In January 2001 I embarked on an awesome surfing adventure, driving an old school bus from California all the way through Central America. My plan was simple: to find the perfect spot to build the perfect surf camp. There were 10 of us on that amazing trip as we explored the endless beaches and surf spots throughout Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and beyond. It wasn’t until we arrived to Tamarindo that I decided to plant my flag in the sand. Tamarindo had everything a surfer could ever need.
Why did I choose to build Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo? Why didn’t I continue on to another beach somewhere more remote in Costa Rica, or in Nicaragua, or in Peru? Whether you’re considering a surfing trip to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp or looking to build the surf camp of your dreams, it might help to ask yourself the same questions that I did when I was looking for the perfect surf destination.
Where can I find consistent waves and warm water?
I was very lucky to grow up in San Diego, California. Even though the Pacific Ocean delivered plenty of good waves, what I was really wanting was a tropical beach and some warm water! I knew that if I headed south the water temp would increase, the beaches would become less crowded, more beautiful, and just maybe… I might find that piece of paradise I was searching for.
I was intrigued when I learned that the west coast always has more consistent surf than the east coast. I realized that if I stayed on the west coast of Mexico and Central America I would get more waves.
Driving through Mexico, it doesn’t take long until the water warms up and the beaches become tropical. I found a lot of fun waves there, as well as in El Salvador and Nicaragua, but it wasn’t until we arrived to Costa Rica did some other oceanographic factors come into play.
Not only are there surf spots everywhere in Costa Rica, but as I did more research, I discovered that since Costa Rica was located near the equator, we would be receiving plenty of swell energy from both the northern and southern hemisphere. With winter storms sending waves to Costa Rica literally year-round, there would definitely be consistent waves to surf throughout the year. Add to that some very friendly people, no standing army, a strong democracy and plenty of other reasons to stay… Costa Rica won my heart!
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
I surfed everywhere in Costa Rica, looking for the best spot to build a surf camp. There were plenty of waves all over, but I found my favorite spots to be in the Guanacaste province. I learned that Guanacaste’s northwest coast offered every type of surf break: beach breaks, point breaks, and reef breaks. With a very unique coastline facing north, west, and south, Guanacaste receives swells from all directions. And with nearby Lake Nicaragua producing some great offshore wind conditions 150 days/year, Guanacaste had enough good reasons to look no further.
I had become very familiar with the world-famous Witch’s Rock in Robert August’s movie “the Endless Summer II”, and initially we opened our first surf camp in Playa Coco in 2001 to be close to the surf break (hence the name Witch’s Rock Surf Camp). But over that first year I found myself returning again and again to the Tamarindo area and it’s variety of different surf breaks. Tamarindo itself has multiple surf spots, literally there are different surf breaks for surfers of all levels. And unlike most other spots, Tamarindo has waves that break on all tides, allowing you to surf all day long. The soft waves of the Tamarindo beachbreak are truly world-class for teaching people how to surf, and the Tamarindo Rivermouth can definitely serve up some world-class tube rides for the expert surfer. Since Tamarindo was strategically located close to Witch’s Rock as well as all of Guanacaste’s other amazing surf spots, this famous little surf town became the ultimate spot to build Witch’s Rock Surf Camp.
Tamarindo: a perfect little surf town
An old beach shack stood on the surf point, overlooking all of the main surf breaks in Tamarindo. You couldn’t find a better location for a surf camp, and I was lucky enough to rent and eventually buy the house. The locals repeatedly asked me why I opened Witch’s Rock Surf Camp “outside of town” (because “town” was considered to be the circle at the end of the road in Tamarindo back then), and I would always respond that I didn’t care where town was exactly and that I was most interested in being where the waves were.
Today, in late 2012, Tamarindo has grown completely around Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. We have transformed the beach shack into an amazing little surf resort. Tamarindo’s best waves still break right out in front. There are plenty of airlines that are now flying direct to the Liberia International Airport, less than an hour from WRSC. The town has developed nicely, with only about 3,000 residents and a reputation for being a great destination for tourists and locals alike. Tamarindo has proven to be the perfect spot for those that love to surf. I definitely love it and I’m sure you will too. See you surfing!