Chasing Swells in Central America
I’m envious of pro surfers who don’t have typical nine-to-five jobs. They set their schedule based on the tides, swells, training and competition schedule. Surfers will rush out to chase a swell in the blink of an eye, follow the forecast just by booking a flight, and go to the ends of the earth to find the best surf.
For the majority people tied to a desk job and more traditional work-day, finding the perfect wave takes a lot more effort. We have to complete our monthly to-do list, ask for vacation time off, save money, and cross our fingers hoping the waves will be ready for us when we arrive. Booking a flight in advance can be risky: who knows how the weather will change between when you book and when you arrive? Of course, most people plan ahead to make surfing work with their schedules.
In my experience, the best option is to book your flight to hit surfing high season in Central America. Here, each south swell that comes from the Pacific lights up the coast from Mexico to Panama. These waves come from different directions, with different degrees of difficulty, sizes and winds. South swells are easily found but not easily predicted. In some places the swell may be epic, but head up the coast a ways and you may be disappointed. Luckily, once you’re here, it’s easy to hop from place to place by car or short flight.
Try to land in a place a solid high season to increase your chance of getting dependably good waves: Puerto Escondido or Costa Rica, for example. This past winter here in Central America, I spent the most time in Costa Rica, where there were plenty of spots to choose from. I stayed in Jaco first, then moved north to Santa Teresa and Tamarindo. Each spot just had its own magic and the surf breaks were on fire. Here, when the south swells are big in the Pacific, you can get amazing waves from a variety of surf spots – both point breaks to great beach breaks. Tap into knowledge of the best breaks by checking in with Selina Surf Club. We have a reputation for having locations right at some of the best breaks in Latin America.
Sunset surf session at Jaco.
When I was in Costa Rica surfing in Santa Teresa, suddenly a very promising swell started showing up on the charts. I had to choose whether to catch it in Pavones, one of the longest and best left handers in the world, or continue up north next to Tamarindo at Witches Rock, one of the best beach breaks with frequent barrels.
The group I was with wanted to go to Witches Rock, and then catch the same swell later on in Nicaragua. On the way up, I was a little bummed to miss a very promising swell that was sure to light up one of the best left point breaks in the world. But, when we arrived in Witches Rock, I surfed a good-to-epic swell (by surfline) that pumped for three days with offshore winds, barrels, and an amazing view! Later on we heard that Pavones was super crowded and wasn’t all as good as anticipated – so in the end we made the right call.
Sometimes it can hard to track down the best place to surf, but be confident in where you choose to go. When you book this kind of trip, make sure you’re heading to a place that can offer you epic waves and book it during the right season. Like any surf trip, there will be days when the waves are just not firing right. No matter what you decide, Central America is the place to be right now: with a variety of breaks and plenty of waves to choose from, you’ll have the surf of a lifetime.