Stab Magazine | Insider Tips: How To Surf Longer In The Tropics

Insider Tips: How To Surf Longer In The Tropics

Staff writer Mikey Ciaramella moved to Costa Rica 10 months ago, here’s what he’s learned. 

style // Jul 18, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’ve spent the majority of the last 10 months stationed in Central America, a place where warmth and waves are bountiful all the year round. 

Blessed is this life, to be sure, but throughout my stay I’ve also experienced some of the less favorable parts of equatorial surfing, such as sun poisoning, severe dehydration, and the type of rash that’d make mother say, “Oh, dear, that’s quite a rash!”

Through these trials I’ve discovered a few secret(ish) hacks that will help you surf longer in tropical locales, without looking like a mid-40s stockbroker on his annual trip to the Ments (aka, no surf hats and/or sunnies allowed).

Who’s ready for a marathon?

surf hat

Strip your wax.

This past February presented an early-season swell that looked ideal for a local rivermouth wave. In preparation for mind-altering portals, I packed a Simon Anderson step-up that I’d been gifted thanks to Stab’s victory in the Retro Surf Series the prior summer. My only other session on the Simon had been at flawless six-foot Blacks (the San Diego version), where after half-a-dozen electric blue tubes I’d deemed it my favorite step-up of all time. Also worth noting: I rode the Simon that day without a traction pad (this becomes relevant later on), after breaking another board on my very first wave, running all the way back up that serpentine slope, and frantically readying the Simon for what would be a career session.  

Now, back to the rivermouth. 

Upon our arrival, the waves were discovered to be slow and soft. For whatever reason, the sand hadn’t built up enough over the dry season to form a proper bank, forcing us to do lazy cutbacks and snaps on the rolling right-handers rather than standing in a full salute. 

This reality didn’t mesh well with the Simon, which not only required significant energy to get down the line, but also remained coated with ‘cool’ wax from that session at Blacks (and of course, it still had no traction pad). This resulted in a frontside lipper becoming all too literal of a maneuver, as the too-soft wax slid from beneath my back foot, forcing it off the end of the board which then sent the nose straight into my grill. 

Blood everywhere, fat lip for a week, but luckily no stitches required. Still, all of this could have been avoided if I’d just stripped that damn cool wax and applied something harder. Or used a pad. Lesson(s) learned.

Get a wax comb and some of that blue goo, here.

Peep the rashie.

Rashguards are doubly useful and arguably cool.

Thanks to hours upon hours spent lying topless against tropical Fu Wax, my once baby-soft skin has become gristly and taut, making it impervious to an abrasion-based rash. But for most folks, who spend just a week or two each season in the tropics, there’s simply not enough time to build up that level of skin resistance. 

You need rash protection, or else your trip will be fucked. 

Through countless trials, I’ve found that a black, long-sleeve rashguard is the premier rash-free abdomen option. It’s lighter and less cumbersome than a T-shirt, eliminates all wax-related rashes, and has the added benefit of providing complete sun protection (T-shirts, esp. white ones, only provide partial SPF). Also, and I’ve been banging this drum for years, but I think an all-black, long-sleeve rashguard looks punk as fuck. Surely I’m not alone in that?

Volcom gets it. 

Don’t forget undershorts.

Rashguards only go so far, literally. To have a truly painless trip to the tropics, you’ve also gotta protect your undercarriage from potential trunk rash. 

Some boardshorts are made from puppy dog ears and couldn’t ruffle your tenders if they tried, but the majority will cause chafing after an extended sesh, often resulting in a sheriffs-coming-to-town waddle and a rash that no consenting co-ed would want to embrace during a moonlit beach romp.

Also, and after discussing this with my peers I realize that it doesn’t affect everyone but that I’m also not alone, undershorts protect your man melons from a different type of pain, this one specific to ass-dragging in a backhand tube. Keeping the boys high ‘n’ tight will allow you to do the same, without fear of your baby-makers becoming a punching bag for a slap-happy wave face. Those who know, know. 

Billabong sells them surfy bike shorts, here.


ROKA Mens Pro Bib Short Black Front

This isn’t made for surfing, but it should be. How’s that nipple protection?

And when you inevitably fuck that up…

Bring some vaseline. It’ll save your life.

Pack all the Hyrdralyte.

This stuff is so good that, before it became globally available, Kolohe Andino was padding his board bag with Hydralyte after trips to Australia, so that he could stay liquidly charged all around the world. 

It’s the Fu Wax of the hydration world.  

Here’s how Hydralyte works: pop a couple tabs in a bottle of water each morning, chug it before you surf, and feel that delicious hydration coursing through your veins. Your mates will be calling you in for lunch before your body feels the slightest hint of fatigue. You’ll decline their request.

Also, Hydralyte doubles as a remarkable hangover antidote. Which is certainly not for nothing.

Wet your insides here.


Wear a sunscreen that won’t come off.

It’s called zinc. Looks really shit but it works. Get it at your local drug store. However, if you can get it (only sold in Australia) Ella Bache Great Sunguard is the Stab favorite for prolonged sessions. It’ll stay on all day. 

Grab some Bache.

And when you inevitably fuck that up…

You’ve been surfing for four hours, the lineup has cleared, but the waves are only getting better. No way you’re going back to the beach/boat/etc. to re-apply some face cream. 

Here’s what you do: before the trip, buy a waterproof, SPF-infused lip balm and stick it in your boardshort pocket (preferably one with a zipper). If you feel your face getting fried, bust that sweet cylinder out and apply generously to your lips, nose, forehead, and other affected regions. 

It ain’t pretty, but it’ll hold off those rays for another 30 minutes or so. Sometimes that’s all it takes. 

Lastly, don’t be a dumbass. Get travel insurance.

This won’t help you to surf longer on your current trip, but it will keep you from going into crippling medical debt, therefore making it possible for you to visit the tropics again—once you’ve healed up, of course. The Divers Alert Network offers a year-long travel insurance policy for less than $200 USD. It covers medical, trip cancellation, lost baggage, etc. Don’t think, just get it.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Introducing A Brand New Travel Series (With A Familiar Name)

Watch the First Three Episodes of Stab & Red Bull No Contest Off Tour.

Sep 30, 2022

Leandro Dora: Pro Surfer, Businessman, Punk Rock Festival Organizer, Spiritual Mentor, And World Title Winning Surf Coach 

Meet one of the most beloved and effective individuals in the athlete's zone.

Sep 29, 2022


You’re Gonna Click On A New Oscar Langburne Video

Style that can't be denied.

Sep 29, 2022

Long Read: An Angel At My Table

From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…

Sep 28, 2022


Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance

A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.

Sep 28, 2022

Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight

Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.

Sep 28, 2022

Wait, Are We Going To See Moana Jones In The Olympics At Teahupo’o?

Team USA (women) and Japan (men) should be able to choose anyone they want to…

Sep 27, 2022

Donald Brink and Matt Biolos Win Mick Fanning’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test

And we had a party in Oceanside to celebrate.

Sep 26, 2022

Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games

Teams Japan, USA, and France move into Victor’s Village.

Sep 26, 2022

The Best Euro Surf Trips That Mightn’t Be On Your Radar

Want to know which less-trodden nation offers the most potential?

Sep 26, 2022

Former CT Surfer Chris Davidson Passes Away At Age 45

A radical life tragically ends outside a bar in New South Wales.

Sep 25, 2022

Where You Should Be In Europe Right Now

An overview of the region's greatest hits.

Sep 25, 2022

The Team Ukraine Interview

“There are mines near the shore, and already a lot of people have died…so it’s…

Sep 24, 2022

Mormaii Founder Raided By Brazilian Feds On Suspicion Of Plotting Against Democracy

Curiously, he's the second surf brand founder to become entangled in a political scandal of…

Sep 24, 2022

The Electric Acid Surfboard Test With Mick Fanning, Episode 4

There are three boards left. Which one is Mick taking home?

Sep 23, 2022

Watch: Tresha

The Bella Kenworthy Edit.

Sep 22, 2022

Photos: Welcome To Vans Stab High Indonesia, Presented By Monster Energy

Welcome to Lakey Peak. Now do airs.

Sep 22, 2022


Taro Watanabe Is The Love Child Of Your Favorite 80’s Surfers

Watch his new edit 'Sonic Youth' now.

Sep 22, 2022