Greg GordonSurf CR

Surf Trip to Pavones

Surf CR logoMy latest surf trip took place in late March, during semana santa. Many people would say to not go during this busy time but that was the only week my friend Henry had to visit with his son, who was making his first surf journey outside of the United States. Also joining us was my friend Santiago, who is a veteran surf traveler. We had already made a couple of trips to Costa Rica and Bali, but this was going to be his first time surfing Pavones.

If you didn’t know by now, Pavones is one of the longest breaking waves in the world. On an epic day the rides can be over a minute long and you can ride over a kilometer on a single wave. The forecast was not looking that promising, but we already had reservations and the rental SUV, so we were on our way.
I had to meet my friends a day late, so I took a private ride with my friend Tony Costa Rica, who had a brand new 15 passenger van for transporting clients. The Ruta 27 was closed due to the weekend traffic so we took the back roads through San Mateo, stopping for some excellent coffee with an amazing valley view. We made it by dusk to Dominical, where we had rooms at Posada del Mar.

The next morning we surfed out back early, catching clean head high waves with offshore winds. The tide was a little low, but when it’s not too big, that means a few hollow barrels can be found. Henry got into a nice one since he was riding a bigger board that allowed him to get in early and build up speed. We all got our share of fun waves, and after breakfast hit the road south.

It takes about three hours to get to Pavones, and we added time for gas and to get groceries. A friend has a cozy three bedroom house for rent, halfway between Pavones and Pilon, very convenient if you wanted to surf both spots. It takes a lot of swell to get Pilon to turn on, and for the first couple of days it was going to be small. So knowing that we headed instead to Punto Banco to catch some more waist to chest high surf before the sun went down.

The following days were spent checking the main point frequently and surfing whenever it looked appealing. Waves were not big, mostly waist high with a rare bigger set, but that kept the crowds away. At one point it was just me and my friends – which hardly ever happens at Pavones. In between sessions, we cooked and napped, played guitar and card games, and just enjoyed the escape from the work grind.

Two days before our trip ended the swell arrived from the Southwest. Pavones was a foot overhead, but with the direction was mostly closing out on the south side of the rivermouth. We paddled out anyway and jockeyed around to find a corner to catch. That afternoon the tide came in and the waves started to peel down the wall and into the bay where the fishing boats launched. It seems like the whole town gathered to watch the show as the locals launched airs and raced down the line. My arms felt like noodles so I was happy to just shoot photos from the beach and recover.

The last day there we woke up pre-dawn and met up with the boat captain who was going to take us to Cabo Matapalo, across the Golfo Dulce. It was about a 30 minute ride and when we first arrived to Pan Dulce it looked small, with a few groms sitting on the one main peak waiting for a set. So we motored up to the tip of the point – Matapalo – and saw the first big waves of the day break with only two other guys out. I snapped a few photos before paddling out from the boat to the lineup.

Sets were breaking two feet overhead and the water color was as clear as the Caribbean. The winds were non-existent as were the crowds. About ten of us shared the stacked surf that provided an easy take off followed by a racy section where it hits the rock shelf. Mason, having gained confidence during the week surfing the other breaks, got caught on the inside and was a little shaken. I took off on a bomb and had the best ride of my trip, with a short cover up and some fun carves before landing a floater over the inside boil.

I paddled in for a quick break and to enjoy that little piece of paradise. Scarlet macaws were flying over my head in the trees and you could hear the howler monkeys in the distance. The only other noises were the rustling of the leaves in the wind and the waves breaking. I closed my eyes to let the moment sink in, and gave thanks for being able to travel and surf with friends to some of the best beaches on the planet.

I went back out for a couple more waves and then paddled back to the boat. The tide was still too high for Backwash (another right breaking wave close by) and so we motored back to Pan Dulce for one more session. The surf there was only knee to waist high due to the swell starting to drop, but the waves we caught were super long, some over 200 meters. Moms and dads were out with their kids in the lineup, pushing them into the smaller waves and we hooted them on as they caught their first rides. Sharing the stoke is what it is all about.

We had to catch a flight the next day, so it was a rush to get back to Pavones, pack our bags, and drive back north towards the airport. We made it to Playa Bejuco for the last night. It is a powerful beach break with hollow waves when it’s on, and a fun uncrowded spot when there is not a board breaking swell. Since our ride to the airport was coming early, only Henry and Mason caught the last dawn patrol, but Santiago and I had caught our fill of waves and were ready to head home with some great memories.

Every surf trip is going to be different, but the best way to enjoy it is to have some good friends around to share the experience. We were lucky to score good days at Dominical, Pavones, and Matapalo. Those are three of my favorite surf breaks in the world. They are great spots even if you don’t surf. If you are looking to visit and want my advice, feel free to contact me through my website.