There's so many special places in Costa Rica; so many beaches, points, and reefbreaks, but there's nowhere quite like the beautiful, pristine, Isla Uvita, an island that lies about a mile off the coast of the city of Limon. The photo album I have of my months spent camping on the island was unfortunately lost at sea - (I left it too close to the tide-line on the beach, and the high tide took it away) - but the real memories I have of the place are in my heart, where they could never be forgotten.
I was little more than a kid when I arrived, a 19 year old with a backpack, a pillow, tent and pad, three changes of clothes, my surf wax and my two boards. I have now spent a total of three months camping on the island, and know most of it's nooks and crannys. My first trip there, in 1990, was incredible - two dollars there and back was the fare, with pickup two weeks after dropoff. As we approached the island by boat for the first time, I was initially dissapointed; thinking, where are the waves, man? But the grizzled old Captain just patted me on the shoulder and said, "espere para la marea a subir, mi amigo" - wait for the tide to rise.
So I did, and the waves soon cooperated beyond my wildest dreams! Just a kid straight outta Panama City Beach,FL, and all of the sudden I was surfing a reefbreak for the first time in my life, a real, coral, carribbean reefbreak, with well overhead, glassy, absoutely perfect waves, and not another soul in the water! Initially, I caught a few shoulders, then some big bombs, got blown completely out of my mind, and at sunset I came in to a warm house and a warm meal! Of course, I slept in my tent, but the old policeman and his family that used to watch the place would gladly cook me three meals a day, plus there was fresh water, and lots of snapper, just chompin' at the hook on the backside of the island - just use a handline if it's all you have, stick a hermit crab on some 20lb test line, and get that sucker up and off the reef as quick as you can. The wave itself is a beautiful, long lefthander, with surf breaking from waist high to triple overhead, and with waves traveling from just 50 feet up to around 150 yards, depending on swell size, strength, and direction.
The reef itself is composed of coral, but the bottom contour is fairly even, and injuries out there are less common than many other waves I've surfed in my life. I've spent alot of time surfing out there with just friends, and sometimes with the occasional locos from shore who come over from Limon in a boat for a few hours and absolutley dominate the place, and plenty of solo sessions, thinking to myself "wow man, everyone else is snoring, I'm goin out... yawn... stretch.... it's just double overhead and glassy with good tubes and nobody out, but man that sleepin bag looks nice.... no way! I'm gonna hit it!"
And those mornings I will forever hold close to my heart, getting some of the best waves in my life, with the freest, happiest feeling you could ever imagine. One day, while I was out surfing Isla Uvita, at about two feet overhead, with some nice, glassy tubes and a pure December sun, I took a fairly heavy wipeout, and upon surfacing, I realized that I had not only lost my board, but that my surf shorts had been blown clean off as well!
Getting my board back wasn't too hard, as I got lucky and I got to it before the next wave hit, but unfortunately, my shorts washed well up onto the reef. But the waves were sooo good.... so I stayed out and got some great waves (luckily, I am a goofyfoot, frontside to the wave, so my butt faced the shoreline), until finally I realized I was starting to get a sunburn on my quite white hiney, at which point I paddled in close to where I knew my shorts to be, and after about 45 minutes of cajoling and laughing and pleading with the local kids they thew them to me... so I put my shorts back on, took a wave in, and tried to sit down on a chair, but my sunburnt butt hurt too bad; though it did provide plenty of entertainment for the family.... and I was known on the island for a long time after that as "El Culo Rosado" - The Pinkbutt! This is a place I truly love, and will be sure to revisit some day.