Sweaty and weary, the first light kiss of The Pacific washes away a day of travelling. The bath temperature warm water is thick with churned up black sand from a pulsing southern hemi swell. But no matter it is still cleansing after most of a day on a plane.
I’m in Costa Rica with four surfers, Oli Adams from Newquay, Tim Boal from Biarritz, Tristan Guilbaud from Vendee and Yannick De Jager from Holland. We’re shooting a road trip for their sponsor Protest from here at Playa Hermosa close to the capital San Jose down to the epic left point at Pavones. We only have six days, it’s a long way to come for such a short period but the ultra consistency and the knowledge of an ok swell approaching makes up for the lack of time.
My only experience of Central America prior to this Mission was Mexico, and whilst I had no problems the general atmosphere of the two countries could not be more different. Costa Rica feels much more safe, and whilst it is very Americanised (you can pay for everything in dollars), it is also so much more unspoilt.
The almost untouched tropical rainforest here still makes it to the Beach almost all the way along the coast, so much so it feels like Jurassic Park at times. Where the undergrowth breaks, black sand beaches face in all directions to maximise any swell going. We stopped at a couple of good looking sand bars as we trucked south, all fun but nothing amazing.
As we got close to the Panamanian frontier roads started to deteriorate. Off the Tarmac it’s an hour along dirt roads and over rickety bridges to Pavones. The super long left hander is a sight for sore eyes. It’s small but the length and potential look incredible. Oli, a regular footer who loves his backhand attack wants to get in now despite it being a foot. The rest of the boys talk him down and we continue along the track which hugs the coast. Glimpses of little setups through the palm fringed beach top track are tantalising, the little swell is showing us what’s out there without giving anything away. We get to the end of the road twenty minutes later, literally, this is where road ends, jungle begins and next place it starts again is Panama.
But we’re here for a reason, there is a small Dutch run hideaway called Rancho Burica, it is paradise on Earth, at the very end of the road. We settle into paradise easily, eat incredible food and chat about the approaching swell as a tropical downpour sweeps through the rainforest.
We decided to meet the swell at a couple of right handers across the bay. The short boat ride reveals a building swell that is not yet hitting Pavones, and the right handers are fun. They are far from epic but the jungle backed waves provide some sections to hit that all the boys take full advantage of it. It’s fun, but not epic and as the swell starts to pulse a little all thoughts are of what Pavones may be getting up to.
Back on the south side of the bay and the cobblestone point is still pretty small, Oli froths on it though and this time we can’t stop him, despite the call of some spicy beans and fresh fish. To be fair he surfs good, it’s like watching a heat, back hand bosh and backside air reverses are the call.
Back at the ranch and we get stuck into to some seriously good food, fresh fish, veg all home cooked, it’s paradise. The surf out front is building, as the swell really starts to fill in. Next morning and it is our last full day, the surf is solid. Pavones is doing it’s thing from the top of the point all the way through the rivermouth section and way onto the inside. It’s an epic wave, not that great from a photo point of view, but if you like crazy long left handers it is a dream. Sure barrels are pretty few and far between, but for turns and hits it’s epic, a great place to nail some new moves. With this fresh swell Oli, Tim and Tristan want to nail a couple of barrels before we leave and we decide to drive North into the night to try and get one dawnie at Playa Hermosa before our mid day flight. It’s a little hectic after four days in the jungle, although a pretty mellow country like anywhere in Central America the roads can be a little hectic. We make it, late, finding a room is a mission but we get one and grab a few hours sleep.
First thing and the surf hasn’t shown up, we’ve got a couple of hours, then we have to make the two hour drive to the airport. Oli paddles out and I swim out for a look with him. Not a lot doing, occasionally a little set peaks and small barrels run off. We have about twenty minutes left and the locals start hooting, the horizon darkens and a solid set approaches, walls up and breaks perfectly on everyone’s heads. It’s the first and last we see of the swell, we have to bail.
Costa Rica was epic without the surf being all time. Pavones is an incredible wave but not so photogenic. The country though is incredible, virgin rainforest, friendly people and wildlife everywhere. It’s more Americanised and easier than a lot of Central America making it a comfortable option for anyone want to head out there. As for Rancho Burica, at the end of the road, if you ever get the chance you must go and stay there.
Thanks to Protest, check them out here- www.protest.eu