Would you know where to go for a Chinese Wax Job? Have you any idea what you’d have to do to become a Junkyard Dog? And what the heck is so scary about The Men In Grey Suits? Well, for a start you’d have to embrace the surf culture and then you might start to get a handle on their expansive terminology. The surf industry has become a billion dollar business over the past few decades, spreading from the shores of California and Australia, and gaining a global appeal. And Costa Rica is certainly up there amongst the leading surf destinations. It’s said that the Peruvians lay claim to being the first to ride the waves, as long as 4000 years ago, on boards made from reeds. However, it seems the art of surfing, called he’ enalu (wave sliding) by the ancient Hawaiian people, was first recorded by Joseph Banks on the HMS Endeavour, during the third voyage of Captain James Cook in 1778. By then surfing had long become a central part of Polynesian culture, swathed in myth and legend. The Polynesians called upon the Kahua to christen their surfboards , summon huge rollers and spread courage among the men and women who challenged the waves. In Tonga the late king Taufa’ ahau Tupou IV was the foremost Tongan surfer of his time, though it was the chief of a community who was generally the most skilled wave slider. In those days the practice of surfing had distinctive social barriers. For instance, the ruling classes had the run of the best beaches and choice of the best boards. The commoners could not frequent the elite beaches, though they could gain a few notches on the social ladder with a nifty turn or two. In 2013 Garrett McNamara surfed what is thought to be the highest wave, at an estimated 30 metres (100 feet). Back on the beach he declared: ‘I was most relieved to avoid the rocky section of the coast.’ And who could blame him for such sentiment.
We’ve come to the tiny coastal settlement of Dominical, on the Pacific coast. This is one of many surf centres along Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts, though this stretch of the coastline is not only known for its surf. In the early 1700s the British privateer John Clipperton, who was recognised more for his fondness for the drink than his skill on a surfboard, is said to have spent many years on this coast befriending the Quepoa Indians, in the hope of uncovering a vast treasure hidden somewhere in these hills. When the pirate Henry Morgan sacked old Panama City in 1671 he missed the lion’s share of the booty stored in the city. With prior knowledge of the pirate’s intentions a vast treasure of gold, silver, pearls and emeralds, said to weigh 700 tons, had already been loaded by the Spanish on to the Santisima Trinidad and two other galleons. Thereafter it vanished from sight. As the treasure was under the control of the Franciscan order in Panama, Clipperton became convinced that it had been moved only a short distance up the coast, to another Franciscan order based in Quepos, in today’s Costa Rica. For years it is said he scoured the beaches and hills, until his rage,and the barrels of rum, got the better of him.