Three A.M., dawn is still deep in slumber, and I happily rise as I’ve waited all night for this hour. I throw on an over-sized sweater over the bikini I wore to bed, and like clockwork and with light feet walk downstairs to hit the coffee button. I take Marbella, my chocolate Lab, outside and my cat, Citlali, follows out of curiosity. It is a rare moment when the dust in completely settled on the road, the stars are awake, and the sliver of moon and the dull flickering street lamps light my path. I can hear the waves at my home break crashing against the rocky shore; a wave of anticipation breaks inside of me. In only a matter of short hours, I will be on the inside of that ominous rock.
I feed of all of the animals, pour my coffee to go, grab my board and bag, which is simply packed with the few things I need [in life] (sunscreen, sarong, shades, wax, water, passport, a notebook, a very worn copy of Walden, an extra del Toro bikini, an over-stuffed sandwich, and a few Imperial Silvers) and start the winding, one-lane road north. It’s like a video game driving to Playa del Coco; dodging dogs, cattle traffic jams, bat out of hell bus drivers, and reflector-less, pedestrian path-free blind curves. Early rising workers congregate at make shift bus stops uncomfortably close to the edge of the road, and clearly crossing the line of relative safety. Making it to the Panaderia Tico for fresh empanadas at 5 A.M. is a sign of success and relief.
5:30 A.M., my toes are gripping cold sand as I wait for the last shore break to pass, so that I can climb onto the boat. The sun is waking behind Papagayo, as brush strokes paint the sky alive. The salt laden air is more powerful than caffeine. I sit at the front of the panga for the best view of the acrobatic stingrays, and so that I can feel like I am the first one there. Our captain is an old Guanacasteca mariner with a stoic stare and deep set lines in his face that tell a story few will ever know. He hugs The Mystic to the coastline. The bay is notorious for its treacherous conditions, and he places no trust in its mood today. The costal waters are idyllic and the color of dreams. Pelicans gather on exposed rocks, flying fish break the surface tension, and our captain’s face never changes. The closer we get, the more apparent it becomes that the witch is attracting the new sun and the swell like a magnet; I feel the pull, too.
Before the anchor is set, I am making the long paddle to the breaking waves. The aquamarine water becomes shallow and clear, and dotted with tiny garden eels you can see if you open your eyes underwater. The bay is pulsating, and waves much be chosen wisely. There is nothing better than being in an empty line up with your best friends on a firing day at Rocas Brujas. Turn your head for second though, and the witch will swallow you whole. She has a gift for keeping you completely in the present.
When I am surfing, nothing else matters. It is my meditation. Duck diving waves the size of houses is like a rebirth, and as I am pulled through the back of a wave, just for those few seconds, time seems to slow down, almost stop. Between sets, I cannot help but get lost in my surroundings. Dark sand fades to light, as it empties out onto miles of beach. With the exception of driftwood and palm shade huts that sporadically dot the beach, it feels untouched, prehistoric…intangible.
Lefts, rights, barrels, close outs, wipe outs, beatings on the inside, bombs on the horizon…that perfect wave. It’s day trips like this that leave me soggy and sunburned, but frothing for more. Logging six hours of surfing makes a lukewarm beer taste heavenly. I put on a windbreaker and a hat in an attempt to save my skin, and I look into the eyes of that rock for the last time before our boat passes it. I sit in quiet reflection.
The sea has calmed down, and we take a straighter approach through the bay. My surf-glazed eyes catch a pod of pilot whales in the near distance. The water is glassy and they break the surface closer and closer to the boat, one after another, until I realize that we are surrounded by an enormous extended family. There are dozens of glistening black bodies cutting through the water like it’s air. I lean over the edge to meet intelligent eyes, and I believe they are full of sage-like wisdom. I try and take some of that with me. They travel with us for quite some time, and I feel chosen.
Every part of my body is utterly exhausted. My lips are dried and cracked, my eyes are bloodshot, my limbs are heavy and itchy from sea lice, and my hair is like a bird’s nest, but I can’t help but smile in bliss as I finish my second beer, and fade out like the day.
Written by: Jenn Parker
Photos (1-3) by: Kaitlyn Shea
Photo 3 by: ChonFotos