Recon: Costa Rica

Recon: Costa Rica

Crew: Geoff Moysa, Travis Mellem, Alex Gray, Jared Lang, Corey Rice, John Oda, and Brad Dougherty. (We met up with Jason Starr and Russell Smith there.)

April 11-21, 2001
This trip started as an idea last year-we wanted to get a diverse crew together for an adventure different than most. The guys from Becker (Corey Rice & John Oda) wanted to get some of their teamriders on a photo trip with TWS. Checkwood wanted something out of the ordinary; he envisioned a remote place with an age mixture of California talent. When the idea was proposed, Canada was the first choice. We thought it would serve as a different and semi-unexplored location. After some thought, Canada was dropped and Costa Rica was on. Why freeze when we could sweat in rashguards? We wanted to do something different, though, not just the same Costa stuff that everyone does. We chose to take the risk of flatness or perfection, the risk of scoring or being skunked-the risk of Pavones.

I’d been there four years earlier and had gotten a taste of this incredible left point break. Pavones is in the middle of nowhere-outside a town called Golfito, it’s a tiny place that was introduced to electricity just a few years ago. There’s only one land-line telephone in the whole town. It’s remote and one hell of a mission to get to, but it’s not too overwhelming. The risk is due to the fact that Pavones’ swell window is tiny. Basically, if there’s not a good-size south from 180 to 200 degrees, you’ll get nothing! It sits far inside a gigantic natural bay.

Finding a place to stay with a crew of eight was surprisingly easy. My friend Mike Morrissey knew this guy, Josh, from his hometown who’d moved to Pavones and built cabinas to rent. He contacted him for us, and we were in. Before we got there, we had no idea of the luxury we would be falling into. Josh had built three cabinas with marble floors, hardwood ceilings, and most importantly-air conditioning!

The trip began like any good surf trip out of Southern California-a red-eye flight out of LAX in Los Angeles. We all met up on Wednesday night for a plane that left at 12:05 a.m. We began by sitting on the runway for over an hour because the plane had too much gas. Too much gas? The pilot said the excess gas had affected the plane’s balance! Later on, we hooked up with Dave Nelson in Atlanta; he’d flown out of San Jose. Deranged and sleep-deprived from screaming babies, we found our happiness at an airport Burger King. This would be our last healthy American meal for a while.

We took off from Atlanta and arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica at about noon. The free drinks on the international flight couldn’t be denied, except by those who were still in puberty, of course. All of our luggage had made it, so we were off to the next segment of our journey. We had to take two taxi vans to a different part of the airport, the Sanza Airlines terminal. It wasn’t really a terminal-more like a dirty bus station with yard chairs and a plastic ticket counter. Our plan was to take a ten-passenger single-engine Cessna airplane to Golfito.

We checked in and got our tickets (metal rectangles that had “boarding pass” engraved in them). The guy at the counter laughed at us when we walked in with twenty surfboards and a shitload of stuff. We had to take every board out of our bags and shove them into the compartments under the plane. It maxed out with sixteen, so we had to leave four boards behind. This is the point where I realized my Spanish sucked and not one of us was fluent. I tried to figure out how we were going to get our boards, so I asked, “Uhh ®Como estÝ surfboards? Uhh. ®Dar me ma§ana need them a surfear, uh, nexto flighto. Is it gonna happen … Pavones? ®Por favor machos garcias, se§or?” Once again we were laughed at. We left with high hopes but no expectations of our four boards ever appearing again.

If one was ever to be frighten to death by a single flight, this was it! We hit a storm of black clouds, rain, and severe turbulence. The plane was all over the place, with the tail drifting like crazy. Everyone played the “I’m not scared” tough guy, but we could see right through each other. The pilot landed the plane on a dirt runway next to a cliff-sketchy, but we made it. We arrived at Golfito and jumped into two taxis to Pavones.

It was blistering hot, and we were cramped into these little cabs. I’m not sure if our cab driver had ever seen or taken a shower. We crossed a river on a ferry, and soon enough were there. We pulled up just before dark to witness crappy surf and tons of people-Thursday and Friday were national holidays in Costa Rica, and it was spring break for everyone else.

We awoke Friday morning at daybreak and jumped in the water for our first surf. The waves were two to four feet and sheet glass. We had sunny skies, and the water was somewhere between 82 and 85 degrees. We surfed all day and got our first taste of casado con pollo-rice, beans, and chicken. This was, by far, the most popular thing eaten by the locals. We had no clue that four days later we’d be searching for something different to eat.

We woke up psyched on Saturday but were disappointed to see one-foot dribblers off the point. What made it worse was the crowd. We heard there was a beachbreak down the road that would be better, and on our way, we randomly met up with Jason Starr, who’d been living in San Jose while going to school. All nine of us hopped into a truck with three people in it already. Hanging on the back in search of the beachbreak called Punta Banco, we arrived to find fun-looking two- to three-foot rights and lefts. We surfed until jellyfish attacked Alex and Geoff. Alex had an allergic reaction to a sting, and his whole arm flared up. It was like something out of a movie.

The waves kind of went flat later that day, so we decided to be adventurous. We took a Crocodile Hunter-like hike up a stream into the jungle. We were about a half hour into it when we heard Corey yell “Big snake! Big snake!” I looked up and saw him running for his life. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a four-foot-plus black snake fall off a cliff into the stream. It was as scared as we were, so it quickly darted upstream. Luckily, no one was bitten.

Proceeding north, we were frightened once again when Jason decided it was time for a nature dump. He dropped his trunks and let a bomb go into the creek. He said the leaf next to him served as nature’s answer to toilet paper. “How do you think cavemen did it?” he asked. Everyone was disgusted by his antics, but he didn’t care. Apparently, he hadn’t finished, so he did it again. The guy had serious rice-and-bean blowout.

We kept walking upstream until we noticed a naked John Oda with a leaf over his unit. He thought it was funny when he heard the word “caveman” yelled at him, so he decided to imitate his ancient brother by acting like a primate. Meanwhile, Nelly was stocking up on his Cokes at a local store-I think he drank about eleven a day. He met a non-English-speaking local named Henry, who offered him a boat ride to Matapalo, a series of right point breaks across the way. Henry’s brother owns a fishing boat that can seat twelve people, so we were on it.

We woke up Sunday morning to the roar of howler monkeys. We all jumped out of bed and ran toward the sound-all of us had been waiting to see those monkeys. We saw them high in the trees, but they were much smaller than we expected. Alex was freaking out and wanted to climb up to them. We set out for some good rights and showed up in Matapalo at high tide-it looked completely flat. Looks can be deceiving, though, especially from the back of a wave. We ended up scoring perfect three-to-four-foot rights that ran along some rocks. Jared decided he’d let the locals know he was there to take over. After a few paddle battles, we reminded him that he wasn’t at El Porto. We headed back after a few hours and watched Nelly splatter a piece of bubble gum over his face, neck, and hands.

We returned to Pavones around noon and noticed the increasing new swell. After a few Trits (Costa Rica’s bomb ice-cream sandwich), we were out there. After our session, we headed back up to the cabinas. Corey started screaming, granola falling out of his mouth: “Hey! They showed up! They showed up!” As amazing as it was, all of our boards appeared unscathed. Everyone was stoked. The trip was basically a cycle of surf, sleep, eat, surf, and so on. If you’re looking for some girl stories, you’re not going to get them. The place is as dry as Temecula, California! There was the occasional hottie, but she’ll definitely be with her surf dude.

Monday was Scorefest 2001, the time period in which every dog had its day. It was reeling all the way from the rivermouth to the boats (really, really far). The swell built overnight, and Tuesday was about two feet overhead. We charged out early but had no idea what was in store for us. An army of jellyfish attacked us like the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. About every five minutes, I heard “Aw, f-k! I got stung again.” It had been an hour of random attacks and I hadn’t been hit yet, but I knew my time would soon come. It was like being the last guy in the lineup of a firing squad. Eventually, I had to pull a foot-long tentacle off of my leg.

This was also the day I noticed the talent I was surrounded by. Moysa has got to be the most underrated guy I’ve ever seen. He’s mental-his surfing, that is. I saw him pull a huuuge lien air that he shouldn’t have made! Travis was doing these powerful snaps in the pocket and busting stalefish airs on the closeouts. Alex was hitting the lip with so much speed that he boosted big backside airs over the last section. Jared was putting together some serious combos-flying down the line and hitting it. Everybody was ripping, and I was stoked to witness it. Later that day, we ran into Russell Smith, who’d been traveling Costa with his girlfriend. They both got stung as well. Russ has to be about the funniest guy I’ve ever hung out with-a clone of his brother Tyler. The kid is quick with his tongue and had a smartass comment for everything.

Wednesday and Thursday were about the same as Tuesday. The swell stuck around, and it was really good during mid tide. By this time we were searching for anything to eat besides rice and beans. And then boom! There it was, right in front of our face-the pizzeria. The place looked fake, kind of like a Sahara Desert mirage. We gave it a shot and went in. There was a guy with a chef hat and an Italian-looking mustache baking bread. Had we found an Italian pizza maker in the middle of Costa Rica? Geoff asked, “Hey, tough guy! Whadda you say you make us a huge pepperoni pizza?” The guy replied in Spanish, so Oda replied, “Uhh. We quiero pizza. Somehow the guy understood us and said we could order it for lunch the next day! We didn’t care, we would’ve waited a week.

The heat from the sun was blistering at 5:00 a.m. The bright light through the windows assured us that we weren’t sleeping in. We discovered first thing that a bunch of our shit was stolen! Some asshole took a bunch of trunks and rashguards from the patio. Nelly was freaking because most of it was his. He had to pound three cups of coffee and two Cokes to relieve his stress. The funny thing is they didn’t take his board, which was right next to the trunks. Maybe the thieves had some sense of humor and figured he could still surf naked. Our local friends Piper and Luke went on a mission to find out who it was. These guys surfed more than anyone and knew everybody. We surfed all day and headed to the cantina for a few beers. This was when we ran into our new buddies-guys who were telling us how it was in the 60s, and the standard “You shoulda been here yesterday.” It was always beer-thi him that he wasn’t at El Porto. We headed back after a few hours and watched Nelly splatter a piece of bubble gum over his face, neck, and hands.

We returned to Pavones around noon and noticed the increasing new swell. After a few Trits (Costa Rica’s bomb ice-cream sandwich), we were out there. After our session, we headed back up to the cabinas. Corey started screaming, granola falling out of his mouth: “Hey! They showed up! They showed up!” As amazing as it was, all of our boards appeared unscathed. Everyone was stoked. The trip was basically a cycle of surf, sleep, eat, surf, and so on. If you’re looking for some girl stories, you’re not going to get them. The place is as dry as Temecula, California! There was the occasional hottie, but she’ll definitely be with her surf dude.

Monday was Scorefest 2001, the time period in which every dog had its day. It was reeling all the way from the rivermouth to the boats (really, really far). The swell built overnight, and Tuesday was about two feet overhead. We charged out early but had no idea what was in store for us. An army of jellyfish attacked us like the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. About every five minutes, I heard “Aw, f-k! I got stung again.” It had been an hour of random attacks and I hadn’t been hit yet, but I knew my time would soon come. It was like being the last guy in the lineup of a firing squad. Eventually, I had to pull a foot-long tentacle off of my leg.

This was also the day I noticed the talent I was surrounded by. Moysa has got to be the most underrated guy I’ve ever seen. He’s mental-his surfing, that is. I saw him pull a huuuge lien air that he shouldn’t have made! Travis was doing these powerful snaps in the pocket and busting stalefish airs on the closeouts. Alex was hitting the lip with so much speed that he boosted big backside airs over the last section. Jared was putting together some serious combos-flying down the line and hitting it. Everybody was ripping, and I was stoked to witness it. Later that day, we ran into Russell Smith, who’d been traveling Costa with his girlfriend. They both got stung as well. Russ has to be about the funniest guy I’ve ever hung out with-a clone of his brother Tyler. The kid is quick with his tongue and had a smartass comment for everything.

Wednesday and Thursday were about the same as Tuesday. The swell stuck around, and it was really good during mid tide. By this time we were searching for anything to eat besides rice and beans. And then boom! There it was, right in front of our face-the pizzeria. The place looked fake, kind of like a Sahara Desert mirage. We gave it a shot and went in. There was a guy with a chef hat and an Italian-looking mustache baking bread. Had we found an Italian pizza maker in the middle of Costa Rica? Geoff asked, “Hey, tough guy! Whadda you say you make us a huge pepperoni pizza?” The guy replied in Spanish, so Oda replied, “Uhh. We quiero pizza. Somehow the guy understood us and said we could order it for lunch the next day! We didn’t care, we would’ve waited a week.

The heat from the sun was blistering at 5:00 a.m. The bright light through the windows assured us that we weren’t sleeping in. We discovered first thing that a bunch of our shit was stolen! Some asshole took a bunch of trunks and rashguards from the patio. Nelly was freaking because most of it was his. He had to pound three cups of coffee and two Cokes to relieve his stress. The funny thing is they didn’t take his board, which was right next to the trunks. Maybe the thieves had some sense of humor and figured he could still surf naked. Our local friends Piper and Luke went on a mission to find out who it was. These guys surfed more than anyone and knew everybody. We surfed all day and headed to the cantina for a few beers. This was when we ran into our new buddies-guys who were telling us how it was in the 60s, and the standard “You shoulda been here yesterday.” It was always beer-thirty for these guys.

There are some seriously messed-up people who hang out at cantinas in Costa Rica. One guy was a Stephen Seagal look-alike who was definitely psyched on the movies Marked For Death and Out For Justice. This guy was probably his stunt double or something. “Mars Attacks” was an odd-looking character who strongly resembled the aliens from the movie Mars Attacks. His eyes were popping out of his head. “Cigarillo” was some psycho who asked everyone for a cigarette each and every time he saw him or her. His other nicknames included Satan and The Public Musician. Apparently, he walks around town and plays the skin flute. “Planet Of The Apes” was human, I think-although he could have been crossbred from “Cigarillo” and a local howler monkey.

Friday was our last day. We woke up to two-foot morning sickness. We figured it’d be a good day to just chill out. The kids went over to Punta Banco to get wet. The rest of us cruised at the cantina and watched the waves. At about 11:30 a.m., we realized that a new Chilean south swell was hitting, the tide was coming up, and the wind had stopped. Geoff, Nelly, Corey, and I snuck out there by ourselves to score the best waves of the trip. It was uncrowded and absolutely perfect! Corey was so happy, he ran up the point and had a beer on his way back out.

We packed up our stuff and left the next day. Josh gave us a ride to the fishing wharf in his dump truck-we definitely traveled in style on this trip. Henry and his brother Oliver asked their other brother Peter if he could boat-taxi us to Golfito. It was 100 times better than taking the cabs. It was time to leave this beautiful place, and it was a bummer to go. We were on our way back to reality with memories to last a lifetime.

Callouts”Deranged and sleep-deprived from screaming babies, we found our happiness at an airport Burger King.”

“We surfed until jellyfish attacked Alex and Geoff. Alex had an allergic reaction to a sting, and his whole arm flared up.”

“We were about a half hour into it when we heard Corey yell “Big snake! Big snake!” I looked up and saw him running for his life.”

“We woke up Sunday morning to the roar of howler monkeys.”

“An army of jellyfish attacked us like the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. About every five minutes, I heard “Aw, f-k! I got stung again.”

“Proceeding north, we were frightened once again when Jason decided it was time for a nature dump. He dropped his trunks and let a bomb go into the creek.”

For information on staying at Josh’s cabinas, contact Josue’s Paradise at www.josuesparadise.com, or call him direct at 506-386-0530 in Costa Rica, or (949) 376-8970 and (949) 290-3952 in the U.S.

-thirty for these guys.

There are some seriously messed-up people who hang out at cantinas in Costa Rica. One guy was a Stephen Seagal look-alike who was definitely psyched on the movies Marked For Death and Out For Justice. This guy was probably his stunt double or something. “Mars Attacks” was an odd-looking character who strongly resembled the aliens from the movie Mars Attacks. His eyes were popping out of his head. “Cigarillo” was some psycho who asked everyone for a cigarette each and every time he saw him or her. His other nicknames included Satan and The Public Musician. Apparently, he walks around town and plays the skin flute. “Planet Of The Apes” was human, I think-although he could have been crossbred from “Cigarillo” and a local howler monkey.

Friday was our last day. We woke up to two-foot morning sickness. We figured it’d be a good day to just chill out. The kids went over to Punta Banco to get wet. The rest of us cruised at the cantina and watched the waves. At about 11:30 a.m., we realized that a new Chilean south swell was hitting, the tide was coming up, and the wind had stopped. Geoff, Nelly, Corey, and I snuck out there by ourselves to score the best waves of the trip. It was uncrowded and absolutely perfect! Corey was so happy, he ran up the point and had a beer on his way back out.

We packed up our stuff and left the next day. Josh gave us a ride to the fishing wharf in his dump truck-we definitely traveled in style on this trip. Henry and his brother Oliver asked their other brother Peter if he could boat-taxi us to Golfito. It was 100 times better than taking the cabs. It was time to leave this beautiful place, and it was a bummer to go. We were on our way back to reality with memories to last a lifetime.

Callouts”Deranged and sleep-deprived from screaming babies, we found our happiness at an airport Burger King.”

“We surfed until jellyfish attacked Alex and Geoff. Alex had an allergic reaction to a sting, and his whole arm flared up.”

“We were about a half hour into it when we heard Corey yell “Big snake! Big snake!” I looked up and saw him running for his life.”

“We woke up Sunday morning to the roar of howler monkeys.”

“An army of jellyfish attacked us like the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. About every five minutes, I heard “Aw, f-k! I got stung again.”

“Proceeding north, we were frightened once again when Jason decided it was time for a nature dump. He dropped his trunks and let a bomb go into the creek.”

For information on staying at Josh’s cabinas, contact Josue’s Paradise at www.josuesparadise.com, or call him direct at 506-386-0530 in Costa Rica, or (949) 376-8970 and (949) 290-3952 in the U.S.