A few days ago, an American surfer was attacked by a crocodile in Costa Rica. The man’s friend is being hailed as a hero after he reportedly fought the crocodile off with his bare hands. The town was Tamarindo, a popular tourist beach with a few really good waves within a stone’s throw.
The victim, who hasn’t been named, was crossing a river when the crocodile bit him multiple times. “It was a vicious attack,” Pat McNulty, a lifeguard in Tamarindo, told The Associated Press. “He was bitten several times in the leg as well as the head.”
Years and years and years ago, so long I can barely remember, I went on my first real surf trip to Costa Rica. I have some vague memory of sitting in a travel agent’s office (that’s how long ago it was!) with my friend Shannon, closing our eyes, and pointing at a map. Like a million others, we first went to Tamarindo. At the time, it was amazing–dirt roads, a few bars, and that’s pretty much it. I’ve heard it’s changed since then. Now I can be one of those people saying, “I was there before it was cool,” which is not very cool.
According to McNulty, the victim of the crocodile attack is from Colorado, and owns a house in Tamarindo. He was traveling with his family when the attack happened. After the crocodile bit him, he was taken to Liberia for emergency surgery. Costa Rican media is reporting that “the victim suffered partial amputation of his right ankle and most of his calf muscle was stripped.”
When I was there, we used to surf a wave we called Casitas, I think. It was a little ways north of the estuary; a fun little right hander with no one out, pretty much ever. We’d walk up the river a little way, wade into the estuary, and ride the outflow to the other side. There were boats that took people across, but we saved our money for those canned Cuba Libres. At some point, a friend of ours who ran a bar called Las Palmas took us a little ways up the river. We had pockets full of hot dogs, and we fed them to baby crocodiles, because we were in our early 20s and didn’t know any better. “Watch out for the big one,” he told us. “It comes from behind.” So we left because crocodiles are scary. As it turns out, we probably should have been taking those boats across.
Officials met after the attack to figure out what, if anything, should be done. According to reports, crocodile relocation and better signage were both possibilities. One can’t escape the fact that Costa Rica has crocodiles, though.
“We live in a country where there’s large crocodiles, and people take for granted that when you go into a river that you’re safe,” McNulty said. “But the fact of the matter is that you need to be aware of your environment. We’re in their world.”