Now you might be asking yourself 'WTF has a long eared, belly shuffling, ant powered, armoured plated rodent with poor eyesight got the hell to do with paddlesurfing?'
Fair point, but it's being able to see stuff like this in the wild -
That makes it possible for me to do stuff like this -
There is so much . . . ergh . . nature going on that both Charmaine and myself can get our kicks without either of us feeling that we have had the bum's rush of holidays.
Going West for our holidays also has some major advantages for us, for many years we would travel East, India, Kenya,Sri Lanka etc. Great places offering humbling, mind blowing and life altering experiences with fantastically cheap living and the best food if you escape the tourist traps and eat with the locals. However there is a cost. Most Westerners are viewed as being fabulously wealthy in comparison to most locals and as such are targeted by the beach boys whose sales skills, memory recall abilities and persistence have to be seen to be believed.
Fun, at first, but tiring after a while and sometimes next to impossible to find 'space' just to sit on the beach alone and not fend off vendors. Sometimes it's difficult not to be rude, and I don't want to go on holiday to be rude. Lovely people, genuinely as curious about us as we are about them but difficult at times when you are eating breakfast and trying to dodge any eye contact with your new 'friends' on the beach.
Costa Rica is not like that, you can walk along a beach (a long one) and not see anyone else, and even this year on Playa Guiones as busy as it was you have zero beach hassle. You always feel safe, never intimidated and always can find your own space. Plus as we travel West and Costa Rica is 6 hours behind the UK I'm bright eyed and bushy tailed at 3am in the morning making paddling out pre-dawn at 5.30am feel like mid morning to me. This gave me the opportunity to see some beautiful sunrises, surf an empty break (for an hour or so) and still get to breakfast for 8.00am. Totally waisted by 9.00pm though!!
This pretty much set the tone of our stay, up first light and straight into into a chest-high offshore wave fest without even checking. Sometimes a lunchtime session and followed up with a much busier sunset sesh with the evening crowd.
Early in the week the winds were stiff offshore but more help than hindrance holding the waves up and providing excellent workable faces with massively long lefts and very workable rights. The Lopez was so much fun, never fazed and always capable of more than I could deliver.
It amazes me how a board with totally rounded rails can hold into a steep face so well and carve (for me) such a hard bottom turn. It's also noticeable how much turning force centres around the paddle in the wave face, always a bit of a worry with a three piece paddle but again the Werner Nitro gave me no cause for concern, quite the contrary in fact as I decided to get myself a one piece job for when I got back.
As the week went on the offshore winds got stronger and stronger, culminating in a couple of days and nights of virtually storm force conditions taking off sections of the Casa Romantica's roof. The force of the spray off the back of the waves was enough one day to take me off the board blinding me in a dense cloud of warm Pacific ocean. During these days I missed one morning session but still managed to keep up my 100% daily strike rate by sneaking into the slightly less windy evening slots.
It was during one of these windy sessions that I had the bizarre experience of paddling down the face of a wave only to be stopped dead in my tracks by a gust and pretty much held in stasis as the wave passed me by. It would be fair to say that these sessions were hard work, but great fun and not to be missed.
One of the more endearing aspects of the board that came to light was the way in which the fins would progressively 'release' their hold when standing on (read close to)the nose. Nothing drastic just a noticeable, controllable tail 'S..L..I..D..E' that made me think about the prospect of pulling off a helicopter. Fortunately thinking about it was as far as I got, however the nose heavy tail sliding sessions were great fun. The closer to the nose the easier and further the tail would slide round, yet the board's trim could be kept in check with slight 'nudges' of the knees.
Anyway all I know is that the board took everything in its stride and left me smiling. The only time that I thought that I needed anything slightly altered was during a session when the swell had picked up giving some just overhead set waves. This coincided with a rare onshore breeze. The catch was easy but the wave face was quite choppy, and the until then unnoticeable 'ULI BOUNCE' conspired to stick the nose in the chop once or twice causing me to pearl spectacularly. I have since discovered that my LOPEZ was one of the very early ones and subsequently they all have more nose rocker.
You never know who you are going to meet in places like this, the Casa Romantica is a very comfortable and friendly hotel and pretty soon all the guests get chatting over brekfast and around the pool during the afternoon siesta's. Most surf, and with it's own beach access you sort of spot the guests in the water. Ron and Ania were two guests that we got very chatty with, Ron was a fantastically tidy short boarder who was totally 'dialled' into his boards and very interested in the ULI. He rides an 8'11" Joe Blair at home.
Ania is Buzzy Trent's daughter and is custodian of all Bud Brown's surfing archives. Lovely people and a pleasure to have met.
More to come including 'Crazy Dave' the bull rider and 'Team Uli on Tour'
'Party wave' !!!!