You've wrestled with the figurative crocodile, no? You know, the white-water crocodile that tosses you and turns you and subjects you to repeated death rolls every time your duck dive doesn't penetrate quite deep enough? It's a real stubborn bastard, that crocodile.

But an actual crocodile is an altogether different, even stubborner bastard of a proposition. It has teeth for a start, and a bite stronger than that of any shark, in some cases rivalling even that of a tyrannosaurus rex. Canadian surfer Val Muscalu was waiting in the line-up on the first day of his trip to the Costa Rican town of Tamarindo when a set of crocodile teeth clamped down nice and hard on his left foot and proceeded to rip him off his surfboard.

All the Montreal native can remember of what happened next is kicking like a maniac and swimming backstroke in to shore, where other surfers wrapped his rash vest around his bleeding foot to stem the flow before rushing him off to hospital. Muscalu had had been able to resist the crocodile's efforts to drag him under, managing to keep himself afloat and eventually wriggling free. Because in taking on Muscalu, the crocodile just happened to have singled out a former member of the Canadian national water polo team, uniquely prepared for such a struggle.

Val Muscalu's foot post-attack. Photo: Val Muscalu

croc bite

“I couldn’t tell what it was," Muscalu told The Tico Times. “But that thing was strong enough to pull me off my board. I thought it was a shark, but people on the beach saw a crocodile swim back into the river."

Muscalu suffered some damage to the tendon, according to the doctor who treated him, but nothing too severe. Officials from Costa Rica’s National Park Service have said that because the Tamarindo Estuary is part of a national park, the crocodile suspected of the attack will not be removed from its current home of the estuary at Playa Grande; scientific evidence of overpopulation would be required in order to go through with such a move. Locals believe the crocodile in question only leaves the river -- and thereby becomes a potential threat to surfers and swimmers -- early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Since 2013, there have been seven other reported crocodile attacks in Costa Rica, including one on a Spanish surfer -- who likewise survived the attack -- in the very same spot. Last year a man was eaten alive when he attempted to swim across the notoriously croc-infested Tarcoles river when he was drunk. Never a good idea, we don't care how shit-hot at water polo you think you are.

But Costa Rica is home to some of the funnest waves in the world -- just ask Carlos Muñoz -- and it's a great destination for a surf trip, crocodiles notwithstanding. So don't be a pussy, paddle fearlessly out into the Costa Rican line-up and wrestle some crocodiles, figurative or otherwise. Just don't get pissed and try to swim across any rivers.