All though surfing is considered as an extreme water sport it is also the sport with the lowest rate of reported injuries. Surfing is such a low impact and safe sport that surfers will continue riding waves for as long as they can walk and every day from young kids to the elderly become addicted to it.
Costa Rica is the surfers Mecca in Latin America and as in any other part of the world there are some dangers that you should avoid.
Several movies and reports on sharks have been filmed in Costa Rica but it is more common the find yourself in the vicinity of a crocodile, when surfing near a river mouth, than to be hunted by Jaws. The simple reason is that in Costa Rica there are no seals or any other form of maritime life big enough near the coasts that could interest a shark, it is highly improbable to be confused with the sharkÂ´s lunch in Costa Rica as it happens in many of the surfing spots in the Pacific. In the last 15 years there have been reports of only 2 shark attacks and in both cases the surfers were advised on the shark presence by locals, if you are told that Jaws is in the vicinity choose another surfing spot for a couple of days!
On the other hand during the rainy season crocodiles tend to head towards the river mouths in search of food, mating or simply because the strong river currents drag them to the sea. Being highly territorial animals crocodiles are more aggressive than any other maritime life. The most important guideline to follow to keep you from being eaten by a croc is to avoid the surf spots, near the river mouths, during the rainy season. Surfers should also check for scutes (pikes) in the lineup before paddling out, never surf in a dangerous spot alone and in the case you see a croc (or shark) in the vicinity get close the other surfers, try to form a shape that appears as a bigger animal, remain calm and catch the first possible wave to get the hell out of there!
Your surf board is one of the most effective floating devices, if you find yourself in a possible drowning situation as long as you are leashed to it grab yourself as strong as you can to your surfboard and youâ€™ll be safe. If by any chance your leash rips and you lose your board try to stay as calm as possible and hold your breath. In Costa Rica the average wave wonâ€™t keep you under water for more than 30 seconds so in the case you are in the middle of a strong nasty set, catch some air every time you reach the surface and wait for it to be over. Surfers in Costa Rica are always watching each other back, so concentrate on reaching the surface and holding your breath, someone is probably on his way to rescue you, maintain your calm and let him help you!
Some surfing spots in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica are famous for riptides and the worst thing you can do is to paddle against it. No matter how fit and strong you are the current will always be stronger, donâ€™t fight it, remember your surfboard is an amazing floating device and it will keep you alive as long as you stay on it. The feeling of being dragged out into open waters is a nightmare for most newbies, youâ€™ll have to concentrate and stay calm, the only and easiest solution to get out of there is to calmly paddle perpendicular to the current, eventually youâ€™ll start noticing that the current gets weaker allowing you to get out of the water.
Crowds, Newbies and Locals
As ridiculous as it sounds the biggest injury hazards when surfing are other surfers. The more people in the lineup, the more dangerous it gets. Boards flying left and right, surfers using body boarders as speed bumps, body boarders using swimmers as speed bumps, you get the idea!
Knowing the basic surfing etiquette is a must to avoid injuries! The furthest person out, the first surfer to feet or the closest surfer to the peak of a breaking wave are commonly the ones that have earned the rights to that wave. On any given day in Costa Rica youâ€™ll find plenty of waves for everybody, it will eventually be your turn.
Costa Rican (Ticos) surfers are as nice as a â€ślocal surferâ€ť can be, just show the normal respect youâ€™d show to any â€śhostâ€ť and youâ€™ll find a new friend. Later that night youâ€™ll probably end up having a beer together and sharing your â€śPura Vidaâ€ť experiences. All local surfers are used to sharing waves with surfers from other countries and are always open to share some valuable tips, helping you out and if you use your social skills properly they might even end up showing you the most spectacular secret surfing spots in the area.