Pavones: Costa Rica

As I turned to see his answer, which came in the form of a slow nod, I  couldn’t help but make out the glistening of a tear, rolling gently down his face. A tear of pure contentment and bliss. Pavones will do that to you.

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Welcome to Central America! This special Spotlight entry, covering the truly awe-inspiring Pavones beach point break in Costa Rica, is special for many reasons. Pavones, tucked away in the deep south of Costa Rica, just 10 minutes from the Panama border, boasts one of the longest left handers that the region has to offer. Due to its discreet location, far off the beaten path of tourist heavy towns such as Jaco and San Jose, Pavones offers the perfect wave for the truly dedicated as well as the soul surfer looking for connection and peace.

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My story on Pavones is quite unique and like most adventures abroad, was not planned nor foreseen within my itinerary. I made my way to Pavones on a whim, following the guidance of a fellow surfer/backpacker I had befriended in the very first hostel I booked. After becoming instant friends, we decided to continue our adventure together, along with 2 other amazing travelers (but that’s another story) and found ourselves in a small home, rented for the night on the beach front of Playa Dominical. Over a home cooked meal, some wine and some weed, Borja began telling me stories about a wave, far out of reach from the average tourist, but well worth the journey. A left hand point break said to send surfers down the whole distance of Pavones town and then some – a true leg burner.  However, there was a gamble. Pavones would only be good on a south swell and one strong enough to reinforce the image planted in my mind would not come around every day. All doubts aside, we loaded up the car and were on the road at day break for the 3 hour journey to the bottom tip of Costa Rica.

Pavones made me the surfer I am today.

Getting to Pavones was easy…until the roads disappeared. Our simple 3 hour journey quickly turned to 5 as we made our way through the back roads that Costa Rica is known for. While our rented Suzuki Grand Vitara, a tried and true champ from earlier excursions was capable, we couldn’t help but get stuck a few times, eventually needing the help of a local tractor trailer to pull us out. Our struggles paid off however. After hours of being tossed around the road like Grant Baker on thatIMG_4111 monster wave during the Eddie Aikau, my first sight of ocean water was accompanied by the view of a perfect 6ft peeler, breaking just beyond the treeline.

I traveled to Costa Rica in search of the perfect wave. At the time, I had considered myself to be a competent surfer at best. I surfed, a lot. But like most, my time spent on waves was dwarfed by the countless hours paddling, diving, and getting eaten. Pavones made me the surfer I am today. Being the long left that it is, more geared for turns and drawing beautiful lines than a crazy barrel fest, this amazing wave gave me the perfect canvas to explore and perfect my surfing style.

Surf It: Pavones, with its gorgeous walls of water, is one of the most forgiving waves I have ever surfed. While still in the 6-7 foot range, catching a wave here is easy business. Take off spots vary due to the waves length and easy flowing point break. Relax and enjoy your time on this wave, don’t worry too much about trying to connect sections as this break is extremely consistent and will stay walled for the majority of your ride. Be aware of the currents in the water however. Pick a landmark on the shore and aim to always look and stay in position or you can easily find yourself drifting quite far.

Quick Tip*: Respect the local way of doing things here and you will be greatly rewarded. Step out of line and you may run into some problems. The lineup in the surf is very much like the line for your favorite roller coaster. Wait for your turn and don’t make your way towards your take off spot until the man in front of you has had his ride. Paddle for a wave a fall? Make your way to the back of the pack.

What to wear: Wear Sunscreen dude. The sun will beat down on you quite hard throughout the early afternoon sessions. The light blue shade of the water there magnifies this as light reflects off the water. Get used to squinting.

Quiver: While fun can be had on all forms of surf equipment, short boards dominated the lineup. Sure, something over 8′ would have been a blast but the face of this waves really lets you get some good turns in. I surfed Pavones on a 6′ Channel Islands #4.

Best Memory: Borja and I had gotten separated in the surf as we both caught waves and ended up in different locations. The sunset had reached the final moments of its grand finale and we were 2 of 5 surfers still in the water. I made my way to shore and started walking back to our post, picking my line with aid from the dying rays of sun. A silhouette of a man appeared in my vision and as I got closer, I realized it was Bo. He stood there motionless, not saying a word, staring out to the open ocean. “Get some good ones out there?” I said. As I turned to see his answer, which came in the form of a slow nod, I  couldn’t help but make out the glistening of a tear, rolling gently down his face. A tear of pure contentment and bliss. Pavones will do that to you.

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