.

2. Don’t leave stuff near windows.

Many thieves will use sticks or hooks to grab on to your bags and pull them towards the window. They don’t have to get inside to steal your stuff.

3. Don’t invite strangers into your room.

That new friend, who seemed cool, may just be scoping out your stuff. They are happy showing you a fun bar or scenic location, and meanwhile their friends are cleaning out your closet.

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Surfing Quepos/Manuel Antonio – December 2018

Surfer

Photo Paul Gerace, photosofcostarica.com

By Greg Gordon,  CR Surf Travel Company
www.CRsurf.com   @crsurf

If you are a surfer or want to learn to surf while you are here, then you should know a little about the surf breaks in the area. Here is a quick guide from north to south:

Matapalo

Not the point break at the tip of the Osa Peninsula, this is a quiet town about 20 minutes drive south of Quepos. The beach is soft sand and the waves generally are mellow and work best at two hours before high tide to an hour after. There are occasionally lifeguards about 1/2 kilometer north of the first beach entrance, but otherwise you may be the only surfer in the water. On smaller days it is a lot of fun for beginners, and on bigger days an empty break for more advanced surfers. 

Dominical

Bordered on the north end by the Baru River which creates rocky sandbars down the beach, this break has very powerful waves on the outside while the reform can be perfect for beginners at lower tides. There are lifeguards posted who will show newcomers where to paddle out and where to avoid. Generally when it’s head high or bigger the higher tide works better and when it’s under head high it can produce hollow barrels at lower tides. This is the most consistent wave in the country so there will always be something to surf, and there are five excellent surf schools in town (Sunset Surf, CR Surf School, Monkey Surf School, Dominical Waverider, and Dominical Surf Lessons) 

Dominicalito

Just south of Dominical, this bay has small boulders in the shore break that are exposed at low tide but covered at high tide. At the south end it’s best for beginners starting at about an hour before high tide until an hour after. Right in front of the beach entrance has a decent high tide wave for intermediate surfers. No lifeguards here and the rips can get strong, but generally it’s a couple of feet smaller than Dominical.

CRSurf.com