Archive for Surf Journal


Why do we say surfing is the hardest board sport in the world? In actuality it doesn’t take any longer to learn to ride a surfboard than any other board sport, but in surfing because of the elements of the ocean the amount of stand up time you get in an average surf session is miniscule compared to say snowboarding or skateboarding. For example I’ve been surfing for over 15 years and am pretty efficient with my time in the water but still in a 3 hour surf session with perfect conditions and no crowds i might still only get 5 minutes total on my feet.

 Point#2 Learning the ocean. Before you even get to practice surfing you have to learn about the ocean, tides swings, currents, how to deal with endless oncoming whitewater or waves, and to top it off you need the strength and endurance to paddle back out then catch a wave over and over. To make things even more confusing every surf spot will have a huge range of changing characteristics such as ,reef break, point break, sand bar beach break, high tide wave, low tide wave, onshore wind, off-shore wind, rip currents, channel or no channel and the list goes on. One of the first things people realize when they take their very first surf lesson is how difficult it is to balance just lying down on a surfboard with the motion of the ocean.

Point#3 The hunter element. In surfing we essentially become wave hunters. A. First you have to find a good hunting ground or as we call it beach. B. Then you have to watch carefully to see where the waves are running, how long the set intervals are and where there are not already to many other hunters getting in your way or stealing your catches.  C. You then need to make sure you have the proper equipment to catch the waves. D. Finally you need paddle out, wait in the line-up, identify an incoming wave, position yourself at the peak, pick the proper direction left or right then finally the chase is on. 

 All of this makes surfing the hardest board sport, but the challenge, the ocean medium, and the lifestyle makes surfing the most addictive board sport as well.

Pura Vida & Aloha


Surfing, and Costa Rica tides explained

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Well, as head surf instructor for Shaka beach retreat talking about and explaining the tides has  become an everyday task for me. Many people come to the beach and they don’t understand why certain times of the day are good for surfing and other times are considered bad.  The beach is the beach, so what difference does it make when i go surfing? So anyway the purpose of this blog is to explain how the tides affect our beaches here in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

1. High tide & low tide. About every 6 hours the tide switches from low to high and vice-versa. The tide goes out for 6 hours then the tide comes in for 6 hours. So if low tide is 6am and rising, then mid tide is around 9am, and high tide  is 12noon then it turns around and goes back out. An interesting thing to note is when the tide switches directions the waves can go completely flat for 15-20 minutes. This can give a false impression of wave size and conditions to someone who arrives to surf right at that moment. I always advise beginners to watch the waves for 10-15 to get an accurate assesment before jumping in.

2. Here in Costa Rica the tide swing is pretty big around 8-9 feet difference between low and high tide. An interesting thing is every coastal area around the globe has different levels or measurements of tide swings, some ranging to less then a foot to over 20 feet. Variables such as the the moon phase, time of year, and geographical location greatly affect day to day tide levels. On any given day here the low or high tide can vary 2-3 feet so its important to check the local tide chart as well as a visual check.

3. Every day the tides move up about 1 hour. If high tide comming in Monday is 8am, then Tuesday high tide will be 9am then wednesday 10am and so on. So the 2 things to think about are that tides switches aproximately every 6 hours from either low or to high and roughly every 6 days the time of a high or low tide will completely switch.

Here is a tide chart for July 2010 to show the changes

Day High Low High Low High Phase
Fri 01 02:36 AM 9.60 ft 08:52 AM −0.47 ft 03:11 PM 9.25 ft 09:10 PM 0.02 ft
Sat 02 03:27 AM 9.91 ft 09:40 AM −0.85 ft 03:59 PM 9.73 ft 10:02 PM −0.32 ft
Sun 03 04:17 AM 10.03 ft 10:28 AM −1.04 ft 04:48 PM 10.04 ft 10:53 PM −0.47 ft
Mon 04 05:06 AM 9.95 ft 11:16 AM −1.00 ft 05:38 PM 10.12 ft 11:44 PM −0.42 ft
Tue 05 05:57 AM 9.64 ft 12:04 PM −0.75 ft 06:27 PM 9.98 ft
Wed 06 12:36 AM −0.16 ft 06:49 AM 9.16 ft 12:54 PM −0.29 ft 07:19 PM 9.65 ft
Thu 07 01:31 AM 0.25 ft 07:43 AM 8.57 ft 01:46 PM 0.29 ft 08:14 PM 9.20 ft Last Quarter
Fri 08 02:29 AM 0.71 ft 08:42 AM 7.96 ft 02:42 PM 0.92 ft 09:13 PM 8.73 ft
Sat 09 03:32 AM 1.12 ft 09:46 AM 7.47 ft 03:44 PM 1.48 ft 10:15 PM 8.34 ft
Sun 10 04:38 AM 1.38 ft 10:55 AM 7.18 ft 04:50 PM 1.86 ft 11:19 PM 8.10 ft
Mon 11 05:45 AM 1.43 ft 12:02 PM 7.14 ft 05:57 PM 2.01 ft
Tue 12 12:20 AM 8.04 ft 06:46 AM 1.30 ft 01:02 PM 7.32 ft 06:58 PM 1.95 ft
Wed 13 01:14 AM 8.11 ft 07:38 AM 1.07 ft 01:54 PM 7.60 ft 07:51 PM 1.76 ft
Thu 14 02:03 AM 8.26 ft 08:23 AM 0.80 ft 02:39 PM 7.93 ft 08:36 PM 1.51 ft
Fri 15 02:46 AM 8.42 ft 09:02 AM 0.55 ft 03:19 PM 8.24 ft 09:16 PM 1.25 ft New Moon
Sat 16 03:26 AM 8.56 ft 09:38 AM 0.36 ft 03:56 PM 8.49 ft 09:54 PM 1.04 ft
Sun 17 04:04 AM 8.62 ft 10:12 AM 0.26 ft 04:32 PM 8.66 ft 10:31 PM 0.89 ft
Mon 18 04:40 AM 8.58 ft 10:46 AM 0.26 ft 05:06 PM 8.73 ft 11:06 PM 0.83 ft
Tue 19 05:16 AM 8.43 ft 11:19 AM 0.37 ft 05:41 PM 8.70 ft 11:43 PM 0.87 ft
Wed 20 05:52 AM 8.18 ft 11:53 AM 0.58 ft 06:15 PM 8.58 ft
Thu 21 12:20 AM 1.00 ft 06:29 AM 7.84 ft 12:27 PM 0.86 ft 06:51 PM 8.40 ft
Fri 22 12:59 AM 1.19 ft 07:08 AM 7.46 ft 01:04 PM 1.18 ft 07:30 PM 8.18 ft
Sat 23 01:42 AM 1.41 ft 07:51 AM 7.09 ft 01:46 PM 1.50 ft 08:15 PM 7.97 ft First Quarter
Sun 24 02:31 AM 1.60 ft 08:43 AM 6.80 ft 02:36 PM 1.77 ft 09:09 PM 7.80 ft
Mon 25 03:29 AM 1.70 ft 09:46 AM 6.66 ft 03:37 PM 1.94 ft 10:12 PM 7.77 ft
Tue 26 04:35 AM 1.60 ft 10:56 AM 6.79 ft 04:47 PM 1.88 ft 11:20 PM 7.94 ft
Wed 27 05:42 AM 1.27 ft 12:05 PM 7.23 ft 05:58 PM 1.53 ft
Thu 28 12:26 AM 8.34 ft 06:45 AM 0.71 ft 01:06 PM 7.92 ft 07:04 PM 0.95 ft
Fri 29 01:26 AM 8.88 ft 07:41 AM 0.06 ft 02:02 PM 8.71 ft 08:03 PM 0.27 ft
Sat 30 02:21 AM 9.42 ft 08:33 AM −0.58 ft 02:53 PM 9.46 ft 08:57 PM −0.37 ft Full Moon
Sun 31 03:12 AM 9.85 ft 09:22 AM −1.08 ft 03:42 PM 10.06 ft 09:47 PM −0.83 ft

Many beaches here are categorized as tide optimal breaks; for example Playa Carmen is a mid/high to high tide break, Santa teresa, La lora is mid to mid/low break.

Depending on what time a particular tide is, what the current wind direction is, as well as the swell direction and size  will completely dictate the schedule for an entire day or even week in the eyes of a surf instructor or experienced surfer.

Pura Vida!

Over the past 4 years i have noticed butterflies flutter by me when I’m surfing out in the lineup, and not until the other day did i make an interesting connection. I had to watch the butterflies for a couple of days while surfing before i made this conclusion, but apparently about 25-30 minutes before the wind changes directions to on-shore in the morning you will see an occasional butterfly flying toward the shore/beach from outside.

surfing with butterflies

Surfing conditions here in Mal Pais, Costa Rica are always best in the morning when the wind is gentle and offshore, then usually around 9-11 a.m. the wind switches to on-shore making the surf choppy and crumbling. The ideal conditions for surfing are3 glassy peaking waves with a subtle off-shore breeze which helps hold up the face of the waves creating a nice shape and barrel.

I have no idea how the butterflies got out there in the first place, but if you are out surfing and you start to see an occasional butterfly fly by you heading to shore know that your surf session will turn to crappy in about half an hour. So if you see somebody cursing the butterflies out in the line-up, now you will know why.

Pura Vida

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Random Costa Rica thoughts in the Rancho

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Well its been awhile since i blogged. We have a new volunteer Katie who is gonna keep the blog section updated. This last week has been very quiet so sitting around in the rancho web browsing, facebooking and blogging has become a staple time filler.

Actually the rainy season is my favorite time of the year. No dust, downtime, more swell and uncrowded waves are just a few of the benefits. If you only experience the dry season you really miss out on the greenest time of the year. More animals show up near and around Shaka, and ocasionally the internet and power go out during the rain forcing you to unplug kickback in a hamock and read a book or just sit with your thoughts. Something many of us dont do, or forget how to do in this pace increaing society.

This past week i rebuilt the website for my brothers group SPITBREED. Both of my computers broke in the last 6 months, so Ive been relatively unplugged for a while. Its nice to have the luxury of internet but when i don’t have it i am 3 times more active outside, which makes me wonder if i like it at all. I really cant complain since my office is basically a hammock outside on my terrace looking out to the rain forest with the sounds of wild animals, ocean and waves in the background.

My brothers group SPLITBREED is really gaining momentum in Vegas and their music really suits their location. They just released their first album and you can listen to the entire album online here Although my web skills makes them look like Starts that have arrived they are still grinding and struggling, so if you have a moment visit their page and become a face book fan they need all the support they can get.

Until next time



Get me out the back!!

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Another day is coming to an end here at Shaka.  I’ve got the Ipod set to ‘Shuffle” and streaming through the speakers and in the background I can hear the howler monkeys and the waves crashing.  

Mo’e got down to camp nice ‘n’ early so we got in a good morning session in our front yard, Playa Hermosa.  The wind was blowing onshore and made the inside pretty choppy and unlike Mo’e, I unfortunately, did not make it out the back.  I got tossed around a lot and I mean A LOT but I loved every minute of it!!  Like I said, I’m pretty new to the surfing scene so I’m just happy to get out in the beautiful green/blue Pacific Ocean here in Costa Rica and tomorrow is a new day and I WILL get out the back!!

(Here’s a little picture of me surfing from last summer on my first trip to Shaka)

There are a lot of cool things about being a volunteer here at Shaka.  You get to meet tons of crazy cool people from all over the world, you get immersed in the culture of Costa Rica, you make some awesome friends, and you can work on your surfing skills (or just kick it with the big boys if your that good).  Not to mention you get to work on your tan  🙂

Well, I’m off!!  Have a great day and check back soon for new updates!!

Pura Vida,


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Pizza night funtimes

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Those affiliated with Shaka will surely already know about the legendary Pizza Nights we have here.  For those who have yet to attend: what are you waiting for?!

Last night was my initiation to this Shaka ritual; cue Mo’e twirling up a storm with the bases and me grating cheese like a maniac.  A few friends arrived, beer in hand, and the pizzas started to roll out.  This time we kept it simple with Margarita and Vegetariano but everyone agreed that they were “que rico” – so delicious in fact that we’re thinking of extending our operations to a delivery service!  Keep your eyes peeled for more news on that one.

What I didn’t realise was that the pizza was only the beginning – once it was all eaten and the lightweights had gone home, the rum came out and the party really began!  With YouTube videos on replay and a shot of tequila to get us well and truly in the mood, we didn’t stop until 4am.

Unfortunately my body-clock didn’t recognise the shift from surf-time to party-time, so I woke up as usual this morning at the delightful hour of 6am.  Surprisingly, I didn’t actually feel too bad but headed back to bed for another couple of hours anyway.

And speaking of surfing, there’s supposedly a big swell on the way.  Great for Mo’e and the boys but not so good for me!  But on the plus-side, I am now getting out the back without getting munched quite so much.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how big things really get…  Emma

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And so the surfing rehab begins

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I’ll confess: I’ve not surfed consistently for almost five years.  So when I first got back in the water here at Shaka I was almost relieved that I could even remember which way round the board goes!

A few days on and things are slowly coming back to me.  To make things easier, I’m currently riding a 7’6″ NSP, so in theory, I should be able to catch even the smallest ripple.  But catching waves isn’t the problem – it’s riding them that is!  On my first venture out back I caught a wave slightly larger than the maximum of 4-5ft I was used to in England.  I made the mistake of looking down just as I was popping up and promptly bottled it!  I bailed off the back of the board and was quickly spun into the washing machine of white water.  With no clue as to which way was up, I kicked to where I thought I might find some air, and surfaced just in time for another wave to land on my head!

But I’m slowly getting my confidence back.  Tonight Chris taught me his method of popping up which seems infinitely easier than what I had previously been doing.  So early tomorrow I’ll be out there again, and hopefully this time I’ll see some green faces, rather than just sticking to the white water.

Be sure to check back for updates on just how much the Pacific is beating me up.  My weekly donations to the Pacific currently stand at 6 hairbands, 2 bikini tops and 1 dress size!  Hasta Luego – Emma

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Back in the motivation, Surf Camp ready

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I haven’t blogged in about 3 weeks. Just didn’t have the motivation, but now i feel it again. It is the middle of the rainy season over here, which is also my favorite time of the year. Hardly any tourist, no crowds surfing, no dusty roads, nice perfect temperatures, and you sleep like a baby to the drum of rain drops falling on the metal roof. When it rains hard at night you can light a few candles in case of the frequent power outs and hang in a hammock sipping on a cold beer or glass of wine.

We are putting in the final touches to the surf camp so it will be ready for the up and coming high season. We have been getting quite a few inquiries from on-line for this coming season, looks like we could be quite full. We have recently installed hot water and and by Feb when it starts to get hotter we should have AC(although usually not necessary)in all the cabinas.

On another note we will be working closely with one of the main real estate companies in the area to provide a real estate educational adventure tour held at our surf camp. I will right another in dept blog later about later or check out the page

Until later, Pura Vida,


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