Why Does Playa Guiones receive so much swell ?

Two decades ago, the only way that pre-internet surfers could check out conditions was by driving to the beach and looking at the ocean to see how the waves were. Consequently, they often became armchair meteorologists, tuning into wind directions, tides, and seasons, and estimating conditions by using offshore swell data. There was another, far rarer group of surfers who were lucky enough to live in a place where they knew that regardless of weather reports, there would always be something to ride. They lived near a ‘swell magnet.’

The moniker of ‘swell magnet’ means exactly what it implies: a stretch of coastline that receives rideable surf more often than the breaks that surround it. And Playa Guiones is exactly that. In simple terms, it means that on any given day, there will always be a wave to ride, which is why Guiones has emerged as one of the leading destinations for beginners looking to find a surf school. In this article, we explore why Playa Guiones is considered a swell magnet. The simple answer is in two parts: 1 good bathymetry setup, and 2 good swell exposure.

Guanacate Bathymetry

Bathymetry is the study of the depth of the ocean floor, and how these factors are affected by waves, tides, currents, and weather. At its simplest, it is the study of the topography of the sea bed. The shape of the ocean floor is vital in determining a wave’s mood, shape, and size. A gradually sloping ocean floor, like the kind that greets waves approaching Playa Guiones, usually results in a slower, gentler wave, great for learning how to surf.

Along with the varied types of swells its receives, Playa Guiones reputation as a “swell magnet” is also due to its unique geographical location, jutting out from the Guanacaste Peninsula into the Pacific Ocean. Essentially, the reason that sport fishermen consider this coastline to be a great place to catch deep water billfish, such as marlin, is exactly the same Playa Guiones gets a lot of waves. Nosara is located just a few miles from the deep water fishing grounds. Within 10 miles of the ocean floor drops to near 2000 feet- by 20 miles over 5000 feet.

This underwater ridge extends westward off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. With the fact that swells will refract toward shallower water, this ridge acts as a magnet and starts to pull in the swell lines into one area. Not only does this start to converge and compile the swell energy into one common area, but consistency is also increased.

Swell Exposure

The chief factor underlying it’s constant delivery of rideable waves is a near 180 degree swell window, combined with the fact that Playa Guiones shares a border with tens of thousands of square miles of Pacific Ocean, the vast majority of which is uninterrupted by any significant swell blocking land mass. This means the last thing these powerful, extended period swells run into after their long journeys across the pacific is places like Playa Guiones. The type of swells we encounter at Playa Guiones include:

South Pacific Swells: April – January

It’s common knowledge that storm activity in the South Pacific rarely if ever lets up. When you combine this relentless and consistent flurry of activity with the fact there exists zero significant areas of land mass to stand between these storms and the Central American Pacific coastline, then you’ve got the perfect recipe for some chunky, powerful, long period swells. This storm activity is precisely what makes Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline a year round surf destination, particularly in exposed areas like Playa Guiones.

Although this South Pacific movement occurs year round it’s the months between June to September that offer the best chance of scoring great waves. As a bonus, these also happen to be the months when the Guiones line up is quietest, with most surf tourists choosing to arrive in the much more popular season stretching from November through April. Additionally, the diurnal atmospheric patterns prevalent throughout this time of year usually whip up offshore winds that groom the waves for hundreds of miles offshore.

Hurricane swells: June – November

True hurricane systems rarely pass through Costa Rica (hurricane Otto notwithstanding). The coast of Mexico, however, is no stranger to such powerful weather systems, the result of which can be a brief but often intense run of swell hitting Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Although Playa Guiones is best positioned to receive swells from the south it’s not uncommon that the hurricane activity from the north can produce waves here, which aren’t just ridable but downright fun. Furthermore, as many locals will attest to, these swells from the North often light up obscure beaches, reefs and points in the surrounding area that you’ve likely never even heard of, let alone visited. Sure, this may take a little exploring but the payoff, in the form of perfect, uncrowded barrels could be well worth the effort.

North Pacific swells: October – April

At this time of year, the energy the South Pacific lacks is compensated by that from the North Pacific, which springs into life and stirs up some of the largest waves on the planet. Although not always a one hundred percent accurate indicator, it’s not uncommon for the coastline in and around Nosara to begin feeling the ample leftovers of the very same swells that lit up the North shore of Hawaii 3-5 days earlier. Although fickle, this swell activity can produce fun, occasionally powerful surf, which is usually greeted by the offshore winds often prevalent around this time of year.

nosara swell

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