things can change fast..


Well-Known Member
Feb 6, 2015
PNW between here and there
Someone posted a pic of Tamarindo, and it flashed me back..

First run to Costa Rico, late 80's, wife and I got in late, stop for the night in Tamarindo on our way further south. Grab a decent enough room, raining off and on, some pretty heavy looking anvil clouds offshore, wife says she's going to grab a nap, I decide to amble down to the beach and go for a swim, stick some bills in a plastic bag into my baggies for maybe an after swim beer, and shove off.

Some surfers out scattered up and down the beach, pretty crappy surf, put in some yards swimming north, swim back, hang out a bit, body surfing the waist high onshore closeouts.
Dark clouds start drifting over, see some anvils starting to really stretch upward and get blacker, suddenly the wind just dies out and everything gets really still.

The entire sky lights up as a massive lightening strike just slams into the ocean maybe a quarter mile away, so bright it's like someone had just triggered a camera flash in my eyes close up, an immediate massive boom that I literally feel in my bones, and then the skies open up and it begins raining just friggin buckets, a torrential downpour.

Swim, high step, make the beach, join the stampede, surfers and beach goers to the left and right of me, all of us sprinting for shelter, water coming down so hard and thick hard to even see.

Find my way to a beach side bar, open sides, wood roof, join the growing throng, work my way to the counter, find myself next to a strapping blonde guy, looks like a college linebacker, he's ordering a beer, I say make it two, and pull some bills from my bucket. Lineback tells me in a thick German accent he's got it, we're begin to bullshit, rain is just relentless, hard to talk, suddenly another massive lightening explosion, this one maybe closer, and now the rain is impossibly raining even harder, and soon there's a few inches of water running over our feet, then quickly a few more, and suddenly we're ankle deep in water, so I say fuck it, and jump up onto the wood bar, German does the same, and suddenly everyone who can find room has jumped onto the bartop. Everyone is laughing, barman and his assistant slamming ordered beers and drinks up as fast as he can.

So we're pulling on the beer, run them dry, I get the bartenders attention, order a couple more, we exchange names, Hans the German asks where I'm from. Tell him from San Francisco area, he immediately gets excited, asks me how old I am, bit of a WTF moment until he explains he's a musician who's a huge fan of 60's SF rock music, and starts going on about Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service...explain to him how I spent my teenage years sneaking into the Avalon Ballroom and The Fillmore, saw all the bands he mentioned and a bunch more either play at the halls or in concerts in Golden Gate park. Now Hans is just jacked, wants details, a hundred questions, orders another round of beers, water staying about ankle high running through the bar, occasional bright flash and howitzer boom from the too damn close lightening. All damn good fun, Hans infectious stoke is a hoot, sitting on a bartop, getting a beer buzz in the middle of an intense storm, talking about one of my passions, just one of those moments that you're glad to be in.

Which is when I see a guy with a boogie board go running by the bar, laughing and kicking water with his feet, going in the wrong direction, heading for the beach. And before I can yell at him he disappears from sight.

Hans is yakking away, I'm half listening to him and wondering what the hell that guy was thinking, and suddenly there is a massive discharge, the biggest and closest strike yet, literally rocks the bar, painful on the ears. And then the rain suddenly starts to slow up, within a few minutes the level is low enough we can jump off the bartop onto the concrete floor.

And than we hear the sirens..coming closer and closer, until their right on top of us, and I get a sick feeling in my stomach, cause at that moment I just know.

Turned out the young man who ran by me had told his new wife, who'd he just married the day before and just arrived in CR on his honeymoon with, that he wanted to catch a couple of waves in the rain, thought it would be a hoot. What he caught instead was a massive strike that just center punched him steps away from the surf, and fried him on the spot.

As the word spread, it was like a switch had been clicked, and what had been a laughing, rollicking crowd in a bar became a fast departing group of sobering up mourners. Hans and I shook hands, wished each other the best of luck, and went our separate ways. All the way back to the room, plodding through the puddles now covering the streets and sidewalks, I wondered at the whiplash of life.

Some would say that young man was an absolute idiot and they would be right. Others that he was just stoked and following his heart, and they would be right as well. The thing is, there is often too little rhyme or reason in this life, we just do the best we can, and hopefully make a lot more good decisions and a whole lot less bad ones, because sometimes there just isn't any coming back from the bad ones.

The weather cleared up by the next morning, we headed south, found a couple of great places, met some good folks, scored some hella fun waves, and settled into our 3 week vacation. One afternoon, following a morning session on a newly arrived swell, as I was getting ready to depart our cliffside bungalow for another session, I noticed some large cloud formations just offshore were starting to condense and darken, and after sitting quietly for a few minutes on the porch staring out at sea, could hear the faintest sound of thunder off in the distance. And decided it was an excellent time to start on that neglected paperback, from the safety of the porch hammock...
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
Jun 26, 2017
Eugene, OR
Wow, what a crazy story.

I lived in Tamarindo for about a year over a 3 year period and we used to surf without fear during the thunderstorms and crazy downpours. Last May when I went down there for a 2 week session a fisherman had died on the beach from a lightning strike and I started to look into it closer and quickly realized if there is thunder in the air you have to get out. You can get shocked from something like a football field away when the lightning hits the water.

Even sharing this info with friends they still would paddle out in it, but I'll be the guy on the beach drinking a beer waiting for it to clear. There will be a wave tomorrow ;)


Active Member
Mar 21, 2018
Spring Lake Heights, NJ
Sad story, but well written and shared!

Good reminder not to take lightning lightly

All this- after just finishing mowing my lawn this afternoon in a thunderstorm!


Well-Known Member
May 8, 2013
USA Rhode Island
Amazing tale man. You seriously never disappoint.
It's raining here right now and thunderstorms are due. I'm swapping out fins in a quad fish in the next few minutes with eyes on a buoy and tide rebound looking for a narrow window.
If I see Wile E Coyote prying open an ACME crate with Anvil Cloud Maker written on the side I'll take heed.