Costa Rica is one of the most accessible and affordable places a surfer can go to score fun, warm-water waves. The coastline has plenty of peaky beachbreaks and surf lodges. Stil, the coastline receives a lot of rain and sometimes a run of bad weather can plague a well-planned surf trip. Recently SURFER contributing photographer Ridge Ben Ben took a jaunt down to Costa Rica with San Clemente local Ryan Chapman. With wild weather and border crossing mishaps, the trip turned into a full-blown adventure. Below is Ben Ben’s account of the trip.
This trip was planned well in advance. My buddy Ryan Chapman sold everything he owned and bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. My two buddies and I decided to come along. When we arrived in Costa Rica, we stayed on the Pacific side the first couple of nights. No swell meant we had nothing to do but drink beers and check out the local area. We saw a good-sized swell and a huge storm approaching the Caribbean side of the country. We decided to chase it and found ourselves stuck at the border trying to get into Panama. None of us realized we couldn't drive our rental car across the border. After a 6-hour drive, we weren't going to head back defeated. We parked the car, grabbed the essentials, walked across the border and hitched a ride with a stranger. Our ride agreed to take us to the water taxis that go to Bocas Del Toro which is an hour from the Panama border.
All of us were a little on edge about the whole situation. We didn't make the little window of good waves before the storm made landfall. It was a day of torrential rain and stormy conditions. We were lucky to get on the last boat leaving Bocas Del Toro before all boat services were shut down. We drove for hours through wind and rain back to the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Luckily enough, we ended up back in Costa Rica for some fun-sized swell. We scored three days of glassy conditions in the morning. The waves weren't really suitable for longboarding but I convinced Ryan to grab the log instead of a shorty. We moved down to a peak with no one out and surfed until a busted fin forced us to get out of the water.
Having that perfect little peak to ourselves, sipping beers on a warm beach and having a wild adventure is what makes a great surf trip.