I just returned from a last minute Kitesurfing trip booked on whim to Liberia, Costa Rica with the intentions to realign and formulate a plan for 2016 while rekindling a passion I found as addictive as the one it replaced when introduced to SUP in 2008 and the pursuit to travel and compete in more than 160+ SUP races.
Upon arrival in Liberia Airport I picked up my rental SUV and drove 1.5 hours to my destination in Bahia Salinas. I arrived at night and checked into the www.BlueDreamHotel.com, while greeted by it's owner (Nicola) and my former Kitesurfing Instructor who taught my first lesson here in 2004.
The next couple days were perfect conditions, kitesurfing from dawn to dusk and meeting new friends/fellow kitesurfers from around the world, while enjoying the sunny, windy, warm waters of Bahia Salinas along the northwest border of Costa Rica. On the third day of my trip, weather forecasters were predicting very strong wind gusts in excess of 50+mph over the next couple days, and the idea of not kiting because it was too windy seemed ridiculous...while at the same time appeared smart...since the smallest kite I brought was a 9M with 25M lines and would likely result in the infamous kitemare!
Luckily the evening before the strong winds arrived, I noticed an old 11' windsurfing board covered in dust and debris in the storage shed at the hotel, where the instructors were storing the Kitesurfing equipment. I wasn't sure if it would be stable enough to stand on...although the thought of paddling downwind in 50+mph winds definitely made it worth investigating once I had permission to try and learned there was a dirt road to access the upwind part of the bay. Once we cleaned it up and figured a way to attach a leash string and GoPro mount to the board and borrowed some wax for traction...The next morning I had the board loaded on my SUV and drove in search of the access road and launch area to test if the board would float me? Stoked...it worked and after a short paddle back & forth at the launch area, along a beautiful secluded tree lined beach with soft sand and turquoise waters I had the board back on the car in search of a driver to shuttle me for the maiden downwind voyage.
I found my driver and discussed the route originally estimated @ 4.5-5 miles to finish at Eco-Playa along with estimated times and backup plans should conditions change. The launch area is super easy with a gradual sandy bottom and calm flat water. It's a short quarter mile paddle to the wind line that could easily be extended along the shore/wind shadow for longer runs if desired. Shortly after turning downwind the board began picking up short glides which progressively turned into longer and longer glides as I moved further along the fetch of the wind...it was amazing how well a board only 11' long with an effective planing surface of @ 8'-9 with a paddler over 210 lbs. worked! Ultimately I completed the route in 40 minutes with a huge smile to the sandy beach of Eco-Playa to meet my shuttle driver, grab lunch back at the hotel and finish the day with a late afternoon kitesurfing.
The next day the wind was very strong and planned another downwind paddle to explore a launch further upwind in the bay....except this time I was shuttled in another vehicle and forgot my leash in my car....I didn't realize I forgotten it until I had paddled a few hundred yards off shore and nearly continued without it...rationalizing in my mind the safety of the shoreline of the bay, or that I didn't fall the day before while at the same time thought of Andres Pombo, and immediately paddled back to shore! Luckily the truck was still there and I found a piece of thick rope I fashioned into an ankle leash. The paddle and glides that day were exceptional and somewhat surreal as images of Andres and Charlie Howden who sailed, paddled and loved the waters around Costa Rica flashed through my mind...thought it fitting to name the run the "Howden Andres"...kinda like a Hawaii Kai, Maliko or Viento run!
I paddled a couple more great downwinders...sometimes twice in a day with the ease and accessibility the bay offered for shuttling, protection and safety between kitesurfing sessions before returning home.
I've already began working on a plan to ship downwind SUP boards and return with a few Riviera Paddlesurf teammates to explore and share other downwind routes we've identified... including a 20 miler, with strong winds and open ocean swell!
(Note: It's highly recommended to paddle with a partner, wear a leash, bright colors, pfd, whistle, waterproof bag with cell phone, money, credit card and communicate your plan and times with others plus booties near reefs and rocky shorelines)
- Thomas "Maximus" Shahinian