We left Santa Teresa round 11am to catch the 2pm ferry back to Puntarenas. From there it was a couple of hours drive to Jaco, a small surf town down the road from the famously heavy beach breaks of Playa Hermosa. Victor, his brother Tiago and their friend also called Tiago, kindly offered me a lift whilst we were out surfing Santa Teresa. This saved me well over a day navigating Costa Rica's slow bus network.
Unlike my last ferry crossing with two old ladies talking loudly in my ear, this ferry had more of a booze cruise vibe with blaring reageaton up on top deck. Around us pelicans were bombing into the water to catch fish. It was quite a sight as they are so big and make a massive splash.
Once back on dry land about half an hour down the road from Puntarenas we stopped off by the side of the road partly to check a famous point break called Boca Barranca and partly to collect fallen mangos. An creaky old man on an equally creaky old bike stopped by the car with a basket full of mangos. He told us that the best mangos were on the other side of the highway then insisted on giving us his pile, as he could tell we were in a hurry. His parting words were" I have all the time in the world to collect mangos" as he cycled off. For the rest of the journey me and Tiago sat in the back slowly turning our chins and hands orange.
Jaco is a little surf town about an hour and a half from San Jose. It's nice enough but nothing special. For me it meant I gained an extra couple of days surfing before catching my flight to Cuba, where I plan to meet my brother. We stayed in Mangas Hostel just up from Jaco beach. It was a simple colourful place and the girls who ran it were good fun. The Brazilian brothers had stayed their before and seemed to know everyone. All the guests and staff their surfed except for two friendly dogs. On hot afternoon the bulldog successfully manage to leave me a bullshit in front of a fan blowing in my direction in the courtyard. I nearly vomit on the laptop which would have brought an early end to Hills and waves.
Hermosa (Beautiful) is famous for being a heavy barrelling wave into shallow black sand. Big Will's surf guide states "Waves that with a little size, love to hold you under, break boards and drill you into that beautiful black sand"
As we arrived we passed a few ding repair ships and a chiropractor. I grew more nervous. We had a few sessions here each one slightly bigger, scarier and heavier than the last. The wave sucks a lot of sand up from the banks as it builds making the lip a lot heavier than your average wave. As the peaks were shifting quite a bit we found ourselves waiting and praying to be in position for a good one, however after the initial drop a black ferocious sand and water wall would rise up in front causing us to instantly start praying to get out of there. If you miss timed anything you were properly worked over by the wave. We survived three surfs here over our two day stay, well almost. (I'll come back to this later)
Both Hermosa and Jaco have black volcanic sand and are surrounded by bright green forest and mountains. Slightly less so at Jaco which has a few hotels thrown in on the beach front. Normally the waves at Jaco are much friendlier than at Hermosa and actually want to be ridden unlike Hermosa which is more about survival than surfing. After taking a dawn beating at Hermosa, we would opt for a slightly more chilled session in the afternoons. One of my favourite sessions occurred when shoulder high waves were rolling in and for some unknown reason the crowd was down the south end. This meant I got to surf this great little peak in the middle of the beach pretty much by my self for hours.
Whilst bobbing about out back I keep seeing and hearing splashes out of the corner of my eyes and ears. Two foot wide Manta Rays were literally flying out if the water next to me with enough force to flap their (are they fins or wings?) 'fings' a couple of times before belly flopping back into the blue. The following morning we went back out for an early surf to find diving birds rather than flying fish as the pelicans had arrived for breakfast.
See you later Central America
On the day of my flight we went for a morning surf at Jaco. It wasn't the best but at least the sunrise was nice. I packed up my bag, checked out and cleaned up Wooster (My board) as it was time for him to move on to bigger and better waves, or at least that's what I told him.
I had clocked three surf shops in town which stated they bought and sold boards, I had high hopes. Whilst walking up I practiced my sales pitch. 'Quieres comprar mi tabla de surf es muy bueno'. (You want to buy my surfboard it's very good). The first two shops well crammed full of old boards (Not a good sign) and wouldn't even look at it as they had no room. My high hopes were now low hopes. For the last shop I tried a new tacit. 'Quiere comprar mi tabla de surf es mas barrato' (Do you want to buy my surfboard it's very cheap). Again the owner wasn't buying. I decided to keep walking in case there was a shop I had missed on the outskirts of town.
I came to a place called Chads WOW surf shop (WOW stood for walking on water) Chad was a enthusiastic American who also had a lot of boards. Luckily he did give it a look over and offered me $75. I was hoping for $100 but beggars can't be choosers. Looking at all the other beaten secondhand boards it's likely it will be a long time before Wooster sees the water again, he may even become a novelty piece of furniture or a hostel sign. Of course I didn't tell him that.
Board sold, celebratory dulce de lech croissant eaten, I headed back to the hostel. As I had a few hours to kill before my bus Victor offered to lend me his spare board and we went to surf Hermosa for a final session. I didn't really fancy another pounding but Victor and his mate really wanted to go. The paddle out was gruelling and as we sat tentatively paddling for waves the swell seemed to build. It was getting a bit too heavy and I decided it was time to head in. I took off on this one monster, luckily it didn't eat me alive and I had a surprisingly fast long ride with a few top and bottom turns as the wave exploded behind me. I kicked off the top filled with adrenaline and relief. It was definitely a good last wave to end on. Unfortunately even tough it was my last wave I had caught the first wave of a massive set that one by one drilled me into the sand. I didn't know which way was up or down and just as I could catch a breath the next one unloaded on me. I eventually washed up on the beach and collapsed in a heap. Luckily I was still buzzing from my last wave even if I was a little worse for wear.
I looked down then saw that the nose on Victors board had pretty much snapped in my pounding on the way back to the beach. Will's guide book says "Nearly everyone you talk to has a story about getting hammered at big Hermosa" and now I have mine.
Victor was pretty chilled about it and just asked for $50 for the repair. I said if it was more I could wire him some more money. We headed back to the hostel, I grabbed my bag, said my goodbyes and caught the last bus to San Jose. This time tomorrow I'll be in Havana, Cuba with my Brother. Bye bye Costa Rica it's been swell.