Surfing in Nosara: Guiones’ Swells
Surf stoke is manifest in many forms. From the tunnel vision 4D experience that follows the sight of the lip curl over ones head, to grabbing a post surf coconut from a local vendor, there’s countless aspects of the surf lifestyle that combine to make it one of the healthiest addictions in existence. And like all addictions, the origins of ones next hit are an ever present question. Which is precisely why to any committed surfer, the sight of a pulsing purple blob on their computer screen is the metaphorical equivalent of being promised grade-A black tar heroin.
In truth, these readouts can be deceiving. Veteran surfers know that just because the swell charts are forecasting the kind of biblical kegs that would have Bodhi philosophizing around the fire, doesn’t necessarily mean it will transpire into what they’d hoped. Nevertheless, this does little to prevent them mindsurfing the purple blobs perceived bounty, which in their minds means nothing less than Playa Guiones is set to turn into Pipeline.
At least it doesn’t hurt to dream. Furthermore, for surfers living in Playa Guiones, it could be rightly argued that online surf predictions pertaining to the Guanacaste Peninsula are more accurate than so many other parts of the world.
When it comes to beaches that could rightly be labeled ‘swell magnets’ few places rank as high as Playa Guiones. Granted, this doesn’t necessarily conditions will be perfect all the time. What it does mean is that on any given day there’ll be at least something to ride, hence the fact Nosara has emerged as one of the leading destinations for beginners looking to find a surf school. The chief factors underlying it’s constant delivery of rideable waves are a near 180 degree swell window, combined with the fact that it 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.
Surfers in Guiones often talk about the best waves arriving courtesy of the fabled ‘South swells’ that occur for much, if not all of the year. And they’re right. The South swells do indeed carry with them the best chance of scoring solid, organized, long period surf. However, Guiones geographical location, and subsequent wide swell catchment properties means there’s more on offer than just the swells from the Southern Pacific.
In this article, we explore the main protagonists responsible for the surfable waves that break on the shores of both Playa Guiones and the wider Guanacaste Peninsula.
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 beteween 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 Ricas 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 Ricas Pacific coast. Although Playa Guiones is best positioned to receive swells from the south its 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.
Tehuano wind swells November – April
Last but not least this obscure and relatively unknown swell delivery system is likely one that many surfers in Costa Rica have ridden even if they have never heard of. The Tehuano wind gap is the name given to a narrow strip of Mexican mainland that connects the Pacific to the Carribean. Extensive mountain ranges on each side of the coastline combine to align messy, opposing wind systems by funneling them through this geographically anomolous area. By the time they’ve reached the end of this mountain tunnel they emerge as hurricane force winds, and consequently, produce turbulent ocean conditions with sizable inshore wave action. Regardless of its obscurity this system can still knock out some seriously fun waves, particularly for places like Playa Guiones.
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