Before I left for Nosara, one of my friends told me he had caught one of his best waves ever at Ostional. Then it happened to me.
I was in Nosara to kick of an amazing two week solo trip through Costa Rica. Unlike recent trips to the country with my family where we tended to just camp out in Nosara, rent a golf cart to get around, and let the kids learn to be locals there, this trip I was really looking to get around. This meant I had the benefit of a car to explore some places that I hadn’t yet been to even though they aren’t that far away.
I made the short half hour or so drive north to Ostional from Guiones ready to spend the afternoon and evening just hanging around. I didn’t have much of a sense of what to expect except my friends story and other tidbits I had picked up from locals over the years like ‘ya, me and a friend hit Ostional for some nice little barrels this morning before the kids were awake then made it back in time to take them to school. I’m a good dad right! Pura Vida!’, so I had really been looking forward to getting up there.
It’s a fun drive with multiple river crossings, by bridge or through the water depending on what kind of car you’re in, and through some beautiful plantations. Although a tuk-tuk will take you there, it’s just enough of a drive to keep the people without transportation away for the most part. Once you get to town, a quick drive through reveals that there isn’t much to it, just an intersection with a store and a couple of restaurants where you can also park and access the beach.
The day I arrived there were some workers for the park service there to instruct that turtles were expected to begin arriving later that night to nest. This happens every month at Ostional, although the number of them depends on the time of year. Luckily for me, this meant that they would be closing the beach the next day but I was assured it was ok for me to go catch this last evening surf before they did.
I went out to an empty beach with perfect chest to head high waves peeling along the beach, unbelievable considering how many people were probably in the water in Guiones just a short drive down the road. As travelers usually discover, a relatively small investment in getting away from the crowds can pay outsized dividends in the form of empty trails, mountains, or in this case beaches.
I paddled out an hour or so before sunset, into the bathtub-warm Costa Rican water greatful for the break from the intense summer sun and not needing to cover up with sunscreen or a shirt. Just the bare elements, body, trunks, board, in the glassy ocean, the waves cracking as they break just to the left or right. After three or four nice rides I caught it, the one. The ride that would be imprinted on my psyche for years to come, probably forever.
Since some time had gone by, the sunset was now lighting up the water in hues of pink and purple and orange but water behind the waves would fall into darkness, the contrast setting itself up for a trippy, dreamlike kaleidoscope of color. As I pulled into this clean left, it walled up in front of me as I dropped into a low stance and dragged my hand, slowing myself to allow for the crumbling lip to catch up. The angle of the beach at Ostional, just a little more south than pure that the due west of Guiones, allowed for a little more of the sunset to enter the front of the wave, I felt like I was looking right into the sunset from my dark perch inside this wave. Locked in space, with no need to turn or maneuver, I just trimmed my way to the shoulder covered my face in wonder as I stood and leaned just enough to guide my board over to the back of the wave, my momentum carrying me for just a moment.
After a few more waves I paddled in as darkness fell. I found my to the path that led back to my car and past signs saying that the beach was now closed. I was the last one out there and no one would be able to surf Ostional for a few days while the turtles came in droves like zombies. I took a walk up and down the main road to see what was around and grabbed some food at the little pizzeria, waiting for the guided tours of the turtle nesting to begin later that night. In the calm of my post surf zone out, I would walk back out to the beach and see yet another amazing sight that I had never seen before, hundreds of turtles climbing to shore to lay eggs, dropping scores of little ping-pong balls in pits up and down the sand, seemingly oblivious to us spectators.
Two things that I would never forget, images burned into my mind, life changing events through which future decisions would be made, both in one day, in just a few hours, because I took the time and effort to drive outside of a town I had been to a few times of the last few years.
I got my wave, and on this trip I would get many more, but only a few that you rank up there with some of the best waves, the best moments. Ones that play back with absolute clarity, you can feel the temperature of the air and the texture of the water, and the instinctual move your body made, earned with hours of beatings and cold water surfs, and dawn patrols, just so your body knew what to do in this moment without your brain having to interfere.