Gas Prices Crimp Surfers’ Style

July 18, 2008

ESTERILLOS ESTE – When Aaron Kraut, 24, and three of his friends from medical school started planning a surfing trip to Costa rica two months ago, renting a car was one of the first things to be cut from the budget.

“We knew that gas prices in Costa rica were even higher than gas prices in the (United) states,” said Kraut, “so we decided not to rent a car.”

Surfing, which has always existed as a laidback counterculture to the modern capitalistic world, has begun to feel the ripple effect of this petroleum-dependent age. Manufacturing and shipping prices, affected directly by the rising cost of oil, have caused a sharp increase in the cost of living of today’s everyday nomadic water carvers. industry-wide sales and revenue are expected to be off 20 to 30 percent, according to an Associated Press report earlier this month.

Kraut and his friends have surfed in classic destinations, such as tahiti, south America, Puerto rico, New Zealand and Australia. on all those trips, they rented a car to take them from beach to beach, break to break, in search of that perfect wave.

This trip to Costa rica, however, was different. “Not renting a car meant we saved a bunch, but lost a lot of mobility,” says Hunter Moore, 25, a friend of Kraut’s. While driving up and down a given coast in search of the choicest breaks is normally part of the surfing day, in this case, “we chose a spot, and pretty much knew we would be there the whole month,” Moore says.

The group found their house in Esterillos Este, on the central Pacific coast, after searching Craigslist for cheap places to stay. The Internet has become more popular for surfers looking to save time and money.

The group checked Web sites that post tides and wave heights, as well as expected swells and weather reports. With that information, they decided on Esterillos, about 30 minutes south of the more popular Jacó beach.

“With a car, we would have driven up and down the coast looking for waves” said Baron Reyes, “but with the online information, we felt comfortable with our decision not to rent.”

To find plane tickets to Costa Rica, the group used a Web site that optimizes cheap ticket prices by combining different airlines.

“We flew from Burlington to New York on United Airlines, then New York to Atlanta on US Air, and then Atlanta to Costa Rica on Delta Airlines.”

They decided not to bring their own boards, as many airlines have added new excess luggage fees in the face of rising gas prices that can add hundreds of dollars to the price of a ticket.

After close to 22 hours of traveling the group finally made it to Jacó, where they inquired about renting boards for the month. They were amazed with the high prices. “After the plane ticket, I wasn’t sure I was going to make the board cost,” said Moore.

As the price of petroleum-based resin, used to coat surfboards, continues to rise, so do the prices of boards. Some board manufacturers are even replacing their boards’ interiors with bamboo instead of oil-based sheetboard, the AP reported. Combined with the cost to ship the brand names to distant places like Costa Rica, surfers here are looking at a heavy blow when purchasing or renting boards.

As the waves curled just 50 feet from their front door, the group of four medical students from Vermont settled into their new home for the month of July, intent on guarding the money they had left.

“We aren’t buying bottled water,” said Hannah Caulfield, pointing to an old coffeemaker on the floor in the corner.

“We filter it through there. The water is usually pretty warm, and it tastes a lot like old coffee,” she said, “but it gets the job done.”

 

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