Witches Rock, Costa Rica in the 80's

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Craig started the topic in Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012 at 12:54pm

Z-Man, a regular contributor to the Swellnet Forums and Articles had his memory tweaked when reading the piece on Skeleton Bay.

Below he gives an intriguing account of Witches Rock and other breaks in Costa Rica in the 1980's and how they differed to how they are now as well as some amazing and timeless photos. From Z-man:

The estuary at Witches Rock has changed dramatically from the 70's - 90's in the interim and the waves/sandbars diminished in quality. The one place left, which we called 'the stump' (naturally because there was one prominent tree stump above the high tide line) remains because the swell, when it pushes, cuts a swath in the beach almost directly (actually to the east 75+-meters) that produces a kick ass right with attending whirlpools as rips that are visibly moving out from the corner when all the planets are aligned!!!

Here are shots of WR in the '80's when the estuary emptied directly in front of the Rock.
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This shot shows the place it is now. This was taken from on top of the hill in the image below. Used to be from where we camped if you jumped in on your board on the incoming tide you could float/paddle almost to where the estuary exits now - about 200M. Otherwise it is about a IK walk from camp to Rock.
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Note the sandspit continuing toward the bottom of that photo. That sandspit used to end where it ran into the out-cropping of a low hill.

The estuary exit in the below photo is from 1976 where there was a primitive campsite - two picnic bench tables.
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This drawing, was made by a friend I have kept all those year until now but it shows what I am talking about.
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This shows the hill in the blurred (sorry) background I just mentioned.
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Below is a small day just after sunrise looking across the estuary entrance/exit, w/bird.
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I would whistle at girlfriend, just the two of us on the whole beach, and she knew to wait 2 seconds after I bottom turned after taking off and clik the shutter. Kodak110 film, box camera. 1975.
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The tripod photo is how I shot video a lot at Playa Negra because I was the only one there in late '70's. Some Costa Rican friend showed it to me on a family Christmas vacation they were enjoying, but not surfing this break but another about 300M south of this shot.
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This is the peak from a rock outcropping.
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A straight on view - yew!
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This is Dale Dagger(Nicaragua Surf Camp pioneer) at Potrero Grande otherwise known as 'Ollies' - this would've been '82 or so?
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This is Avellanas, south of Tamarindo - estuary mouth. over flat rock (boil in wave).
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Me; back when...
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Ensenada, 3M's mid '70's - friend in foreground Peter deTurk - CR partner and rider in one of WR photos; sand-art, Jack Mahon finishes arrow pointing to the peak? OR? West-south-west towards Viet Nam? It loomed heavily on all of us back then. I had already joined and been discharged from the USNavy - figured correctly I'd be safer with 3 squares and clean sheets.
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Becker's 7'0" round pin single fins used in photos of me at WR - photo at San Clemente '79
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Me at the helm of yacht going to check waves at WR and 'Ollies' -we called Potrero Grande -says so on maps.
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Best friend Tom Epling taking off on same day as empty left peeling in to estuary that if you look close you can see the boat we came in from Playa del Coco - approx. 2hr ride, give or take.
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Peter deTurk.
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Me at Tamarindo.
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Dale Dagger's catarmaran at 'Ollies'.
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Debbie from New Guinea, she hitched a ride and took off all her clothes as soon as we pulled up anchor for no other reason than she preferred 'au-naturel' !
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22" x28" attempt at my interpretation of WR - watercolor.
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And to back up Z-man's claims here's two Google Earth images showing how the estuaries changed from the 1970's to 2011 (it's hard to see in these images but the estuary opening has shifted just over half a mile to the east over the time period). Z-man states "It was a major ordeal when the estuary broke over the sandbar during one of the torrential downpours in Nov. '80-'81. It made a HUGE difference within a few months":

1970
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2011
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zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012 at 2:07pm

Z-man, great stuff.

Thanks Craig.

stunet's picture
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stunet Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012 at 2:10pm

Tell us more about Debbie from New Guinea.

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thermalben Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012 at 2:27pm

Playa Negra! Scored some unreal waves there in '98. Doesn't look any different than thirty years prior either. Gee, I'd like to get back there sometime.

And yeah, Debbie? Don't hold out on us Zed Man.

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z-man Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012 at 4:54pm

@zenagain - Thanks
@thermalben - Let me give Debbie some thought. I wish I knew how she felt about it; we've lost contact.

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Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 10 Oct 2012 at 6:43am

I absolutely love these images z-man!

The small snippet about whistling to your girl so she'd know when to press the shutter, and then getting an epic barreling pic like you've shown is amazing!

I especially love the front on shot of Playa Negra, to get an image like that with only one shot is pretty special. Thanks for sharing!

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therealneil Thursday, 11 Oct 2012 at 8:25am

Nice shots z man, hey is that sailboat a wharram cat?

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z-man Thursday, 11 Oct 2012 at 10:04pm

@craig, Thanks, I believe there was some planning involved with the 'whistle', and P.Negra; took a couple, and got lucky that one!!!

@therealneil, I don't remember but I know it got retired in Nicaragua, and Dale started a surf camp realizing he was dead center in the eye of the tradewinds that make that place special!!! - In Costa Rica they call them 'Papagayos' - over a 100k about once a year!!! "Batten Down" !!!

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therealneil Friday, 12 Oct 2012 at 7:03am

Nice one, looks like good times were had by all on board

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z-man Monday, 15 Oct 2012 at 9:29pm

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z-man Monday, 15 Oct 2012 at 11:19pm

Craig - when you get a chance walk me through how to post photos. Posting 101 for Dummies.

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Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 at 6:25am

Will do Z-man later this morning :)

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z-man Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 at 11:02am

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z-man Friday, 26 Oct 2012 at 10:41am

Tamarindo 1983. Friends from Costa Rica gather for cocktails after a day of surf. By the looks of it, it was small. Typical for Tamarindo.

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debbie's picture
debbie's picture
debbie Sunday, 7 Jul 2013 at 10:39pm

This is the Debbie here....thanks for all your interest but just thought you should remember that photo was taken in the 80's....not so eager to strip off these days. Sailing on Zoo was one of the best adventures. Thank you Dale for bringing back the memories..love the native one.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Monday, 8 Jul 2013 at 2:16am

Hey the Debbie, beauty is on the inside too. You sound lovely.

Z-man is a cool guy.

Peace be with you and stay beautiful.

z-man's picture
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z-man Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 at 10:40am

debbie wrote: This is the Debbie here....thanks for all your interest but just thought you should remember that photo was taken in the 80's....not so eager to strip off these days. Sailing on Zoo was one of the best adventures. Thank you Dale for bringing back the memories..love the native one.
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z-man Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 at 10:42am

Debbie - if you ever see this get back to me. I was curious why you thanked Dale instead of me? I was the one who posted this thru Swellnet - Dale was just a part of the story.