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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.  


Jellyfish are another hazard to avoid. Actually there are very few dangerous ones in the water, but when there are strong waves offshore their tentacles get chopped into little strands. These strands can wrap around your arm and the sting can be severe. The toxin enters through the hair follicles and the sting can last for a few hours, although the worst part is over after a couple of minutes. To ease the sting, do not pee on it, but instead use vinegar and then a hydrocortisone cream.
 
The biggest hazards to surfers are too much sun and not enough water. Be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide, and not one that contains oxybenzone. Drink plenty of water before and after paddling out because even though you don’t think you are sweating, your body is losing fluids during any strenuous exercise. Using this advice will help make your surf sessions more enjoyable. 
 
There is one final hazard for surfers in the lineup, and that is other surfers. I’ll discuss this topic in the next issue.
 
Greg Gordon is the owner of CR Surf Travel Company, helping surfers plan trips to Costa Rica. He has run a weekly surf report since 1998 and has surfed extensively on both the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts. Contact him at greg@crsurf.com or on Instagram @crsurf.


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