Monday, August 27, 2007

Heavy Hermosa

They call Playa Hermosa the Costa Rican Puerto Escondido (Puerto Escondido is the Mexican Pipeline, btw). This past weekend I experienced how it earned the name. It was dark when we arrived to Terraza del Pacifico, which is on the Northern end of the 10 kilometers of beach break that make up Hermosa. The old swell was dying, and it was relieving to see some manageable looking waves that night. There was a very cool electric blue lightning show that lit up the whole ocean. Hermosa was not raining that night, and it felt much more humido than Escazu.
The next morning I was woken up at about 5:45 by the noisy toddlers a few rooms down. It was nice to get the wakeup call, because it gave me a chance to get a cafe con leche, some pina y sandia, and a little bit of gallo pinto before hitting the water.
There were only three others out on the north end of the beach, and it was tricky to punch throught the pounding sets and make my way out to the lineup. There is a deep channel offshore that hits a shallow shelf and produces waves that jack up very suddenly at low tide (which it was that morning). There was a rivermouth near our hotel that made somewhat of a channel, although every ten minutes or so a big sneaker set would come through and close out the whole rivermouth as well. Still, there were shifting sandbars, and if you were in the right spot you could pick off some gems. An adolescent Tico kids was out with his sponger Dad, and they knew the place well. The kid was launching out of closeout sections, and spinning alley-oops, air 360s, and even attempting rodeo flips. I also saw him get many frontside and backside tubes. His dad charged as well, and they seemed to know right where to take off everytime. A few more people paddled out, and it was a little bit intimidating to be in an all Spanish-speaking lineup, where everyone knew the wave and each other. I felt like I stood out with my pale skin and the American flag that was glassed into the bottom of my 6'3.
After about 20 minutes I paddled hard into a left, got to the bottom, and raced it out before kicking out to paddle back outside. I also took off on some rights that mushed out when they got to the rivermouth, but one of them kept sectioning and reforming, and took me way down the beach. Later I got a wave that allowed me to link up a few turns. My best wave was a right that I backdoored, stalled on my bottom turn, and submerged my hand to stall in the tube even more. I shot out of the tube and stalled again for a head-dip on the inside. They were not deep tubes by any means, but it was rewarding to get shacked at such a challenging wave. The sets were definitely double over head, and I saw the little Tico kid pull into and get spit out of right hand tube that a small car could have fit inside of.
I came back to the hotel and went to the breakfast buffet for jugo de naranja, huevos rancheros, gallopinto, salchicha, plantains, and panqueques. After my food settled, I paddled back out for another go. The wind was howling offshore, and within a few minutes, a set wave popped up right in front of me. I dug as hard as I could to get into it, and dropped overthe ledge. The offshore spray was blowing so hard into my face that I had to close my eyes. I extended my body for a very low bottom turn (even though my eyes were closed, I swear that my stomach was practically scraping the trough of the wave), then I shifted all of my weight to shoot vertically to the top. I made a really clean snap that must have sent a lot of spray, given all of the speed and offshore wind. It was a really sick wave.
After that I scavenged a few lefts that were fun drops, but the surf deteriorated and it became stormy and blown out. It felt good when it rained because if ou got cold, you had the warm ocean to heat you up.
The next day I woke up early again and surfed, but the tide was really low. The surf was much bigger, and there was nowhere to go once you dropped into the waves. I was able to race out one right, but everything else just closed out for me. I surfed one more time for about half an hour before our cab came to take us home. I had to wear a t-shirt since my stomach rash was so raw (I am used to wetsuits and cold water!). I got a couple of waves, but again, it was so heavy and tricky that you had to be very selective. I almost dropped into a right that would have either been the best tube of my life, or a very poor decision. I am glad that I was careful. The hold-downs were pretty long sometimes, and just getting in and out of the water was tricky because of the gnarly shore break. I got quite a workout on this trip, but next time I think I would like to go for some relaxing point break waves. The swell report for Manuel Antonio, which is a little to the south, and much more protected than Playa Hermosa, was 10-12 feet, so who knows how big some of those set waves might have been. Until next time.

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