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Selina

Stormrider Guide to surfing Caracas

Venezuela, SOUTH AMERICA


Punta Care, YEP

Summary

+ Constant NE windswells - Small, short period swells
+ Lots of right pointbreaks - Onshore and turbid water
+ Epic hurricane swells - Bad roads, expensive rentals
+ Relatively uncrowded - Car thieves

Venezuela is underexposed as a surf destination and although some surfers may have heard of Isla Margarita, the mainland remains a mystery. Talented Venezuelan surfers like Justin Mujica (2004 European Champion) or Magnum Martinez (South American Alas Latin Tour 2004 title) prove that there must be some good surf there. It's like Brazil or Florida, where surfers get year-round, warm-water, small waves to practice getting speed and making big moves. Between 2004 and 2007, the main highway bridge was cut and the 6 million people of Caracas were forced to drive 3 to 4 hours on very steep mountain roads to get to the coast only 20km (12mi) away. On the 18th December, 1999, catastrophe struck after days of unyielding rains caused mudslides that buried whole towns, killing 30,000 people and leaving 200,000 homeless. Since then, the coast has remained a bit of a wreck because governing bodies have decided to develop tourism in other parts of the country like Margarita or Los Roques. However, the Vargas State coastline, overlooked by 2000m (6560ft) high peaks of El Avila Park, provides an incredibly verdant backdrop for surfing this quiet corner of the Caribbean.

When to Go

The venturi effect adds some strength to the Caribbean ENE trade winds when they hit the steep, mountainous coast and bring a constant supply of 2-6ft (0.6-2m) short-period windswell from November to March. During summer, wind direction turn more E and wave size decreases to more like 1-4ft (0.3-1.2). Late summer can bring straight N hurricane swells when the storm tracks into the Caribbean Sea, producing epic conditions, because the trades usually stop blowing and waves can reach 8-10ft (2.5-3m). Venezuela is more quantity than quality, with the majority of waves being punchy onshore shorebreaks or fun pointbreaks ruffled by the sideshores. Winds are usually calmer in the morning, but the waves are smaller as well, since the windswells often build during the day. Sometimes, mountain canyons create localized offshore winds. Tide cycles are semi-diurnal odd, so there is one big tide and one small tide twice a day.

Surf Spots

New breakwaters and seawalls have destroyed a few good surfspots like Punta Piedras, but a few have also been created. Take secret Fido Point for example, where the 2005 Hurricane Emily swell destroyed the jetty, but a short barrelling right now breaks over the ruins. There is a high number of little boulder and rock right points, like Los Caracas, a popular beach about 2hrs drive east from Caracas, where the waves can be excellent near the El Rio rivermouth. Anare may not be an epic beachbreak, but it’s consistent and the small town in front of the beach is really safe and friendly with a good hotel, plus a board shaper called Prisma. Punta Care is a long, right pointbreak, which gets really good over 4ft but it can get crowded. Fido Point offers short punchy rights off a broken jetty where the locals may be a little less welcoming. The whole beach is guarded on Sundays like Playa Pantaleta, a consistent beachbreak, which is best in cold fronts and can handle large swells. Pelua reef lefts work on rare occasions, but on a big swell, Otro Pais, (aka Camuri Grande Club or Paraiso) is the place to be. It’s a fast, powerful, right pointbreak, where barrels are possible, but strong rips and restricted access require lots of paddling. Carmen D’Uria’s great rights are clearly visible from the coastal highway, but hardly anyone surfs there because it’s dangerous to park near the “favellas” (slums). Puerto Azul is another right pointbreak, which is not so crowded, but again, the area can be a bit sketchy. Los Cocos is the most popular, consistent break with super fun lefts near the jetty but expect crowds and pollution, or try Los Coquitos next door. Tanaguarena (aka La Playita or Boca del Rio) sports rocky rights that are shallow, dangerous and really powerful but unfortunately, all too rare. Another Playita, just north of the airport is also a fickle right pointbreak, with good jetty options just to the east. Mamo rights can be very long, breaking next to the Officer’s Club that has restricted access, so park outside and paddle wide. The pretty colonial village of Choroni shelters legitimate reefbreak rights at El Malecon, and a decent shorebreak at Playa Grande. One of Venezuela best beachbreaks is Cuyagua, where the hollow waves near the rivermouth hold some size and it’s quite uncrowded during the week. Good camping and party scene. On the way to Cuyagua, check El Playon and the wedgy lefts and rights at La Punta, the beach furthest west. It’s only a short 30min flight north by prop-plane to the beautiful archipelago of Los Roques. Famous for excellent kitesurfing, there is one consistent small-wave surf spot along with various options for world-class diving.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell NE -E NE -E NE -E NE -E NE -E NE -
swell size (ft) 3-4 3 2-3 2 3 3-4
consistency (%) 90 80 60 50 70 90
dominant wind NE -E NE -E E -SE NE -E E -SE NE -E
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F4 F4
consistency (%) 89 89 86 86 82 85
water temp (C) 26 26 27 28 29 29
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
Caracas has a subtropical climate tempered by its proximity to the sea. It lies in a series of valleys 1000m (3280ft) above sea level and surrounded by majestic tree-clad mountains. Annual average temps oscillate between 25°C and 27°C and vary little year-round. The coldest month is January and the warmest one is May. The dry season runs from December to April and the rainy season from May to November. Average annual rainfall is over 1000mm (40in). Heavy showers are common but usually last an hour at most. A lack of cloud cover brings high daily sunshine hours. Boardies only.

Lodging and Food
There are many high-rise hotels (Ole Caribe) in Naiguata or La Guaira, expect around $50-80/day. In Playa Anare, Villa Anare is $40 /dble, away from the coastal slums. In Cuyagua, posadas are $25/dble like Doña Meche or Cuyagua Mar. Juan Cortado rents flats near Fido Point. Meals cost around $3-5 in small places.

Nature and Culture
Music and cars on the beach, are just part of the crazy beach party scene. Breathtaking mountain scenery plunges into the ocean. Caracas is close and worth a visit for colonial buildings and Las Mercedes nightspots, before taking the Cable Car back to the coast. Ambiance in Cuyagua is unreal, while Carnival is perfect for heavy party animals.