Zachary King, a 2003 UCSB film studies alumnus, makes it a point to read the Daily Nexus online – daily. King lives in Orange County, and surfs as often as he can in between polishing up a script titled “Witches Rock.” In honor of our Gaucho alumni here on campus this past weekend, this week’s surf column is a tribute to those who have surfed, still surf and will surf the pealers surrounding UCSB. May the memories of the most epic waves and classes sacrificed live on forever.
In December of 2005, some buddies and I decided to throw an impromptu 10-day surf trip together and head down to Costa Rica – consistently amazing surf and rich culture, need I say more? To meet the wonderful people of Costa Rica could be a reason alone to visit their country, but my true agenda, to surf Witches Rock – or Roca Bruja as it is known by the local Ticos – took overwhelming precedence.
Witches Rock lies in a hard-to-access area in the northwest coast of Costa Rica, just south of the Nicaraguan border. Shadowed by a giant rock formation several hundred feet off the coast, it is claimed to be one of the best breaks in Costa Rica. I tried to get there back in 2001, but it was a heavy rain season and I was unfortunate to never make it there throughout the entire year. Generally, the roads are washed out in the rainy season, making it difficult to reach by car, and, if that is the case, you can always fork over a hundred or so dollars and get someone with a boat to take you there.
Before heading out, my buddy Rob and I loaded up our rental Kia Sorento around 5:30 in the morning and six of us headed out on our journey. In about an hour, we arrived at the national park guard’s gate that you must cross to catch the only road – so we were told – that takes you down to the beach. The guard there informed us that we were not permitted to take our car down since the road had been completely washed away from the past rain season. Our options were either to go back to Tamarindo Beach and rent a boat or walk. The majority of our group decided that it would be best to chalk this one up to a learning experience and head back to town. I was not one of the majorities. I did not travel 3000 miles to let a badly ruined road get between me and the one break I had yet to surf, and had dreamt of surfing, for the past four years. I wanted, no I needed, to find out how to get there.
That next morning my buddy and I got up even earlier than the previous day, loaded up the Kia and headed back up on our delayed journey. This time, we were lucky enough to have gotten to the gate before the guard did. Sweet victory! If we could just have found a way around the “road closed” signs and take our car down there, but the metal posts were putting up a good fight against the Kia.
During the first hour of the walk, the road was actually quite nice aside for some uneven parts, but I quickly realized I should have worn walking shoes – I had chosen to wear my Rainbows instead.
Then one sound became clear as day – the ocean. We got bit of pep in our step and began to pick up our pace, bleeding toes and all. We came to a river crossing after escaping the dense part of the forest coming up on a sign that read “Playa Naranjo,” the name of the spot where the break is. There was the giant rock formation I had always seen in photos, and there was the surf. There wasn’t a very good-sized swell that day, but the shape and the tranquility were unfathomable. Offshore winds were blowing perfectly, giving the shoulder-high, A-frame waves a clean down-the-line break.
We walked roughly 34 miles roundtrip to surf. The atmosphere of the area is one of a kind, and I tell people who are traveling down to Costa Rica to do everything they can to visit that spot. It’s not often one can visit another country, and it’s not often you can get out to places that are remote even for locals. Get out there and submerse yourself. The surf, the setting, the adventure, the mystical feeling of actually being there and the tranquility are all reasons alone to do it. Your feet might regret it, but, coming from my experience, I’d say rent a boat; it just makes sense.