Costa Rica Travel Guide

Costa Rica Travel Guide

Costa Rica is one of the few Central American nations that hasn’t got a blood soaked history of civil wars, guerrilla fighting, CIA-inspired coups and crazed despot dictators. There are no commie insurgencies or private armies here. Which in layman’s terms means it’s safe. The flip side of this is the number of tourists who head here to do the Centro thing without putting their necks on the line, and consequently (as tourism is the biggest industry) the cost. Dirt cheap Costa ain’t. If you’re stopping off here as part of longer Centro trip then you’ll definitely feel the financial pain when compared to neighbouring countries. That said, prices aren’t crazy and if you do your research you can stay somewhere for a couple of weeks without completely blowing your travel fund.

CR has been on surfers’ maps since the ‘60s and it’s a chilled and easy trip. The waves are consistent and fun, suitable for pretty much everyone, from those just starting out to the numerous pro’s who spend a few months here on winter escapes knowing that they’ll score good surf, day in, day out.

Guanacaste is Costa Rica’s northernmost province and it’s home to loads of good spots which break pretty much all year round. Size wise, well, you can leave the rhinochaser at home. The surf is rarely bigger than head high, but equally it’s rarely less than shoulder high. Now that’s consistency. With a Pacific-facing coastline which is all exposed to the same swell and has the same thermal conditions, it’s also not the kind of place where you spend hours each day checking spot after spot: if it’s on then it’s on. Hiring a car is worth it if there are a few of you, otherwise just get a transfer from the airport to one of the main towns and spend what you save on Imperial, the local beer of choice.

Tamarindo is one of the most popular options for an ‘everything you need within a 10-minute walk’ trip. It’s a beautiful spot with the town itself lying between two national parks. The main road through the town is lined with places to stay and places to eat, and you’ll meet plenty of people on their twentieth trip here; if it ain’t broke and all that. Within walking distance of the town you’ve got Rivermouth (a hollow right), Pico Pequeño (a reef which can barrel with the right swell direction), and Playa Langosta (a selection of hollow beach break peaks—some better than others, and some more crowded than others, so take your pick). Aside from all this good shizzle right on your doorstep, the other big pull to Tamarindo is access to the classic spots of Witches Rock and Ollie’s Point (of Endless Summer 2 fame). As both these spots are situated in a national park, there’s no accommodation close by and access is only really by boat (or a sketchy and not-really-worth-it 4x4 mission). This fact keeps crowds to a minimum, and you can expect to score some classic surf with only a handful of other guys in a properly stunning locale. Boats leave Tamarindo at first light and return at dusk. It’s not cheap though – you’re looking at around $100 for a day trip.

Ten kilometres (six miles) south of Tamarindo is Playa Avellanes and its neighbour Playa Negra. If you’re after the quiet life then this is a good place to stay…and you can be in the water before the Tamarindo dwellers have even finished their breakfast. Playa Avellanes has a rivermouth and a beach with plenty of quality peaks, while Playa Negra has a perfect righthand reef break.

When you’re travelling around a new country, it’s often the towns that you hear about first; your knowledge of the surrounding breaks then complete the picture once you’ve spent some time there. Nosara is a prime example of this – it’s the next well-known town down the coast from Tamarindo, and the destination of choice for many CR veterans. More chilled out than Tamarindo, there are just as many decent breaks around but fewer surfers vying for a piece of the action. Junquillal, Playa Marbella and Playa Pelada will keep you plenty busy for starters.

Continuing south along the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Coyote is a long beach with fairly average waves but a fun righthand point at its southern end.

The next gathering point for surfers is the area around Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, a beachside community which sprawls along the coast for several kilometres. (Technically, it’s situated in neighbouring Puntarenas province, but it completes the stretch of coastline already described so it makes sense to include it here.)

There are loads of groovy little haunts here, from backpackers through to swish rental houses with pools. The Funky Monkey and The Green Rooms are both popular with surfers. Surfwise, there are dozens of fun beach break spots straight out the front which keep the multitude of visitors happy. And if you happen to be here when a bigger pulse of swell rolls in, then you’re in luck – there are several reefs close by which can get pretty fruity.

Hopping over to the next province, Puntarenas, those looking for consistent surf breaks should head to Playa Hermosa, located 10 minutes south of Jaco. Not be confused with Playa Hermosa in the Guanacaste province, this serious surfing haven is home to both national and international wave lovers. With world class waves aplenty, this spot is hosts a local grassroots surf contest called ‘Backyard Surf Series’ featuring the best surf talent in Costa Rica plus Playa Hermosa holds the International Quiksilver Surf Championship every year. The area has plenty of bars and restaurants for those looking to hang out, surf, eat and grab a beer. 

  – Roger Sharp

WHERE TO STAY


 

BOOK SURF CAMPS

At BookSurfCamps.com you can search, compare and book all 119 Costa Rican surf camps from one easily digestible page. Whether you are planning to improve your surfing skills or to simply start learning, surfing in Costa Rica will give you the challenge you are looking for! Select one of the best surf vacations on BookSurfCamps.com and let the surfing fun begin. No booking fees and friendly customer support!

www.booksurfcamps.com
service@BookSurfCamps.com
+44 20 3856 4015 

 

SURF INN HERMOSA

Surf Inn Hermosa invites you to enjoy a slice of Pura Vida paradise where the pressures and priorities of life are left behind.

Nestled in the heart of Playa Hermosa and with beautiful coastline and some of the best surf in Costa Rica on the doorstep, Surf Inn Hermosa has become a highly sought-after destination for those looking for the ultimate surf experience.

Enjoy this boutique style hotel as a solo traveler, with friends or as a family, with four one bedroom studios a few hundred feet from the beach and two oceanfront apartments available. These vacation rentals were custom built and designed to help you enjoy the beach all day long!

Surf Inn Hermosa offers a surfing program for everyone, from beginners who want to learn to avid surfers looking to improve and everything in between, their local surf instructors help you to achieve your surfing goals.

www.surfinnhermosa.com
surfinnhermosa@yahoo.com
1-866-304-3265

 

CR SURF

Hailed as the Costa Rican surf travel experts, for over 18 years CR Surf have planned trips for surfers of all ages and abilities. Working with local boutique hotels to fit all budgets and partnering with surf camps with quality boards and certified instructors. Plus the company promotes sustainable tourism and are 1% for the Planet members.

Continually keeping surfers informed of news and upcoming events, CR Surf have published well over 850 surf reports and forecasts and have helped thousands of surfers and their families with their vacations, successfully linking them up with the best places to surf, stay and play in Costa Rica.

With a mission to help surfers unite their communities by promoting sustainable tourist and protecting costal ecosystems, use their expert services to maximize your time catching waves and find ‘pura vida’!

www.crsurf.com
travel@crsurf.com
877-787-3007
Video link 

 

Frijoles Locos Surf Shop

“Costa Rica and surfing go together like scones and jam!”

For a brilliant family-adventure-holiday, Frijoles Locos Surf Shop in Playa Grande on the Gold Coast of Guanacaste, ticks all the boxes.

Their years of experience with showing families a fab time really shines through with the Frijoles Locos Family Packages which includes accommodation, airport transfers, not-to-miss activities, private family surf lessons, all the beach equipment rentals you need and so much more. Prices start at $2400USD for a family of 4. For more details have a look at 

ADVENTURE PACKAGES
www.playagrandesurfshop.com
surf@frijoleslocos.com
+506 2652 9235

 

Olas Verdes hotel

Olas Verdes is a sustainable beach hotel, with direct access to Playa Guiones through a short walk across the Wildlife Refuge; and 15 minutes from Nosara Airport. Offering casual luxury, Olas Verdes Hotel has the best location to explore the towns of Guiones and Nosara. Wake up with the waves and stay in comfort, while enjoying in-house surf and yoga lessons. El Manglar restaurant features delicious meals and smoothies with fresh organic ingredients. Free breakfast, Wi-Fi, beach cruisers, laundry and parking. Ask for the room specials and discounted Liberia Airport shuttles.

info@olasverdeshotel.com
www.olasverdeshotel.com+ (506) 2682-0608

 


 

REAL SURF TRIPS

Real Surf Trips is home to the most swell exposed and wave-rich surf zone throughout Costa Rica’s Guanacaste coast. From beginner surf packages to the most perfect waves for experienced surfers looking to progress to that next level; this is exactly what an all inclusive surf trip is supposed to be. Whether you’re looking to book a vacation rental for the entire family, or you just want to add in a few yoga classes to your Costa Rica surf trip, Real Surf Trips features every amenity and experience Costa Rica has to offer! All you have to do is show up at the airport and they take care of the rest: first class accommodations, one-of-a-kind service and over 20 years of local surf knowledge, guaranteed to give you the Costa Rica Surf Trip you’ve been dreaming of!

www.realsurftrips.com
bob@realsurftrips.com 
(831) 440-7676

 

QUICK TIPS

WHEN TO GO
The prime months are May to September.

AIRPORT
San Jose (SJO). If you’re flying from Europe, make sure that your stopover in the US is at least two hours so you have time to clear customs and make your connection.

ACCOMODATION
There’s plenty of options from swanky five-star hotels to backpacker hostels.

WATCH OUT FOR
Sunburn and the odd jellyfish.

BOARDS
It’s all about hotdoggin’ so pack accordingly…

RUBBER
You’ll only need boardies.

AFTER DARK
Think ‘a few quiet beers’ after a long day’s surfing. There aren’t too many places to party, but some towns have livelier bars and clubs.

ALTERNATIVE EXCITEMENT
Visit one of the National Parks; go zip-wiring; or just grab a beer and watch all the hotties on the beach.


 

Luxury Surf escapes

Luxury Surf escapes

Luxury Surf Escapes

Fancy ramping-up the luxury on your next surf trip? Check out i-escape’s luxury surf hideaways. View i-escape’s full Surf Collection at: www.i-escape.com/surf

If you haven’t heard of i-escape, you’ve been missing out on its handpicked collection of unforgettable places to stay across more than 50 destinations.

With a team of passionate travellers at the helm, i-escape will help you find and book boutique hotels, stylish guesthouses, eco-retreats, safari lodges, stunning beach huts and chic villa rentals – all in some of the world’s most stunning and fascinating locations. Every property has been personally visited by one of the team, and their reviews tell it like it is – the highs, the lows, and everything in between. You’ll pay the same, or sometimes less, as going direct to the accommodation owners, and you might even be treated to extra perks when you arrive.

Here are 10 i-escape retreats in some of the world’s finest surf locations.

To find out more, see www.i-escape.com

The Harmony Hotel

Nosara Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

This tropical paradise eco-hotel is a stone’s throw from Playa Guicones – one of the most stunning surf beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. The wood and wicker furniture, palm trees, freshwater pool and open-plan layout give the hotel the feel of a 1950’s Hawaiian resort.  You won’t find plasma TVs or high-tech gadgets, instead luxury comes in the form of a healing centre, organic food and sunrise yoga on the beach. The rooms’ private patios, hammocks and outdoor showers make the most of the tropical garden setting; look out for howler monkeys, hummingbirds and iguanas, and keep the windows open to let the sound of the waves lull you to sleep.
website: www.i-escape.com/the-harmony-hotel

Ebb Tide

Camps Bay Cape Town, South Africa

With the majestic backdrop of the Twelve Apostles, Camps Bay is one of Cape Town’s highlights. The palm-fringed beach is known for dramatic sunsets – and for some of the city’s hippest bars and restaurants. A short walk from all the action, these apartments are sleek and modern with private terraces and plunge pools – but the real stars of the show are the breath-taking ocean views. Stay here and you can take advantage of South Africa’s world-class surfing then return to your apartment for a soak in a sea-view tub and a well-deserved beer. Each sleeps 2-6; self catering.
website: www.i-escape.com/ebb-tide

Bali Luxury Private Villa

Seseh Canggu, Indonesia

This blissful villa-for-12 has it all – chic, tropical décor, garden bathrooms, an infinity pool and an unbeatable location. Set in exotic gardens, it is hidden away at the edge of an unspoilt fishing village, with views of swaying rice and palm-fringed surf. Happily, it is just 40 minutes from Denpasar airport. The atmosphere is exclusive, private, laid-back and utterly luxurious. A team of delightful staff intuitively second guess your every need; the only decision you need concern yourself with is whether you can fit in a massage before sunset cocktails and canapés.
website: www.i-escape.com/bali-luxury-private-villa

Taru Villas – 906

Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

This mellow bungalow, hugging Hikkaduwa’s golden shores, is blissfully unpretentious. Check the surf every morning from the veranda and enjoy a pre-breakfast swim in your pool. Hikkaduwa’s buzzy surf scene is a short walk away, with some of the best surf breaks in southwest Sri Lanka – though the incredible home-cooked food and the nothing-is-too-much-attitude of the staff make it hard to leave the tranquillity of the villa. Hikkaduwa is also a popular diving location; highlights include the Hikkaduwa Gala caves, rocky-bottomed Kiragala and some fascinating wrecks. Sleeps 2-6.
website: www.i-escape.com/taru-villas-906

Villas de Trancoso

Trancoso Bahia, Brazil

Just a couple of hundred yards from the beach in the surf-haven of Bahia, you’ll find this stylish collection of villas and suites. After you’ve sampled the plethora of beach and reef breaks, unwind in your private villa, laze around the pool, or head to the main cabana for a refreshing cocktail.  The elegant villas are made from Brazilian wood and palm thatch, and are decked with fine white linen, romantically-draped mosquito nets and colourful rugs – conjuring up a proper luxury beach vibe. Salvador da Bahia has a sandy coastline that covers hundreds of kilometres – perfect for finding surf spots for all levels.
website: www.i-escape.com/villas-de-trancoso

Playa Escondida

Pacific Coast Mexico

This romantic jungle retreat with a private beach and laid-back vibe is just 10 minutes’ from the surfy town of Sayulita; yet the hidden jungle setting and the sound of waves and birdsong will make you feel miles away from civilisation. Days pass blissfully; there are 29 colourful rooms and casitas but you’d never know it thanks to the acres of space, and the giant fern and palm tree camouflage of the beautiful shoreline. If you have your fill of surfing, go humpback whale watching or simply swing in a hammock, sipping margaritas and watching pelicans out at sea.
website: www.i-escape.com/playa-escondida

South Sands Boutique Hotel

Salcombe Devon, United Kingdom

There aren’t many stylish UK hotels that are literally right on the beach. Here, there’s nothing between you and golden sands – and once here, there’s no need for a car. This is a watersports paradise, with surfing, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, boating and waterskiing on your doorstep. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, the light and airy restaurant, serving delicious, fresh seafood, has wonderful views across the Salcombe estuary.
The hotel’s beautifully styled, peaceful rooms flaunt New England décor, seascape colours and plantation shutters. Families will love the self-catering Beach Suite apartments and the sailing school next door.
website: www.i-escape.com/south-sands-boutique-hotel

Windmills Break

Yallingup Margaret River, Australia

Windmills Break hotel is named after the stunning local surf beach. The Margaret River estuary is one of Australia’s best surfing regions and its annual Classic Surfing Championships are held in November. The hotel has 10 acres of gorgeous gardens, and an infinity pool with loungers and a hot tub. The rooms are dressed in warm chocolates, creams and beiges, with striking landscape photographs on the walls. Yallingup, Eagle Bay and Bunker Bay beaches are all close by, as are the vineyards and wineries of the Margaret River region.
website: www.i-escape.com/windmills-break

Lake Loft

Hossegor Gascony, France

The Landes region of southwest France boasts some of Europe’s largest pine and cork forests, highest sand dunes and world-class surf breaks. This boutique B&B is a real hidden-gem with just four gorgeous bedrooms and cool designer touches, from vintage surfboards to Le Corbusier chaise longues. Decor is beachside-industrial chic: sun-bleached kilims on polished cement floors, brilliant Plümacher prints on white walls. Come in early October when the town of Hossegor hosts the Quiksilver Pro France competition. Respite from the Atlantic breakers comes in the form of strolls through the pine forests or loungers by the hotel’s heated pool.
website: www.i-escape.com/lake-loft

Dar Lazuli

Essaouira Morocco

This quirky, cosy riad is hidden deep within Essaouira’s medina – right at the hub of things, yet only two minutes’ from the beach. Its three apartment suites are arranged around a central colonnaded courtyard, and are amazing value. All have kitchens, sitting areas and exquisitely comfortable king-size beds – but if you’re feeling lazy, there are plenty of restaurants in the vicinity. Essaouira is a surfers’ paradise in winter and perfect for kite surfing in summer. When you’re not in the ocean, you can go camel riding, quad biking or pony trekking along the coast to the sand dunes at Sidi Kaouki. Or follow the coastal highway south towards Agadir to see goats climbing trees in the Argan forest.
website: www.i-escape.com/dar-lazuli

For more information on i-escape and to view their full collection, head to www.i-escape.com/surf

São Tomé Dreaming…

São Tomé Dreaming…

TO ME … TO YOU

Tapping São Tomé’s deep roots with William Aliotti and Beyrick de Vries (links to Insty profiles)
Words by Will Bendix  | Photos by Greg Ewing | Video Dane Staples

We’re rolling down the spine of an ancient volcano, tumbling down to the sea. Outside the window it’s the colour of deep earth, the colour of an island that’s been turned inside out, exposing its fertile guts and dark green belly. Giant palm fronds high five the car as we twist around the jungle track with 50 Cent and Lucky Dube riding shotgun. Lucky’s crooning right now, telling us, ‘Good things come to those, who go out and make them happen.’
Clearly Lucky never tried finding a road to the beach on the west coast of São Tomé.
‘I think it’s here,’ says John Micheletti. ‘The bay we saw on the map.’ He’s pointing out the window but all we can see is the same thick ribbon of jungle that’s hemmed us in for the past hour as we’ve unsuccessfully tried to poke the nose of the Toyota Prada towards the beach. John turns off the road into a narrow trail that cuts into the bush. Branches claw the doors as he nudges the car further down the footpath, barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side.
‘I don’t think this is a road,’ quips Beyrick de Vries from the backseat. There’s a hollow thud as the chassis connects a hump of rock, followed by a grinding sound that slows the car down, but it’s impossible to turn around. John pushes harder on the accelerator. The car breaks free and is catapulted into a clearing. Ahead of us lies the beach where impossibly tall palms dip down to the shoreline. Beyond that, an onshore breeze licks the back of a wedging beachbreak.
‘Ramps!’ shouts Beyrick, and we start taking the boards off the roof.

***
São Tomé is located off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, a dark speck that rises abruptly from the sea. Along with its smaller twin, Príncipe, the islands form part of the Cameroon Line, a 900-mile chain of volcanoes that stretch from the hinterlands of Nigeria into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
The entire island is in fact a volcano, formed by hot spot that has steadily bubbled up lava from the Earth’s mantle over millennia. The same type of volcanic activity forged the islands of Hawaii and has imbued São Tomé with its dark soil and wrinkled coastline. A coastline that, for the most part, remains unexplored.
The exception is along the east coast, where our eclectic crew had convened like the start of a bad joke: William Aliotti, a Frenchman raised in the Caribbean Islands, Beyrick de Vries from South Africa and John Micheletti from Nigeria. We were hardly the first surfers to visit this former Portuguese colony, however.

Back in 2001, Sam George and Randy Rarick had made their way here with legendary photographer John Callahan. George wrote that he thought they were pioneering the fun right point breaks they found, until he was joined in the water by a gaggle of São Toméan kids, riding boards fashioned from wood. It was a startling discovery.
São Tomé is isolated, lying 200 miles from the mainland, yet here was a wave-riding culture that George hypothesised had evolved independently of the Polynesians’ influence. He claimed the island holds definitive proof that surfing is an authentic African tradition. Proof like the board 12-year-old Jardel Félix holds under his arm when we meet him on the first day of our trip.

The board is four foot long with thin, pinched rails and a rolled bottom deck that ends in a sharp squaretail. The wide nose is rounded and mostly symmetrical, except for a kink on the left rail where the axe used to carve it had splintered the solid piece of wood.
‘Este é meu tambua,’ says Jardel proudly. This is my board.
It’s late afternoon and the tropical sun has unclenched its boiling fist. The air is warm but pleasant. We are still wet from surfing a zippy point break in front of the village of Santana where a group of kids on a flotilla of surf craft had joined us, riding the snapped halves of a thruster, an old bodyboard and even a block of Styrofoam. But mostly they were on tambuas, the rough-hewn boards made from the acacia tree.
We had heard about São Tomé’s homegrown surf scene and expected to find these local surfers in the water. We had not expected to find them busting airs.
Unlike the young kids on the inside, Jéjé Camblé was riding a fresh 6’0 Chili. Every time he did a big turn or hucked a frontside reverse, the small pack erupted in cheers. His face stretched into a broad grin when he paddled up to us and introduced himself in Portuguese.
Jéjé later tells us that he started surfing on a tambua after seeing an expat named Peter riding waves outside his village. ‘When I saw surfing for the first time I thought it was some kind of magic,’ he says. ‘Like walking on water.’
He soon discovered São Tomé had its own wave riders and, with their help, carved his own board. He started bellyboarding the whitewash, then catching open faces. Before long he was at backline.
‘For a long time I thought our generation were the first ones to surf using wooden boards in São Tomé’,’ says the 17-year old. ‘But then I started asking the adults. One of them told me no, we were surfing these boards long ago, when I was seven. Then I asked a man who was 50, and he said the same. He said when they were kids, they were surfing with wooden boards already. Then I asked my grandmother, she is 77, and she said back in the days when she was my age, younger people surfed with wooden boards. They rode waves just for fun.’
Aside from a trickle of tourists, São Tomé remains largely cut off from the outside world. Swathes of the island have no electricity and the economy relies on fishing and cash crops. The few scraps of modern surf equipment come by way of the occasional airline pilot who surfs and a handful of Portuguese expats. But São Tomé is the landing point for a deep-sea fibre optic cable linking Africa to Europe, and has excellent connectivity.
The following morning we spot the Santana crew hanging out on the wall of an old whitewashed church that sits on the water’s edge. They aren’t drawn there solely by their piousness. The wall offers the perfect vantage point to check the waves and pick up free Wi-Fi signal from the church. With thumbs scrolling, they sit glued to their phones, connected to their heroes around the world courtesy of the good Lord.
‘If I want to train my rail, I watch Tom Curren, or Mick Fanning,’ says Jéjé , looking up from his phone. ‘If I want to progress in surf, I watch videos of Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina. If I want to be inspired, I watch Andy Irons.’
He pronounces Irons’ name with reverence, his Portuguese accent drawing the syllables out in a long shhh.

***
From Santana the road hugs the coastline heading south, giving way to impenetrable bays that we circumnavigate by driving inland. We had scoured the same coastline on Google Earth before arriving, marking off potential setups, logging GPS co-ordinates. But on the ground, amongst the crush of thick foliage, we are quickly disorientated.
John takes command, matching up the maps with his phone GPS, guiding the car west along the twisting dirt roads until we find a path to the beach or can drive no further. Then we get out and hike.
‘Are you kidding me?’ says Beyrick at the end of a sortie on foot. The band of dense bush we have just trekked through gives way to a crescent shaped bay. To our left is a rocky outcrop where a blowhole shoots plumes of water into the air as swells hit the headland, then refract into a left bowl. The wind is onshore but the waves are surprisingly well formed and powerful.
‘This reminds me so much of the setups in Costa Rica,’ says William out in the lineup, in-between sky-high punts. ‘Except there’s nobody here.’
That night back in Santana we tell Joao, a Portuguese expat who occasionally guides visiting surfers around the island, that we found the wave at the blowhole. He looks at us quizzically and shrugs, ‘I don’t know this wave.’

The next day we’re loading the car when William asks, ‘Who’s got music?’ But our iPhones are useless on the Prada’s old sound system, a frontloader and tape deck combo. Instead we make our way to the market where we find bootlegged copies of 50 Cent and Lucky Dube amongst piles of fruit and fish. The duo become the soundtrack to which we navigate São Tomé’s hidden coast, finding our way to beaches and bays where we are unsure if we are the first to ride these waves on our modern tambuas. We wonder what the punchy wedges would do in the dry season offshores and contemplate the slabs we’d heard about further north. But mostly we just surf and hunt fish along the reefs. Reefs that are dark and rich like the jungle, forged from the same volcanic basalt that the island is built upon.

***
‘I’m the diamond in the dirt, that ain’t been found,’ Fiddy spits out the speakers as we climb higher into the interior. The sea has gone flat so we are making our way inland, cutting deep into the belly of the island, throwing faux gangsta shakas as we go.
Eventually we reach Pico Cão Grande, the highest peak on the island. The needle of rock twisting into the sky was formed when a volcanic plug exploded abruptly, hinting at the powerful forces bubbling just beneath the surface. On the way back to the coast John points out the cacao plants that grow along the sides of the road, their bulging orange pods dangling on thin stalks.
Cacao makes up 95 per cent of São Tomé’s exports, a throwback from its colonial past when it was cultivated on large plantations that remain dotted around the island. The seeds are plucked from the pod and shipped around the world where they are processed into chocolate and other delights. But here in the jungle, the plants grow wild and free.

***
When the swell rises again we head to Radiation Point north of Santana, where George and Rarick found the loping righthander that would come to define São Tomé’s surf potential. The tarred road disintegrates the closer we get, until we are bumping along a rutted track where wooden clapboard houses lie squashed against one another, piled up in a settlement that runs down to the sea. The bad road forces us to drive slowly, a few miles an hour. A stream of kids run out the houses as we pass by, pushing their homemade skateboards behind the car.
When we come to a stop they gather round, showing us the boards. The deck of the ‘rolling car’ or trote is a block of wood joined to trucks made from smoothed-out branches. Old wheel bearings have been fitted onto each end of the branch, which has to be carefully selected: too thin, and the branch will snap or the makeshift wheels will wiggle off. Too thick, and the wheels won’t be able to turn around on the wooden trucks.
The kids squeal with laughter as Beyrick and William give the boards a go, jerking stiffly from side to side down the road. ‘Oleo, oleo!’ shouts a tiny boy, no older than eight. He whips a small plastic bottle out his shorts and grabs one of the boards, squeezing a few drops of used motor oil onto the bearings, then flips it over and skates expertly round in circles, the steel wheels hammering the ground loudly.
Radiation Point gets its name from the towering radio beacon that dominates the peninsula and sits perched on undeveloped government land. We duck under a dilapidated fence and make the 20-minute walk through tall yellow grass the colour of wheat, catching glimpses of the wave until we get to the shoreline.
‘No, no!’ shouts one of the local surfers as we start walking over the rocks to paddle out. He points down to a fat clump of urchins wedged between the boulders, then motions for us to follow him to a gully where we slip easily into deeper water.
A handful of São Toméan surfers are at backline, riding hand-me-down surfboards, some with no fins that they still manage to rip gracefully. The wave runs for a hundred meters from the outside to the inside, a mellow pocket that accommodates noserides as much as big turns, much like an African version of Malibu.
‘How good is this?’ says John, sweeping his hand to indicate the waves, the bay, the entire island.

***
Back in the water in Santana, Jéjé tells us surfers from his village and Radiation Point rarely surf together. The long hour-and-a-half walk between the two spots makes it difficult. None of them has a car. But when one of them does make the trek, the local surfers are stoked to see each other.
‘There are not many surfers in São Tomé,’ he says. ‘Modern surfing is just beginning here. We see each other, we learn together.’
A set rolls in and Beyrick takes off, races down the line and launches a frontside air. Jéjé lets out a loud whoop before stroking into the next wave and attempts a huge alley-oop, almost landing it but he comes unstuck in the flats.
The kids on the inside go wild as they watch this tit-for-tat unfold, then go back to bellyboarding the reforms. But one of them starts nudging further up the point, eyes fixed on Jéjé and Beyrick. His little arms are paddling hard, legs kicking off the back of his wooden tambua, as the past and the present draw closer.

Originally published in Carve issue 175.

2017 Surfer’s Airline Baggage Fees Guide

2017 Surfer’s Airline Baggage Fees Guide

surfers airline baggage fees

2017 AIRLINE SURFBOARD BAGGAGE FEES & RULES

Travelling with your surfboard is getting harder year on year but as long as you do your homework it should be trouble free. Support the airlines that support surfers then everyone should be happy.

Here’s the current state of surfboard / sports equipment fees as of the start of 2017.

EU law doesn’t allow bags over 32kg, due to it snapping baggage handlers spines off, so make sure you’re always under weight for your chosen carrier. Most European routes limit you to 20kg and further afield 23kg. But sporting goods, if you’re paying extra, sometimes allow you more. Make sure you always double check the regulations and if in doubt call the airline before booking.

Here are the main airlines that us surfers will encounter flying from the UK and Ireland seeing as that’s our turf.

Speak to friends, get their recommendations, the main takeaway is be super careful when dealing with US carriers and of course Iberia they’re to avoided like the plague.

Travel with surfer friendly flyers, the days of free board carriage are all but done but those that are happy to take boards for a transparent fee like Easyjet etc are to be admired, while they still allow us at least.
Add your recent taking boards on board comments on the FB post and we’ll add the best ones here as they come in.

Compiled by Sharpy All info correct as of 2/1/17

AER LINGUS
Ireland’s national carrier and a good option for hopping further afield as Dublin is a decent hub for the US.
Max weight: 23kg
Max length international: 2.77m/110in
Max length regional: 2.05m/80in
Fee: To North America part of standard baggage allowance.
Other destinations €40 per leg.

AIR ALASKA
If you fancy exploring in the US these guys take two boards in a bag.
Max length: 115in unless on a diddy plane in which case total dimensions: 115in
Max weight: 23kg
Fee: $75

AIR ASIA
Air Asia are a budget carrier based out of Kuala Lumpur and they’re great for connecting to Indo and onwards from Malaysia.
Pre-book board bags as way cheaper and you’re limited to 20kg if you just check in without pre-booking. They’re sticklers for fees but their excess weight fees are real world not crazy. Must be in a boardbag.
Max length: 2.77m/109in
Max weight: 32kg
Pre-book fees per leg: 30kg:£16

AIR CALIN
New Caledonia’s carrier is groovy when it comes to boards, letting you take a 23kg boardbag in addition to your 23kg hold bag. Good work fellas.
Max dimensions: 3m
Max weight: 23kg

AIR CANADA
Amenable to surfers and good way to connect to Hawaii or Central America without having to suffer through US custom queues. Not to mention the mysto cold water Canadian coasts. Board bag counts as one of your checked bags. You can pre-register when booking.
Max length: 80in
Max weight: 23kg
Fee: $6.50 Canadian Dollars per leg handling charge. Not always enforced in our experience.

AIR FRANCE
Free as your checked luggage item (except for Economy Mini and Basic fare tickets).
Max length: 3m
Max weight: 23kg
Fees: €65 to €125 depending on route, mainly the Americas. So slightly confusing all round.
Reader comments: Peg Leg Rik, Paul Phelan and many others strongly urge you avoid Air France at all costs.

AIR NEW ZEALAND
Historically along with Virgin one of the legends of international surfer travel. Board bags no bother as long as in regulation and you can pre-book a board bag as an extra hold bag.
Max length: 2m
Max weight:23kg

AIR TAHITI NUI
For those of you fancying a pop at Teahupo’o or some other Tahitian dreams you might be worth checking Air France. Baggage rules a bit restrictive. Unless you’re going to hit Tea-ah-poo-poo on your 5’8”. Bags between 1.8 and 2m need to be sent as cargo. Board bags over 2m not accepted due to ickle planes.
Max length: 1.8m/70in
Max weight: 25kg
Reader comments: Board bags up to 2.5m ok according to Paul Lenfant

AMERICAN AIRLINES
The American airlines that are left have taken real anti-surfer stance which is pretty ironic considering the Californian roots of most of the world’s idea of surf culture. Anyhoose. AA at least don’t outright ban them like some other carriers but one to be avoided if possible.
Max length: 126in combined dimensions
Max weight: 32kg
Fee: $150USD

AVIANCA
You can take a triple board bag in addition to your hold bag with Colombia’s national carrier.
Max dimensions: 3.7m
Max weight: 32kg
Fee: $125-100 depending on destination

AZORES AIRLINES
Additional 10kg allowance for boards.

BRITISH AIRWAYS
Board bag considered checked baggage as long as it’s in weight. But watch out for the tiny length restriction.
Max dimensions: 1.9m/75in
Max weight: 23kg

DELTA
Allow max two boards in a bag and charge you for it. Like most US carriers best avoided.
Max length: 115in
Max weight: 32kg
Fee: $100-$150 depending on route

EASYJET
Our preferred European budget airline makes it easy to pre-book a board bag and extra hold bags if needed. They take canoes and windsurfers also so bag size rarely an issue. Never had an issue so far and they’ve got the Euro surf destinations down. One sports equipment per person. 6 max per booking.
Max weight: 32kg
Fee: £70 return

EMIRATES
One of the main carriers from Europe to wave rich wonders of Asia features modern planes and a stop off in pleasurable, if not a tad pricey, Dubai. Board bag goes as part of your checked allowance.
Max dimensions: 118in
Max weight: 23kg

ETIHAD
A relatively new player that’s also surfer friendly. Board bag is part of your checked allowance.
Max length: 3m
Max weight: 23kg

FLYBE
A handy UK airline for getting around our islands and across to Ireland. Not the biggest planes but good fares and for SW surfers having a hub at Exeter is a treat. Leave a bit of time to pay the bag fee at the airport.
Max length: Depends on plane, between 1.67m and 3m.
Max weight: 20kg
Fee: £30 per leg payable at the airport

GARUDA INDONESIA
Free boardbag in addition to your hold bag. Good work fellas. This is how it should be.
Max weight: 23kg
Max length: 3m

HAWAIIAN
Boards included in the baggage allowance. Limit of two per bag. Which seems a bit mental.
Max length: 115in
Max weight: 23kg
Fee: Inter island $35, Hawaii to US $100. Price varies from free to NZ/Oz to $150 per leg depending on destination.

IBERIA
There’s no bones about it, in the last few decades of surf travel Iberia undoubtedly top the list when it comes to horror stories about fees. Seems they’ve changed to allow boards as part of checked baggage allowance for long haul. One board limit. Fees apply for extra bags. €45 for short/medium haul.
Max length: 3.5m
Max weight: 23kg
Fee: €45 per leg

ICELAND AIR
Book in advance to ensure carriage and there’s an each way fee for ‘medium’ sports equipment depending on route.
Max length: 2.5m
Max weight: 23kg
Fee: UK to Iceland: £57

KLM
KLM let you take a board bag as part of your allowance. If you want a case as well then you can pay for an extra bag. On European routes you just prebook the standard hold baggage fee. If you want a hold bag and a board bag it’s €68 each way.
Max length: 118in
Max weight: 23kg

LATAM CHILE
No stress with Chile’s national carrier either your bag goes as your allowance as long as it follows the rules. Handy in a county so long that internal flights are pretty essential unless you really love 30 hour road trips.
Max dimensions: 3m
Max weight: 23kg

LUFTHANSA
Not an airline we’ve used but like KLM they can be good value and hopping to their European hubs not a bother. Well. It wouldn’t be if they didn’t charge for boards.
Max length: 2m
Max weight: 32kg
Fee: €100

MALAYASIAN
Carried as part of free checked allowance and Malaysian have an awesome free checked allowance of two 30kg bags which makes them a very worthwhile option. Prices are good too. Hook up with Air Asia from KL and you’re sweet for Indo.
Max length: 2.5m
Max weight: 30kg

NORWEGIAN
Europe’s award winning budget carrier is a growing player and has a modern fleet and good prices, especially to the US. Boards are paid up at booking time.
Max weight: 25kg
Max length: 2.5m
Fee: short haul £33 – 38 GBP (online) 43 – 52 GBP (airport). Long haul £47 GBP (online) 52 GBP (airport).All items are charged per item, each way.

QANTAS
As you’d expect from Australia’s main airline they take boards for free. As with all the big players keep inside the rules or you’ll get stung excess.
Max length: 2.7m/109in
Max weight: 32kg

QATAR
Another of the Middle Eastern airlines that are your ticket to the joys of Sri Lanka, the Maldives and beyond. Doha is a pretty functional but sparse airport but their prices tend to be good and free board carriage as part of your checked allowance. But double check if you’re taking a hold bag too.
Max dimensions: 118in
Max weight: 30kg

RYANAIR
Ryanair always get their pound of flesh but they’ve committed to being more human and simplifying charges. Their fares are also ridiculously cheap. But when you add the board fees then there’s not much budget left about it.
Max length: Standard board bags always go with no problem. Hard to find a specific length on their site.
Max weight: 20kg
Fee: £50 each way for ‘Large sports equipment’

SAS
Let you take a boardbag as your free checked bag. Additional bag fee if you want an extra hold bag. Thanks Paul Milner for the tip.

SINGAPORE AIRLINES
Flying to Singapore is a joy, it’s one of the world’s leading airports and not a bad place for a layover. Singapore airlines run a new fleet of them fancy double decker Airbuses so you can really travel in style. Board bags are part of your checked allowance also.
Max length: 2m
Max weight: 32kg

SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS
A tricky one with SAA, board bags under two metres go as a free additional bag. Over two must go as cargo. So make sure you get your small print sorted if venturing to J-Bay.
Max length: 2m
Max weight: 23kg

SOUTHWEST
Another US airline you’ll only encounter if you fly code share to the US.
Max length: 80in
Max weight: 32kg
Fee: $75 each way

SRI LANKAN
Your go to outfit for Sri Lanka or the Maldives are understandably cool with boards. Hell they used to sponsor surf events too! Nice weight limit too.
Max length: 118in
Max weight: 30kg

TAP PORTUGAL
The main carrier to Portugal that isn’t budget will actually take longboards which is a rare treat these days. Pity about the fees.
Max weight: 32kg
Fees: Up to 2m €50 over 2m €100 per leg!
Editors comment: Had my hold bag delayed by two days then an amateur hour scenario where rather than courier to hotel I had to go collect from a bus station. Fourth time I got told it would be there it was. 48 hours in limbo. And the bag padlock had been cut off and GoPro burgled. So. Try and go with Easyjet eh?

THAI AIRWAYS
Perplexing rules but it ain’t good. Doesn’t count as your free baggage and only one board allowed.
Max length: 109in
Max weight: 30kg
Fee: $100 if under 2m $200 if over!

THOMAS COOK
The British package holiday operator has their own planes on some routes, like the Caribbean, and don’t mind you taking a sled for a fee. But generous weight and no stress on longer boards. (2016 info from Tom Shep).
Max length: Longboard
Max weight: 32kg

UNITED
With a fee scheme like this it’s a surprise any surfer would book with United. Two hundred bucks each way?!? You guys are loco.
Max length: 115in
Max weight: 32kg
Fee: $150 each way in US airspace and $200 each way international?!?

VIRGIN
Board bag goes as part of your checked allowance. But the new length allowance is daft. If you want to take a hold bag and board bag then it’s £65.
Max length: 75in
Max weight: 23kg
Readers comments: Be warned, they told Joel Gray they won’t take boards at all on any route. As with all if in doubt get it in writing like we did!

WOW
Fancy an Iceland excursion? easyJet is cheaper for boards but if you score a cheap flight with WOW it might be worth checking.
Max length: 109in
Max weight: 20kg
Fee: £71.99 each way.

IMG_1446

BOARD BAG GUIDE

If there is one thing that sucks more than anything it’s arriving on your surf trip, opening your board bag and finding dings or worse… I had one snapped in three by Air France once. The tail was literally cut. Never seen anything like it. No explanation, no compensation. No idea how they managed it.
Luckily these days most airlines are on the ball, and board bags are better than ever, but there are still a few tips that will help you protect your quiver. One thing at the airport if the board doesn’t go down the oversized belt but goes into one of those trolleys make sure you see it being wheeled away. They can occasionally be forgotten…

1. Put your biggest board on the bottom wax side up. Stack the others the same way and try and align the rockers.
2. Most board bags have internal separators or a day bag. The day bag comes in handy the other end so if you don’t have one get one. If you need extra padding between boards use a towel, rashes, boardies, or wetsuits.
3. You can use pipe insulating foam to add extra protection along the rails from the nose and tail. Just grab a decent length, cut it down the middle to fit the length of your rail (or tail) and whack it on both sides. If you don’t have this pack the tail with boots, reef boots, or your wetty. (Heaviest items at the tail if you have a wheeled bag). For the nose use any other boardies, T-shirts, clothes you have. If you a worried about them getting damp, put them in a plastic bag first. You can reduce you hold luggage like this so maybe save some coin.
4. Wax, wax combs and the like I put in a string bag and place down the tail (on the wheels) for more protection, or tuck in the bottom corners of the bag.
5. If you have fixed fins get some polystyrene blocks. Cut to the same size as your tail and put slits where the fins are. Use masking tape to secure.
6. If you are really scared get a little extra bubble wrap for packing for exposed deck/bottom and nose and tail areas. You shouldn’t really need it with these bags, but there are always horror stories.
7. Be careful with leashes. Don’t let them run free. You’d be amazed the pressure ding you can get if a leash is stuck between two of your sleds for the duration of a flight.

* Always
• Double check airline bag policy and book your boards before you get to the airport.
• Check your bag weight and airline limits (overall dimensions and weight) – luggage scales are cheap or balance on your bathroom ones at a push.
• Get there well early so your board goes on first and the check in staff are in a good mood.
• Pack a solar activating ding kit. Great innovation. Even ding repair guys use them.
• Take a plastic bin bag, wetsuit or dry bag. Always good if you have last minute surf and need to pack wet things!
• Duct tape. Always useful.

Summer is here so head to Surfer’s Paradise, Croyde Bay

Summer is here so head to Surfer’s Paradise, Croyde Bay

Surfer-overlooking-Croyde-Bay

// Summer is here so grab your surfboard and head to Surfer’s Paradise, Croyde Bay! //

The stunning North Devon coast offers an area of outstanding natural beauty which is sure to make your summer one to remember, boasting golden sands to relax on, breathtaking scenery and above all world class surf! 

Ruda Holiday Park is literally steps from the soft sands and top notch waves of Croyde Bay, leaving you free to roll straight out of bed and into the surf in a matter of minutes! Plus, after a long day of hitting the waves you can re-fuel at our delicious Coast Bar and Kitchen, or check out our dazzling Showtime entertainment every night in Blue Atlantic.

Surfers-Paradise-poleroid

Surfers-Paradise

The village of Croyde is famed for its quaint thatched cottages and old world charm, offering a great selection of pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops. Just along the Bay you’ll find some of the best surfing this side of the Atlantic. Mind you, it’s not just great for surfing, it’s also pretty good for beach volleyball and just chilling out in general!

The stunning coast of Croyde Bay was recently awarded a prestigious Seaside Award for 2016 by Keep Britain Tidy, so you know you’re getting the best experience in your surfing extravaganza this summer.

All that’s left now is to book up we’ll see you by the waves! Call 0344 335 3677 or visit surfparadise.co.uk to book now – limited spaces available!

Book-Now

Campsite

Surfers_Paradise_Ad

Parkdean-Ad