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Costa Rica Crocodile

Here are the facts: On average, one person a year dies from a crocodile attack somewhere in Costa Rica. Crocodiles in Costa Rica can be found in estuaries, lagoons, lakes and rivers. Don’t swim in any of these places unless the locals tell you that it’s absolutely OK. Even then, just don’t. Then you will be fine. As a rule, crocodiles don’t care about you, they prefer their regular diet of fish, however, large specimens of up to 12 feet or more will on occasion take large mammals and even people. Costa Rica crocodiles are protected, which has allowed some of these beasts to grow up to as long as 20ft in places like the Corcovado Lagoon. Luckily, we don’t surf there!

Surfers generally should not be too worried about crocodiles. That being said, exercise caution - whatever that means to you. I have spotted crocodiles swimming in the lineups in three places: Santa Rosa National Park (Witch’s Rock), Quepos rivermouth, and Boca Barranca. After a heavy rainfall is when the monsters come out, they swim out of swollen rivermouths, which puts them into some of our best lineups - like Boca Barranca.

Heres what I could find about Crocodile attacks on surfers in Costa Rica: In 2008, a 13-year old surfer named Dakota Kilbride was surfing in a contest at Playa Hermosa and was grabbed, pulled under and thrashed around, then released. He survived and luckily - retained his leg (photo below). There is a river mouth nearby Hermosa Beach where crocodiles hang out regularly, and are known to swim out into the waves. When the locals go scrambling for the beach - Get out! Authorities have issued warnings for Jaco, Hermosa, and Herradura.

The only attack I personally know of was in Quepos, and it had happened about three days before I surfed there on a trip in 1997. A young American surfer was pulled off his board and dragged under briefly before being released. His leg was mangled a bit, but he survived to surf another day. My guide told me this story on the way back to Jaco after surfing at the very same spot. Which had me wondering… (a) why did he take me there? and (b) Why did he bother to tell me at all, if he wasn’t going to give me the option to abort the mission beforehand? I had hopped on another groups surf tour for free, so my guide guy wasn’t even getting any money out of it.

A couple of times now I’ve seen locals (Tico’s) taunting crocs from bridges. They will hook a small fish onto a fishing line and slap the water near the croc, flinging the fish away at the last second as the crocs propel themselves out of the water and snap at the lure. I’ve also seen this with a cooked chicken tied to a rope. I guess you view these creatures differently when you grow up around them.

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