Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.34.59 PM

50 MPH Downwinders in Costa Rica…On An Ancient 11′ Windsurf Board

Sometimes, you just have to make due with what’s available. For Thomas Maximus in Costa Rica, that meant downwinding 50 mph winds on an 11-foot windsurfing board

Words and photos courtesy of Thomas “Maximus” Shahinian

I rekindled my passion for SUP during a recent kitesurfing trip to Liberia, Costa Rica. The same passion that drove me to travel the world and compete in more than 160 SUP races since 2008.

Upon arrival in Liberia Airport, I picked up my rental SUV and drove an hour-and-a-half to my destination in Bahia Salinas. I arrived at the Blue Dream Hotel at night settled in for the long and physically demanding days ahead.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.36.13 PM

Well rested, well nourished and well on his way to a Costa Rican downwinder.

The next couple days were perfect conditions, kitesurfing from dawn to dusk while meeting new friends and fellow kite-surfers from around the world. On the third day of my trip, the weather forecast called for wind gusts in excess of 50 mph for the next couple days. While the idea of not kiting because it was too windy seemed ridiculous, that appeared to be the reality of the situation.

Luckily, the evening before the strong winds arrived I noticed an old 11-foot windsurfing board just accumulating dust in a storage shed at the hotel. I wasn’t sure if it would be stable enough to stand on, but the thought of downwinding in 50 mph winds definitely made it worth investigating. The next morning I packed up my board and headed to the launch area to find out if the board would even float me. After a short paddle along a tree-lined beach it was evident, I was in luck.

After finding a driver to shuttle me, it was time for my maiden downwind voyage.  The launch area was an easy quarter-mile run through flat water to the wind line. Shortly after turning downwind, the board began picking up short glides which progressively turned into longer glides as I moved further along the fetch of the wind. The abandoned board had new life and performed great during the 40-minute run to the sandy beach of Eco-Playa.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.35.41 PM

The strong wind continued through the next day, so I another downwinder to explore a launch further upwind in the bay. Unfortunately, I forgot my leash and didn’t realize this until I was already several hundred yards offshore. While I debated going on without it, I quickly thought better of it and paddled back to shore to fashion a thick rope into an ankle leash. Once back on the water, the paddle and glides that day were exceptional and somewhat surreal. At that moment, I understood why Andres and Charlie Howden loved paddling in Costa Rica.

During the rest of my trip, I paddled several more downwinders in between kitesurfing sessions. Sometimes I even did two-a-days thanks to the ease and accessibility offered by the bay. Now, back home, I’ve already began working on a plan to return with a few Riviera Paddlesurf teammates to explore other downwind routes we’ve identified, including a 20-miler with strong winds and open ocean swell!

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.35.57 PM

(Note: It’s highly recommended to paddle with a partner, wear a leash, booties near reefs, bright colors, pfd, whistle, waterproof bag with cell phone, money, credit card and communicate your plan and times with others. The best tool for SUP safety is common sense. Know your limits and don’t go beyond them. Happy paddling!)