Saturday, February 04, 2012

Intro to surfing in Costa Rica

For the 2012 new years I visited my home country, Costa Rica, for my cousin's wedding. The wedding took place in Puerto Viejo. It was my first time at a wedding in the beach, it was great, and I think.. I overdressed.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

I've been meaning to learn to surf and last time I visited CR, I tried surfing for the first time in Tamarindo. I only got the chance to surf once though, this time I was determined, I would learn. In San Francisco I met a friend who recommended I spend at least 5 days surfing, otherwise I wouldn't get it. So I set my vacation goal: surf 5 days in 5 different beaches. Below are some accounts of these adventures and some recommendations.

Although I started in Puerto Viejo, I didn't get a chance to surf there, due to time constraints. Me and two cousins decided to venture out to Santa Teresa, in Guanacaste right after the wedding. I never told them about my objective but was pleased to see them more than willing to learn to surf as well. I didn't rent a car this time, and instead just trooped it by public transportation. We took the Santa Teresa bus from the "Coca Cola" bus stop in San Jose. Its only $10, and takes about 4-5 hours. We arrived there on a Tuesday January 3, 2012. Low and behold, it was high season and we had a hard time finding a place to stay at. We ended up just crashing at a Hostel, it came out to about $17 / night. If you are visiting Santa Teresa -- or any beach in CR -- take cash out before going. There really aren't many ATM machines around and once you find one you'd be very displeased to be charged $5 per ATM transaction.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

Santa Teresa was nice... and a hell of a great place to start learning to surf in Costa Rica. Ideal. We got lucky. It cost about $5 per 3 hours or $10 for the day to rent a board. Go with what they recommend at first if you are learning. You'll get something that looks like a yacht, and heavy as a log. On the first day me and my cousins only got one board and we took turns.

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I give tons of credit to my cousin David who on his first day managed to stand up on the board. I was advised it would take a few days, maybe even 5 to stand up on the board for the first time. Both my cousin David and Edgar actually seemed to be naturals to the sport, they picked up on it quick. Santa Teresa was nice to learn to surf as it has really long water beach entries, the waves will take you in for a while so you can try to ride on them for a while.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

You also get to pick whether or not to go for larger waves that break way deep or waves that break half way in. You can expect a really good wave about every 1-2 minutes. The sunset was really awesome in Santa Teresa, and the night scene lived up to our expectations. We ended up just resting after our first day though and only trooped it out to hang by the Carmen on the second night.


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On the second day we ended up in Playa Carmen and also got two boards, a medium type of board and then a more regular smaller looking board. The beach was a bit rocky, but the waves were just as nice. Playa Carmen was easier to hang around in though given that the only ATM in the area was there. If you can choose though and you want to learn to surf I'd recommend to just stay at the end in Santa Teresa. We're all glad we tried the different boards. I couldn't advance much on the smaller board but my cousin Edgar did manage to catch a good wave and stood up on it for a while. The medium board seems more appropriate after 2-3 days of learning.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

Overall both Santa Teresa and Playa Carmen were a great place to learn. I highly recommend it. This area also attracts a lot of surf tourists and as such you'll also see a lot of surf instructors teaching their young padawans. You can take advantage of this, just as we did, and listen closely to what the surf instructors were telling their apprentices. After surfing go find yourself a good Sopa Negra, a Costarican style bean soup.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

After the first two days of trying I was hooked... and right after that went on a road trip with my father to Dominical. I read online about the beaches there and read they were rough but really good for surfing. My third surf beach in this trip would be Playa Dominical. This one kicked my ass and I'm lucky to have survived trying to surf at this shit. The beach was really rocky and the waves short and big. The waves were also coming in pretty fast, instead of the rate of a good big wave every 1-2 minutes as in Santa Teresa, they were coming in at the rate of about every 5 seconds! If you went under a wave just to skip it, you had to be ready to either take on or skip another big wave. If you can't swim well, you'll fucking drown ;)

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

After Dominical we stopped at Playa Esterillos Oeste. This one was very similar to Dominical but had less frequent waves and in my opinion manageable. Only thing though is I ended up breaking my first surf board at Esterillos. I couldn't believe it, I simply went under a wave and as I am coming up I hear a pop! I didn't know what it was until I felt the weight of the board had changed and felt something was missing. The top had gone off into the water. I managed to recover it and take it back to the surf shop I rented it at. The guy at the shop explained the odds of this were about 10/100 and it seems I had agreed to pay them $60 in case of this happening. They didn't charge me the entire board, that would have been about $200-$300 it seems. Odd or not after talking to a few folks I've learned my lesson, this board likely was already popped and had a cheap repair done to it. Before renting a board you should check to see if its painted, and if its been damaged before. It should be pretty hard to pop a board.

After my road trip I couldn't get enough of surfing and decided to make one last trip to the beach on my own, to complete my 5 day surfing excursion in Costa Rica. I couldn't go so far this time as I had to leave the next day.. so I decided to try Playa Hermosa. Playa Hermosa is right next to Playa Jaco, and Jaco is the more popular tourist destination. Getting to Playa Hermosa or Jaco is also pretty easy, you just take a bus for less than $10 at the "Coca Cola" bus stop in Chepe (San Jose). I arrived to Play Hermosa happy and excited but without any cash... and guess what? Turns out there were no fucking ATM machines in all of Playa Hermosa and I had no other option but to go back to Playa Jaco to spend the night. I decided to stay and try surfing in Jaco...


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Jaco was terrible to surf at. I was up by 6:30am pumped to surf really early and the first rental place opened at 8:30am. Apart from that the waves were really small and the rate at which you would get a good one would be about every 15 minutes or more... Perhaps it was for the better, now I just want to surf more.


From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

I had a blast in Costa Rica and I'm glad I got to learn to surf with my cousins. Perhaps when I visit next they'll have a few tricks to show me. I'm pretty happy with my progress, I managed to stand up well 4 times and ride the wave all the way through. Up next I'll disclose a few places I was recommended to surf at in the bay area.

This blog post, and my blog title name change, is heavily inspired by my good friend Nakeyshia's blog on active living.
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