It’s bad when a surf forecaster goes down to Costa Rica hoping for waves and there are none. That’s what happened to me on my last trip, from Monday, July 16th to the 23rd. There was a Southwest swell expected to arrive that Thursday, and so the plan was to hole up in Jaco and make the dawn patrol run to Hermosa until the waves picked up. Then we could explore options like Boca Barranca and Escondida, both within an hour’s drive. But nothing showed!
The first couple of days we got what we expected, waist high surf with a chest high set coming through every fifteen agonizing minutes. We would drive to the Tree, Corners, Tulin, and back to Corners – all pretty much flat. But the mantra was always – “It’s better than Florida!” We even surfed during the peak high tides in Jaco Beach, when the other beachbreaks would mush up on the sand. Our consolation was a few extra beers and Tsunami Sushi, followed by an obligatory ice cream Trit.
By Wednesday we had enough boat wake and our trio made the call to drive down to Dominical. There at hightide it was still mushing out, but at low tide it showed more promise. There the waves were chest high, and a few sets could be called head high – at least right when you dropped in. What made it fun was the company I was with and the friendly locals we hung out with pre and post surf.
Friday we hoped the swell would show (it didn’t) and so after the morning sesh, drove back up the washboard highway to Quepos and from there the ultrasmooth coastal highway to Jaco. Checked in back at the same spot, Apartamentos el Sol, and went for a surf. Still small, and now there were lightning storms each afternoon, turning winds howling onshore and making time in the water muy sketchy.
Two days left, and after bloodshot eyes scanned wave model after wave model, now no swell was coming until at least Monday – the day we were leaving. The vote was made to cancel the hotel reservation the night before near San Jose, and to dawn patrol it before a mad dash to the airport. We needed surf badly and we knew that only Hermosa would produce it.
Saturday I had thought the swell was there, and for a $40 boat trip to Escondida I was proved wrong. The boat pulled up, and we didn’t even see one wave break on that pristine stretch of coast. Could have been the tide, could have been my bad luck. All I knew is that I was giving up on guessing when and where the waves were. My friends gave me faith, and we were rewarded with an empty lineup and chest to head high surf all day Sunday. Six hours of water time to make up for six days of waiting.
The last session was best, as it should have been. We caught a spot between Corners and the Tree where the sets filed in a foot overhead, with a defined shoulder to whack and an inside section hollow enough to tuck into. We were on it by 5:15 a.m., and had two hours of indulgence before the trek back, which went flawlessly. What a difference that last session made.
Which brings me to a conundrum that every surfer traveling to Costa Rica faces. Do you bring your own boards or rent them when you get there? We rented this time and it paid off. Chuck at Walking on Water Surf Shop in Jaco has over 75 boards to rent – short and long, guns and fishes, from 5.7 to 11.6. They cost $120 a week, about the same if we had brought our boards with us on Spirit Air (which charges $50 each way) But we didn’t have to worry about the airlines losing our boards or damaging them, and we could trade in our boards for other ones that fit the conditions. That was key on this trip, where on the first two days we could have ridden longboards and the last couple of days traded down in size. No worries about buying travel boardbags, either. Just something to think about when you’re planning your next weeklong trip to the Rich Coast and the swell is looking fickle.