"Paradise Afloat" by Greg
It's hard to write sitting at the back of a
60 foot catamaran, watching two of the crew- Joe and Sean catch head high
plus surf at our second "discovered" point break. When the wave hits the
rock shelf it explodes in a shower of ivory and turquoise, the rider
disappears to the left or right, then pops out with a hoot and grin the
size of Texas. Sets are arriving in packs of four every ten minutes, the
swell arrived this morning… how sweet it was.
The day started at 5 a.m., the night guard
at the Costa Rica Yacht Club in Puntarenas tapping at my door. "Es tiempo
a llevantarse!" - "Time to get up!" Ten minutes later, I had a cup of java
in my hand and my gear sitting on the loading dock- three boards, guitar,
video cam, minimal clothes and other necessities for a six day boat trip.
Predawn pinks and grays dissipated as the sun peaked over the distant
mountains, and a skiff settled at the dock to load the luggage and take me
to the Lohe Lani.
I don't know Hawaiian, but I'll guess that
"Lohe Lani" means "paradise afloat." It has everything one needs for a
sailing surf trip. To get us to breaks as far south as Pavones, a 154 hp
Yanmar inboard propels us at a 11 mph (or 18 kph 'kilometers') clip, while
the twin hulls smooth out the bumps of the Pacific. A dinghy sits up front
to get the guests right to the break and back with minimal paddling, and
in the hulls rest four double beds with individual fans when the day is
done. Of course it has a fully stocked galley, private bathroom with
shower, TV/VCR, stereo w/CD and cassette, board games and videos. The surf
hasn't dropped yet (I'm still in day Uno) but if it does, there's fishing
gear with Penn reels and snorkeling equipment.
And not to be left out is the crew - Pedro,
el capitan with the plan who knows where to go and when to get there.
Maurilio, the host with the most is our surf guide and chef, and his brother
Greivin, el mejor pescador, catches our dinner and his own share of tasty
waves. He had been working on the boat for eight years as first mate and
loves being on the ocean and meeting new friends.
This morning we caught this one point south
of Barranca firing. A heavy takeoff with a rippable inside section that
went about 200 yards, and at first only us in the water. My other surf
companions were Joe and Sean, the uncle-nephew duo from San Clemente, and
Eduardo from Puerto Rico. Buena gente ~ good people. We are going to park
tonight in a quiet Bay and feast on dorado.
On the second day of the trip, I caught
some of the biggest waves of my life. At dawn we raised anchor and cruised
back to where we found some A-frame peaks, but were disappointed that 25
unknown fiends has already surrounded the peak. Rather than join the
pecking order, the group chose to find an empty beachbreak further
south. An hour later we arrived to an empty lineup as far as one
could see. From the back, the waves looked like montanas. The swells that
rocked the catamaran were over 10 feet, so it was time to move up in board
length to a 6'8" crafted by Greg Sauritch for speed. I'll never forget
that first wave of the session, seeing it come in and block out the
horizon, the peak thick yet holding back until it hit the sandbar twelve
feet below, the adrenaline I felt as I turned and stroked down the face,
standing in a moment of triumph .. right before the lip smacked the back
of my head and I faceplanted into an unforgiving wall of water.
I came up disorientated yet calm, knowing I
needed to save my strength for the next six waves of the set. Oh, but
there were way more than six, more like sixty times I duckdived and
paddled, just to find myself only 50 yards from the beach while monstrous
waves broke outside. I rode some whitewater to the shore to rethink a game
plan and time the sets coming in. Eduardo had been swept to the beach as
well, and Joe had disappeared from the lineup (we found out later he had
broken his 6'8" Al Merrick trying to duck dive a behemoth) On the sand, I
saw where there was a 20 meter wide channel and timed a four minute window
of opportunity. With survival instincts and strong strokes, I made it back
out on the first attempt.
With my lesson learned "Don't drop into
closeouts on the first wave of a ten minute long set," it was time to
catch some big ones. Through the three-hour session, I dropped into some
highrises of water. All one hears is a rush of wind, a hoot from friends
sitting by the next peak, the roar of water, and the thumping of your
heart. I chose only the waves that had a shoulder, and didn't get to do
too many cutbacks because I would be flying down the line and any weight
shifting would have resulted in a crash landing. But it was fun, and
amazing to see such big surf breaking clean with the a.m. offshores.
A pasta lunch was waiting at the Lohe Lani
and was devoured, followed by a siesta as we motored down the coast toward
our second night's anchorage. During the trip there was a hard fought
battle on the chessboard with Greivin coming out the victor (I had
thrashed him twice the night before.) Every once in a while a fishing line
would zing, and we took turns reeling in a potential dinner entrée.
Otherwise we just chilled, watching the swell shuffle towards the coast
and shared surf stories. We dropped anchor late in the afternoon and Joe
went in the dinghy to scout the nearby river mouth and beach breaks. Big
mushy closeouts was the report, and combined with the knowledge of fecal
matter in the water, the vote was cast to wait until morning and travel
further south for clean
empty point breaks.
You can't get to the breaks down there by
car, only boat or seaplane. So contentedly we ate a barbeque chicken
dinner with all the fixings and chose to hit the town for a beer or three.
Town that night had an
international vibe, Germans and Israelis sitting together at the internet
café, Americans filling in the restaurants, and the Columbiana Isabel, who
Eduardo befriended quickly and almost had back aboard the boat. Fate had
not planned it that way so we finished our round and caught a ride back.
The second evening ended late for me as I stayed up reading and listening
to harbor sounds - distant music, soft thunder grumbling over the sea and
for a few minutes the gasping breath sounds of dolphins surfacing. A light
drizzle signaled it was time to sleep.
We left at first light, wanting to reach
our next destination as
early as possible, before the winds switched. The ride was smooth, the sun
dazzling, and midway through the trip Joe landed a mackerel that would be
that night's main course. When we arrived at the left hander point, there
was no one in sight, only the sounds of the jungle. The beach itself was
small, with rocks jutting out into the lineup due to the low tide. After
the preliminaries - stretch, sunscreen, wax on, rashguard on, jump on in -
we were on it. Just the six of us, four guests and two of the crew. I had
let Maurilio use the extra 6'3" Natural Art I brought and it worked well
in the overhead surf that broke in front of two submerged rocks. The
takeoff spot was a little tricky and sometimes the cleanup sets broke off
a third rock fifteen yards deeper, but it was fun. And all of us know how
lucky we were to be there with no other people for miles in both
directions. We stayed there all day, catching low and high tide, listening
to scarlet macaws and howler monkeys hoot us on from the canopy right by