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Swell observations and forecast for November/December

With an El Niño year in full swing, the pacific storm season has already been active early on, with big winter swells hitting central America. Here in Costa Rica, November started slow for surf, but during the middle of the month a number of consistent head high plus south swells came through lighting up the whole coast, providing some excellent waves. The Papagayo winds set in around the same time. Epic conditions ensued. These are good indicators for a potentially active swell season over the next few months. Hopefully we should see a higher than usual number of south swells hitting our coastline this dry season.

Lifeguard Training at Playa Guiones
Innocent surf school and ERA adventures hosted a week long intensive training course.

‘Don’t worry, I am a lifeguard’ are the shouts you would have heard should you have been on Playa Guiones at the beginning of November. Luckily it wasn’t an impromptu mass ocean rescue occurring but rather a select group of individuals being put through their paces during internationally beach lifeguard qualification course.

The course is a combination of practical training in the form of ocean rescue skills, supported by first aid medical response and basic life support training, including CPR. Throughout the week, the participants were switching between rigorous ocean rescue scenarios, taking it in turn to rescue one another from the ocean using a variety of equipment, surf rescue boards, swim fins, Peterson tubes and just plain hard swimming. Back in the classroom, basic life support training was given with both lectures and hands on practice. No CPR dummy was left for dead.

There are three main principles as a beach lifeguard, P.R.R, prevent, recognise, rescue. The role of the lifeguard is to prevent the need for a rescue to happen. However, any situation in the ocean, especially with less experienced users can quickly turn dangerous and accidents do happen. So the following role of the lifeguard is to respond to this situation. The training and assessment was conducted by, ERA adventures, based in England, who flew specially over to conduct the course through the first week of November. ERA adventures also provided Surf instructors qualification course aswell before the lifeguard course. Llyr Faragher, trainer/assessor with ERA adventures described the training conditions as ideal. But he also stated that in the tropics and with beaches such as Guiones which are not in as easy reach of medical assistance, the course had to be adjusted slightly to accommodate different rescue protocols and priorities.

Three local Ticos undertook the course, becoming Costa Rica’s first internationally recognised certified beach lifeguards. Luigi Zapatero, Esteban Lopez, owners of Nosara Tico Surf School and local surfer Randall Mora all passed confidently. The three worked very hard given that the course was taught in English. Randall Mora describes the course as ‘interesting and important with very good instruction.’ He says ‘it is very important to have lifeguards on the beach here at Guiones to help with all the families and tourists that enjoy Guiones, but also to help them feel safe and secure.’

There is a not currently a national Costa Rican lifeguard association. There exists a few local community supported projects providing qualified lifeguards at certain beaches. Tamarindo has lifeguards but they do experience funding problems and are shifting in and out of service. In Jaco, which has the most lifeguards, developers and private business host major fundraisers that have provided money to pay and sponsorship for training and certification of 50 lifeguards. Dominical has a successful community driven lifeguard project, providing full time lifeguards year round. A lifeguard service would greatly improve the beach and tourist experience for all in and around Playa Guiones. If any individual or business is interested in further information regarding this, please feel free to contact Innocent Surf School or the Surfing Nosara foundation for a chat or any development of ideas.

Lifeguard Advice for Swimmers and Surfers:

  • Check the local surf, weather and tides before leaving home.
  • Take a friend with you into the sea, especially if the beach is unsupervised.
  • Always plan to swim close to the beach in line with the shore.
  • Rip currents are narrow powerful channels of water flowing away from the shore. They are particular hazard because they can drag swimmers out the sea. The swimmer tries to fight the current and as a result becomes exhausted and vulnerable to drowning.
  • Strong swell and large waves that draw surfers to the shore are potentially dangerous for sea swimmers. Even the seemingly calmer waters between areas of surf are usually hiding dangerous rip currents.

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