A Brief Guide to Surfing in Playa Grande: Play by the Rules

Playa Grande has gained quite the reputation for its waves. The expansive beach break is a swell magnet and the likelihood of there being waves on any given day is high. On small swell days, the surf is accessible and safe for nearly anyone who wants to have a go. On bigger days, the surf can be very heavy and not ideal for inexperienced surfers.

It is the consistent, fun, and warm surf that draws both experienced and first-time surfers to Playa Grande. For both novice and seasoned surfers, it is important to know and follow the rules of surfing, to know your level and place in the surf, to respect the forces and elements of the ocean, and to remember that surfing is supposed to be fun and that there are enough waves to share.

In this brief three-part guide, we will share the top four rules of surfing, some tips about surfing in Playa Grande, important things to be aware of, and how to be the best surfer in the sea.

Part 1: The Top Four Rules of Surfing

You wouldn’t play or participate in any other sport without first knowing the rules of the game, yet many people enter the sea to surf without first knowing the rules of this sport. If you don’t play by the rules surfing becomes a far more dangerous activity for you and those around you. Fortunately, the rules of surfing are probably some for the simplest rules of any sport.

Rule #1: Know who has the right of way on the wave.

The person who is closest to the peak of the wave has the right of way. Dropping in on someone (taking the wave when it is clearly not yours and the surfer who had the right of way is already on it or about to go) is not only rude and very frowned upon, but also very dangerous. If you happen to drop in on someone accidently, pull off of the wave, if possible, and of course apologize.

It is important to always pay attention, to constantly look around, and to double check that the wave is yours and it is safe to go before you go.

Rule #2: Don’t ditch your board.

Unless there is absolutely no one around you and you feel that you don’t have another choice, do not ditch your board if you bail on a wave or you are paddling back out and a wave is about to break in front of you. Ditching your board is extremely risky if there are other people around you. It is also hazardous to yourself, as you have no control over where the ocean might toss your board and it could end up hitting you.

If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t duck dive the wave or you get stuck in the whitewater zone, hang on to your board until the set passes and then start paddling back out again.

Surf safety in Costa Rica
Be careful with your surfboard | © Phucket@photographer.net/Flickr

Rule #3: Use some common sense when paddling out.

When paddling out to the line-up, whether for the first time or back out after a wave, don’t paddle in a straight line directly to the peak. This is where other surfers are taking off and trying to catch their waves. Paddle around and then work your way back to the spot that you want to be.

Rule #4: Respect the other surfers.

Like any other surf spot, there are surfers who live here and that is their home break. If you want to be respected in the surf, you must also be respectful. Playa Grande is blessed with seemingly endless waves and the waves belong to no one and everyone.

It is important to maintain a positive and friendly attitude and to not be that surfer that ruins it for everyone by acting like this is your spot. Don’t be a wave hog and don’t paddle around other surfers in an aggressive “I’m going to catch every wave” type of way.

Waves in Playa Grande, Costa Rica
Now, go get shacked! | © Warm Winds Surf Shop/Flickr

If everyone just follows the basic rules and uses some common sense and common courtesy, everyone can have a wave-filled and stoke-worthy session in Playa Grande.

Up next: Some valuable insight and safety information about surfing in Playa Grande.