Starting in the south, in the shadow of Costa Rica’s most active volcano of the same name, Lake Arenal reservoir is responsible for much of the nation’s hydroelectric power. But it’s the power of the wind that makes it interesting – half a kilometre up, the winter trades whistle through the high valleys at an almost guaranteed Force 6-7. Tico on the north shore has wind from the left, mirrored by starboard tack Tilawa on the far bank. There’s great jumping at both as a meaty chop builds along the Lake’s 10km length, just choose your favourite tack! Up on the Pacific coast just short of the Nicaraguan border, Bahia Salinas is the only spot where the Papagoyo blows cross-shore. The peninsula Santa Elena ensures complete safety yet blocks any groundswell, making it a favourite freeride and power freestyle location in winds up to 40 knots. The most easterly launch, Playa Papaturro is flat to choppy depending on the tide with no shorebreak. Playa Copal can be almost perfectly sideshore, starboard tack on the way out. Playa Coyotera receives the best windswell in the bay, though rarely any breaking waves. The wind is steady if often onshore at the launch, the rolling swells are great for jumping yet the outside gybe is on flat clear blue water in lee of a bird sanctuary islet. Just across the border into Nicaragua’s Rivas Province the region’s surfing hotspots centre around the resort of San Juan del Sur. None are even remotely sailable until Popoyo, an intimidating, super-heavy A-frame that’s purely the reserve of pro riders and photoshoots. Nicaragua’s widow-maker hosts two breaks – one close inshore onto rocks in very gusty offshore wind, the other a monster outer reef-break that starts working at mast-high and can hold a huge swell. Accessible only by boat, it’s frequently tow-surfed and has a fearsome reputation. Round the next headland at the border with Carazo Province, an outer reef in the middle of the bay at El Astillero is only marginally more approachable. A boat is advisable, though you might survive launching from the beach in gusty offshore winds. This long, hollow, heavy break also starts working at mast-high and can handle much larger. There are more hardcore options 5km north-west if you can negotiate yourself into Campo Militar. Their big gun is a left-hander along a rocky point that connects to a hollow beach-break. It works from head-high and can handle some size. The beach to the north hosts more heavy lefts with a lot of close-outs. Inland and across the provincial border Lake Nicaragua – at over 8,000km2 the largest lake in Central America – links to the Atlantic via the San Juan River. With such good trade links Granada was understandably one of the very earliest Latin American settlements. This whole south-western shore of enjoys reliable onshores in season – and with just over half the windstrength of Bahia Salinas, Granada is a good call when it’s too much at the coast. However, the muddy brown water is all the more unsettling when you remember Nicaraguan bull sharks tolerate the fresh water here. Half an hour away, for something completely different try the crystal-clear water of Lake Apoyo inside a 6km-wide volcanic crater. Access can be hard to find as real estate is booming in the area and most beaches are private, but it’s a great soulsurfing spot once you do get out.
Kite and Windsurfing Guide