Written by Sarah Kennedy
Stand Up Paddling has come a long way over the past few years. People paddle for leisure, transportation, exercise or racing. The challenge is inviting and the feeling of walking on water is enticing. On September 22nd, experienced SUPer Erick Zamora took his love and admiration of SUP to a different, eye-opening level.
Erick, 29, employee of Pura Vida Ride and local resident of Potrero, Guanacaste, Costa Rica dreamt up a journey only few could accomplish—150km paddle down the pacific coast of Costa Rica from Pura Vida Ride at Playa Danta, Costa Rica to Playa Santa Teresa on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. This takes dedication and preparation, but Erick wanted to do it, so he did. His passion to start this journey allowed him to gain sponsors, housing, rides, safety precautions, and support from the community just within a months’ time. He welcomed anyone who wanted to join and he received three takers; local SUPers, Rolando Herrera Siles, Geovanny Espinoza, Wim Van Cleynenbreugel and their right hand man following by kayak, Fabian Sanchez from Surfing Nation Magazine. This event was inspired by his love for the sport of Standup Paddle boarding, country and most importantly shining a light on the importance of keeping oceans clean.
The tentative plan was to paddle for 6 days anywhere from 4-6 hours a day covering sufficient ground to make their 150km goal. They started by traveling from Playa Danta to Playa Tamarindo, Tamarindo to Playa Marbella, from Marbella to Playa Guiones, Guiones to Playa Carillo, from Carillo to Playa San Miguel and finally from San Miguel to Playa Santa Teresa. Each day they were welcomed with a different obstacle and adventure that allowed them to grow and learn as ocean SUPers. Erick chose to paddle a 14’ Bark Expedition for this event.
September 21nd marked day one and they set off about 7:30am from Playa Danta in pristine conditions, flat water and little to no wind, but rounding the corner of Cabo Velas became their first challenge. It’s famous for strong currents and strong wind making the competitors struggle to pass. They reached their first destination, Playa Tamarindo at about 2pm that day and they traveled a total of 26km.
Lesson learned! The next day they were out on the water by 6:30am trying to avoid the windy afternoons, only to find themselves in one of the hardest paddles of their lives. Within hours of the paddle, wind picked up, making the water choppy and causing a battle between the water and the boards as well as testing their balance to the limits. They had to paddle nearly the entire trip on the left side of the boards. The last exhausting step was to pass the intimidating surf at Marbella, at least 3 meter (10ft) breaking waves had to be navigated to make landfall. They arrived at their second destination safely around 1pm traveling a total of 30kms.
That evening, Erick called Pura Vida Ride to give us the details of that day’s trip. Through the phone you could hear the exhaustion and pain he was feeling along with the other paddlers. Erick said, “It was the hardest paddle of my life, and I was scared.” He said, “I have never paddled in these kinds of conditions before,” and they all wondered what they had got themselves into. However, one difficult day did not sway them. They did not know how they would start the next day with such exhaustion, but they did, and with much more respect for Mother Nature.
Day three came bright and early and they met the giant surf at 7am. Each and every paddler was knocked around as they made their way through, however Erick was caught by a rogue wave on one of his attempts to beat the surf; he, his belongings and the board went airborne. When he came back from the unexpected blow, he was lucky that a surfer was there to help him gather everything so nothing was lost and he got right back on the board for another go with the surf. With help from a local surfer and better timing, he cleared the overhead waves. Like most surf breaks, once you are up and over, the conditions become more manageable. Paddling through the glass like water, they were able to paddle with ease because of ocean conditions, but the sun was blistering. The calm conditions brought out a variety of sea life; they saw giant Manta Rays, Bottlenose Dolphins and rounding the coastline of Ostional, groups of large Parrot Turtles. The turtles were so playful; they came close enough to the boards to capture some spectacular photos. After quite a relaxing morning, they found themselves at their third destination, Playa Guiones around 12pm, they traveled 24km.
After a little rejuvenation, they were just over the hump and on the downhill slope of finishing this incredible journey. Starting day five at 8am, they were faced with overhead surf. As they paddled as hard as possible just to clear the break, a surprised awaited them on the other side. Because the beach is located in a bay, making it a perfect spot to surf, they were battling to clear waves 2kms off the coast. The entire geography of how they paddled completely changed for them. They found weather to be on their side once more as tail winds and currents pushed them down the coast allowing them to paddle with more ease. They arrived at Playa San Miguel at about 12pm traveling 24kms.
September 26th marked their sixth and final day and they were mentally and physically exhausted from their time on the water. Erick once again found himself fighting with the surf sets, unable to pass after about 30 minutes he traveled farther down the coast to enter at Playa Coyote. Everyone was in their zone, the end approaching, hearing nothing but one’s thoughts. Erick paddled 5 hours straight, with no rest or break for food. His adrenaline pumping and goal almost in hand, he was not going to stop until he reached Santa Teresa.
As the SUPers rounded the last beach and saw the Surftech banner flying to guide them in, they waited for one another to paddle into the final beach together. Mind and body beat, they timed the waves and paddled their very hardest. The crew landed safely in Playa Santa Teresa at about 1pm traveling 28km that day.
The trip totaled 158.5 km or 98 miles traveled in just 6 days. They are a group of inspirational men and Pura Vida Ride is a very proud sponsor of Erick Zamora and his epic journey. Congratulations and Pura Vida!