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Surfboard Rhapsody

  • Submitted by: Aram McLean, Canada
  • Submission Date: 18th Feb 2009

Travelling with an eight foot surfboard is not the easiest of endeavours. Well, to be fair, so long as you have the SUV to go with it, it’s not that bad. But when your mode of transport includes mainly buses of the packed out to the gills sort with luggage handlers in no way read up on the ‘Surfboards are really, really fragile’ handbook trying to squeeze an 8 x 2 ft object into a 6 x 1 ft compartment, well now, travelling with an eight foot board is no fun at all. One gets used to arriving in whatever destination and looking for the nearest repair shop - a tough go when none are to be found.
Jaco worked, staying in the happy iguana cabin with surf pounding distant to the eardrums located only a short walk through a grassy backyard away; this was ideal; moving anywhere after that, without your own vehicle, abruptly buying the darn thing may become seen as a mistake. Better to go with the well short board and eat salty sand all day in an extra long learning curve than try and pack eight feet of foam and fibreglass around a Costa Rican coast line.
A fine board it was though, made in Costa Rica by Carton (pronounced with a Spanish accent the name sounds so much cooler than just a container for milk, I assure you). All the more heartbreaking to see the craftsmanship dinged.
Our flight returned to Vancouver without us. Annemieke and I made our way south into Quepos where gruff fishermen swarm the flooding streets and the nearest night club offers free entry and drinks for all the girls whereas the lowly boys must pay extortionate fees simply for the pleasure of watching said girls get very drunk. Manuel Antonio lies just over the hill, a national park and peninsula where the shore break eagerly waits to snap treasured boards in half - more to the point but less brutal really than a Costa Rican baggage handler. This is tourist-land, one could say and here the Yankee-twanged English is king.
South again, the pavement ended. Sitting above on sweaty seats of torn leather each jarring thump and hammered pothole brought only more weeping for further wounds the Carton endured below.
Finally the Quepos region government has decided to stop being a priss and pave the highway from Quepos to Dominical, so afraid of tourists moving freely between regions they were, but not a large country this and the tourists already own 80 percent of coastal land – what’s the point now? So they began the preliminary to asphalt - too little too late for my eight feet and Annemieke’s seven feet of local loving workmanship.
Exit in Matapalo, sixteen kilometres from Dominical and eight kilometres of beachfront. It is empty, secluded, only locals kicking about with a few drunken expatriates thrown in for good measure. All the shops shut down for Sunday. It’s even hard to find a piece of fried chicken on the Lord’s Day, unheard of in Costa Rica!
We stepped from the bus and hiked for the water. Carrying packs and boards it felt like the hottest kilometre on earth. Quiet and calm, but for this one especially miserable insect, apparently invisible, that emits a most high-pitched buzzing so as to bring one’s only set of ears into the vicinity of near bleeding profusely.
Dings we managed to repair with an ex-pat named Geoff and then into the surf - holy shit what surf! Lefts and rights peeling off A-frames into a troughing mess of mangled limbs and broken spirits. Doubles are crossed continuously by a third line coming in at a forty-five. This is gnarly by anybody’s standard. Which way was it going to hit me next? Nevermind the flying debris and splintered driftwood, eight foot pounders barrel you backwards and upside down - that eight feet being only a measurement from the rear of the swells - from the front you’re staring into twelve feet of lunging hell and God knows how much crushing force.
Spun out and spit back I gripped onto some undertow, rode some riptide into whitewash, called it a success and headed for shore. My girlfriend meanwhile, being much cooler on a board than I am, went huge and looked fantastically spectacular peaked above the demons head before the mammoth wave absolutely and completely ate her. Only when she emerged from the washing machine, paddling for the break line once more, did I breathe normally. I wish I had a picture.
Into Dominical next where the roads are solid again and the surfer ‘scene’ lives on dude, through sun-bleached hair and ocean carved bodies. Surfers dominated the small town in turn dominated by even bigger surf crashing into the shoreline.
‘For Sale - almost new’ the sign said. It was attached to my board, not because I was done with surfing, oh no, not by a long shot; only I was done with trying to travel with the equivalent of a rather tall person under my arm, each new ding felt much too personally.
We stayed in the probably haunted Dominical Backpackers Hostel, not a soul but us and some flea-bitten cat, even with the dorm beds going for a measly eight dollars a night. You just know this place was sweet and certainly bed-bug free, nevermind the itch. Doors didn’t lock and the kitchen looked like some angry chef had attacked it over a long weekend then neglected to clean up. Meanwhile, overhead trees dropped chestnut-like fruit that slammed down hard and sporadically throughout the night like some eminent invasion destroying the tin roof before you could even think about recovering from smashing your head into the top bunk. You never do get used to it.
But did I mention it was only eight dollars a night!
Unable to get past the pounding break we decided to switch up the pace and joined the local dive school for some scuba – but that’s another story.