Congratulations! Your flights are booked, your hotel reservation is confirmed, and you’re a few weeks or a few days away from your dream vacation in Costa Rica.
Perhaps you also decided to go surfing (if so, great choice), and may be wondering what to bring or what to buy when you arrive.
Here is our ultimate guide on what to pack for your surf trip, along with some recommendations on brands, and essential items that every surfer needs when they hit the beach.
This is, without a doubt, the most important thing that any surfer or beachgoer will pack. Most of us are aware of the dangers of unprotected exposure to the sun, but many can remain unaware that hazardous exposure to the sun can occur even in cloudy or rainy conditions.
Being out in the ocean for an extended amount of time makes it difficult to find sunscreen that will not wash off. Even sunscreen advertised as sport sunscreen can wash off very easily in salt water. But, there are two brands of local Costa Rican sunscreen that we highly recommend:
Las Olas Sunscreen
Photo courtesy of Pura Vida Connections
And Pura Vida Sunblock
Photo courtesy of Pura Vida Sunblock
Both brands are made with the main natural ingredient of cocoa butter, which will not wash off in salt water. This natural ingredient is thick, and also acts as a moisturizer, which we all need after sun exposure. And, as an added bonus, you help support a local small business by purchasing them here in Costa Rica!
Imagine this: you are in the lineup, and you see a beautiful set rolling right up to you. You are in the perfect position on the peak of the wave, drop in… and slip off your board into an epic wipeout. Total bummer.
There is absolutely nothing worse than a slippery surfboard, which is why surfboard wax is essential. There are different types of wax for different climates, ranging from cold wax to tropical wax. Surf Nation has a great guide to different wax where you can do some research and pick the right wax according to your needs.
There are a lot of brands of board wax, but one of the all time classics is a brand called “Sex Wax.” While it may sound a bit NSFW, this brand has been around for many years, and has stood the test of time. Here in Costa Rica, we typically use tropical wax. Sticky Bumps is a reliable and cost efficient brand, and can be found at most local surf shops.
Pro Tip: Never leave the top of your surfboard and the wax on the top of your board exposed to the sun. It is never fun to have to re-wax your board after it melts off like a candle. Leave your board with the fins facing up, or under the trees in the shade when you are not using it.
An Extra Leash
Here is another not-so-great surfing scenario: a big set comes through, your board gets pulled out of your hands, you feel the leash rip off… and see your surfboard swimming back to shore without you.
Of course, this is bound to happen to every surfer, and it can be quite scary being caught inside without a floatation device, especially in big waves. The best thing to do in this situation is to stay calm, and swim back to shore out of the way of other surfers.
When you do get back to shore, you will want to have a second or backup leash in case the one you were using breaks. The general rule of thumb is to have a surfboard leash that is as long or slightly longer than the size of your board.
A thicker leash is always a good way to go, especially in bigger waves where your board might be pulled away from you with lots of momentum. For those who like to ride longboards, try to find a leash that can also be worn closer to your knee. Wearing your leash higher on your leg allows you to crosstep and nose ride much easier.
There are lots of great brands of leashes that can be purchased online, or at brick and mortar surf shops. If you are certain of the size board you will be using, or if you are bringing your own board, we recommend ordering multiple leashes online at once to save time and money.
Ok, last unfortunate hypothetical scenario: you are having the time of your life surfing, but the next day, you realize that you have an uncomfortable or painful rash around the area of your chest or arms. Sunburns are often planned for. Surfboard rashes, not so much.
Our last essential item for you to pack on your surf trip is a rashguard. If you are visiting Costa Rica at any point during the year, you will likely not need a neoprene wetsuit. Our tropical waters stay around 80 to 85 degrees year round, so the right bathing suit along with a rash guard shirt is the way to go.
For men, well fitting swim trunks or board shorts work great. For the ladies, we recommend ditching the bikinis (sorry, even if they are super cute) and instead going with a one piece swimsuit that fits snugly and offers full coverage. Due to the way you are positioned on the surfboard, a one piece swimsuit (such as a speedo designed for watersports) along with a rash guard shirt will help ensure that you are always covered.
Since the sun is so strong here in Costa Rica, we also recommend a long sleeve rash guard. Along with protecting your arms from getting a rash during paddling, the more sun protection you are wearing, the better. Local Uvita shops such as Costa Verde Surf Shop have a variety of great options to fit your needs.