Friday, December 21, 2007

You see this board? I break it!

…It was either me or the board. I chose to break the board, actually it’s the first surfboard I’ve ever broken. And I felt really bad about the entire thing. Here’s how it went down…

Nic and I’ve spent a generous week of getting thoroughly hammered and destroyed (I’ll admit it, destroyed) in the huge closeout session that is Playa Hermosa right now (really, it’s pretty insane. ) Ordinarily, we’ve listen to locals tell us, it’s pretty mellow this time of year. But this—this is like competition stuff and so on… And you can tell, there’s people coming in from all over Costa Rica to surf the surprise big sets. The skill level is phenomenal . Over banana pancakes, Nic and I are in awe, watching and analysing aggressive popups, fluid and fast cutbacks, the charging man-sized barrels, cringing with the breakfast crowd over gnarly wipeouts and defeat. A guy standing on the hill holding two halfs of a board over his head. It becomes more and more common as the week rolls on. Boards breaking. Smashing. Splattering. (The good thing – hermosa is all sand, so human carnage is somewhat limited)

More about the playa: The slope is steep, really steep. There’s no such thing as a rolling reefbreak or even a typical, graduating level of whitewater you can expect from a beachbreak. Instead big sets (overhead or greater) charge through and there is a split second glimpse of a catchable green wave that (as it hits the steep steep floor) instantly explodes, simultaneously crushing down the line -- a breathtaking wall of angry green foam that pummels boards and men, indescrimanently. It’s pretty amazing and forces you to take up a shortboard whether you can handle it or not. Mareka, a fabulous Hawaiian surfer at Cabinas Arenas (ok, seems like everyone's a fab surfer here) told us it was totally giving her a run for her money—she’d never seen anything like it. But then after a few days she was getting the hang of it. Just don’t hesitate and get up. Fast. Or get smashed into sand.

Nic and I decided that the biggest day in Hermosa would be a great confidence building day in Jaco—where (opposite of Hermosa) the tourists were big and the waves were small. Asking for lessons from a cocky Costa Rican surf team member, now teaching on the beach – we find out we’ll have to prove ourselves on longboards before he’ll give us a chance on shortboards. He points to two behemoth boards that dwarf Sherbert (my special orange 9’ longboard at home). We catch crumbly anklebiters like it’s nothing. Turning left and right--around the bobbing touristas--with ease, prancing down the line to stick a couple toes over the nose. It’s pretty boring. Looking for more action, I paddle my way out as a gi-normous rogue of a wave glides in. We meet and it’s not pretty. I dive into the sandy green jaws and ditch the massive board. A slight tug and then dive, dive, dive submarine. Clawing at the ground, I’m no match for the 11 foot anchor and one killer wave that's powering it down into the sand. I’m wondering if this is how it ends, my getting dragged by my back leg. When suddenly it stops—water clears, I swim up for air and see Nic looking for me and three or so feet of a board, floating in front of me. I realize it's mine. I broke a board? At Jaco? I hop on my severed, but much more managable 9 feet of board. We careen in on the next whitewater wave, grab the three feet of fiberglass excess along the way and walk to the surf shack to face the wrath of the instructor. We talk him down from paying $500 for a new longboard (did I mention this board was yellow with age and already had three visible cracks/repairs) to $60 to fix it and leave it at that.

A fun story to share with the Playa Hermosa crew. The next day we see Mareka, as we’re leaving for Manuel Antonio. She laughs, shows us a cut and swollen arm – she broke her board today, her first board. She was paddleing out and it was big, really big. So big that when she dove into the wave, her board snapped and broke over her head.

My only regret is that I didn’t listen to Nic and take a picture of the carnage. My first board, broken by a strange crazy rogue wave in Jaco. It was pretty priceless.

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