The rain was falling thick and heavy as I waded through the mouth of Rio Claro in Pavones, Costa Rica. It was the kind of tropical rain where you might be able to weave between drops, but each drop like its own little bucket of water falling from the sky.
A hundred gray hues had been cast over the thousands of greens and blues that dominate the senses here, and for once my attention that is normally glued to the horizon, the swells, the waves, couldn’t be drawn away from the land.
Rio Claro – The Source Of Pavones’ Perfection
The river rushed around my thighs for few feet, then began to recede as I made it over to the sand bar that has created a hundred-foot wide lagoon in the mouth of the river. Further upstream the gorge narrows and steepens. There is a cascading waterfall over there, but I can’t see it. It is choked and hidden by the dense rainforest of southern Costa Rica. I can’t hear it because the tiny buckets of water are mashing into the otherwise tranquil lake all around me.
Despite the rain, everything is the same temperature – air, water, rain all 85 degrees – which leads to a lost feeling of slipping in between different elements, different realities as you seamlessly shift from land to sea, river to air, air to rain. You are immersed in all of these, or perhaps you are the vapor that clouds above the canopy of the rainforest and rebirths the cycle.
I lay in the shallow, fresh water of the river. My body soaking in the moisture after weeks of immersion in the salty tropical ocean. I stare up at the mountains that climb right in front of me, the fabled waves of Pavones peeling just behind me.
I love the rainy season in the tropics. According to the travel brochures and hotel room rates, this is the low season, but I have been here during this season many times over the last 20 years, far more frequently than the “peak” times.
If you intend to surf Pavones, this is the time to come. It needs the large south swells of summer to march up from Antarctica, organize over thousands of miles of open ocean, and wrap perfectly around the point and into the Bay of Golfito to work. The Rio Claro pumping with tropical rain, dumps sand and gravel into the sea at the perfect place. The rain, river, swells all colliding in a perfect dance to create one of the longest rides on the planet.
I have traveled to be here at this time, to catch these legendary waves. But here I sit, entranced by the land, my back to the thing I came here to see. I will be back out in the ocean soon, scanning the horizon, salt water crusting to my skin. But in this moment, I am here, in the freshwater of the Rio Claro, bathed in the natural process that makes all of this possible.
Surfing at Pavones
Here are some other resources and articles related to surfing at Pavones, Costa Rica. The trip will take a bit longer, and the wave a bit more fickle than others, but get it right and the effort will all be worth it.