Thousands of visitors come to Costa Rica every year to enjoy the azure waters off the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Surfing is one of the most popular activities in Costa Rica, with professionals and novices taking to the water. But what if you've never surfed before? Riding waves takes patience and practice, but it's well worth the effort and perseverance.

Longboarding in Tamarindo
Longboarding in Tamarindo

Baby steps

As tempting as it can be to just take the plunge and hit the water, you should stop for a second and watch how more experienced surfers approach the waves. Observe the surf, study the way the waves roll in and take notice of how others tackle the water. When you've taken a moment to check out the conditions, it's time to get wet!

As the saying goes, you have to walk before you can run - or, in this case, stand. Learning how to stand on a surfboard is one of the hardest aspects of surfing, but it's fundamental to the whole experience. Before you try standing, lie on your belly on the board and paddle out a little ways into the surf. Focus on staying on top of the waves and get used to the motion.

When you're comfortable paddling, grip the edges of the board with both hands and lift your torso off the board. Bring your knees up toward your chest so you're kneeling on the board. From this position, plant your feet on the board and maneuver into a crouched stance. Now, try to stand - remember to maintain your balance. Although it sounds easy, this may take you a while to master, so be patient!

Surfer on the right wave at the famous Witch's Rock in Santa Rosa National Park
Surfer on the right wave at the famous Witch's Rock in Santa Rosa National Park

Identifying waves

Another important part of learning to surf is recognizing how waves break. In order to avoid being pushed back toward the shore by bigger waves, surfers allow the water to wash over them by going underwater momentarily. There are several different ways to do this, such as a duck dive, where surfers push the nose of their board underwater, slipping under the wave. Other approaches, such as turtle rolls, are more difficult and not recommended for beginners.

Surfing is incredibly fun and a great way to enjoy the stunning coastlines of Costa Rica. With practice and patience, everyone can learn how to surf, so take your time and enjoy the water.


Offshore wind on a head high A-Frame wave at Ollies Point in Santa Rosa National Park
Offshore wind on a head high A-Frame wave at Ollies Point in Santa Rosa National Park