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Crocodiles in the Ocean: Myth or Truth?

By Luigi Montiel Lopez
Tico Surf School

How many times have you heard the rumor that crocodiles surf the ocean during September and October? Surely several times, especially if you live in Playa Guiones, Peladas or Ostional. But many times rumors are just that, rumors, so in order to free myself from all doubt I have taken on the task of finding out if this is true or not.

Fortunately only two local surfers report having seen these creatures. Oscar Vargas, a local surfer and instructor, and Adrián Suarez, a resident at Playa Peladas.
Where the creek meets the ocean in north Guiones.
Photo credit Nosara Shack

They narrate how one time, while surfing in front of the Guiones Cemetery during the 2010 rainy season, they witnessed a crocodile heading towards Playa Garza. Keep in mind that these guys surf every day of the year, several times a day, so logically the chances of a tourist seeing a "ticodrile"… is really little.

Laura Brenes, a biologist at the Refugio Ostional Minae, affirms that she has never received any reports related to crocodile sightings or attacks on local beaches, although Brenes did mention that biologists at the Refugio Iguanita have reported seeing them and even witnessed a crocodile attack. Iguanita is located on the Papagayo Gulf, north of Tamarindo, and it includes Ollie's Point where I was once able to see a crocodile in the ocean. However, it is important to remember that it is normal to see it at the river's mouth, where this crocodile has been baptized with a name.

The American crocodile, a resident of Costa Rica's coastal areas, is fairly aggressive. Even small ones are dangerous since their instinct is to attack and bite instead of going away. Adults eat everything and, due to their aggressiveness, they can be a real problem, although it's important to point out that this species does not feed on human beings, which is the case with its relative, the saltwater crocodile.

Due to their metabolism they may spend long periods of time without eating and up to two hours without breathing, allowing them to surf in areas where they can't breath. They travel across the ocean in search of rivers and food and, if a surfboard or swimmer disturbs them, they may attack instinctively.

So, how likely is it to run into a crocodile in Nicoya's coastal areas? It is highly unlikely but, as the saying goes, it is "better to be safe than sorry". Here are some short, but extremely important, recommendations for surfers:

• Always look up information on the place where you'll be surfing. If you are new to the area, ask the locals or in surf schools.
• Do not surf near river mouths or popular fishing spots.
• Never go out surfing alone.
• If an attack takes place keep in mind that the animal's snout is its weak spot, so try to hit him there.


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