How To Surf in Dominical Costa Rica
“The Men sometimes 20 or 30 go without the Swell of the Surf, & lay themselves flat upon an oval piece of plank… they wait the time of the greatest Swell that sets on Shore… it sends them in with a most astonishing Velocity, & the great art is to guide the plank so as always to keep it in a proper direction on the top of the Swell.”
- Lieutenant James King in Hawaii, 1779.
Costa Rica may not have the wave-riding history of Hawaii, but this country is no stranger to surfing. Some time around 1980, big wave legend Pat Curren (father of 3-time world champion Tom Curren), tired of the crowds and stress, relocated from California to the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, and the buzz started. It sounded something like “great waves, warm water, warmer people, no crowds.” That was a dream come true for the majority of North American and European surfers, and the “surf vacation” found a new destination. From that point on, the small surf culture in Costa Rica grew into a thriving industry. Presently, the Pacific Coast sports no less than 41 major surf spots contained within three regions-- Northern Coast, Central Coast, and Southern Coast.
Playa Dominical is a 4km long beach in the Southern Coast. The name “Dominical” actually comes from a diminutive variety of banana that grows in the region. The surf along this sleepy beach town, however, can be anything but diminutive. Regarded as one of the best places to surf in Costa Rica, Dominical offers consistent 3 to 6-foot waves for beginning-intermediate-advanced surfers. The spot tends to work best at high tide with a South or Southwest swell, although barrels are found at time from mid-to-low tide. The winter months (May-November) tend to generate the best swell, because storm activity in the South Pacific is highest.
If you’ve never surfed before, I imagine some of the above surf description just went over your head. Don’t worry… Dominical is one of the few beaches on the Pacific with full-time lifeguards on duty. There are surf schools, like Green Iguana Surf Camp or Sunset Surf, whose mission in life is to teach people how to surf. If the waves that day are too big for beginners, they will take you to one of the smaller, lesser known surf breaks to the South. (I’ll post another article on Surfing South of Dominical soon.) Dominical is home to numerous surf shops with new and used surf boards, accessories and clothing. In fact, surfing in Dominical is so popular, South Wave Surf Shop has two stores!
Simply put, surfing has changed my life. I’m not a “ripper” or a big wave charger, but I find immeasurable joy catching waves. I’m healthier, happier, and have a much greater appreciation for marine life and the beach than ever before. There is a moment, when I drop into a wave and glide along that cresting band of energy, when time slows down… and everything becomes One.