My Costa Rican Surf Experiment: 30 Days at a Surf Camp in Tamarindo - Part I
I’m not a surfer. My last experience catching waves resembled more of a boxing match than anything. One where it felt a little like the ocean had a personal agenda to inflict as much pain on me as possible just to test my resilience.
One particularly graceful moment consisted of me falling over the front of the board, having it scrape across my face – the fin caught me square in the eye - while being pummeled underwater by the waves.
Surfers apparently call this the washing machine. And I now know why.
So, that was last time. But I promise this story gets a lot more optimistic. It even comes with a happy ending, in large part because I finally decided to enlist the help of a professional and get some surf lessons. Actually, I went all in and decided to live at a surf camp for 30 days.
So, here are my best journal entries from my month at Blue Trailz Hostel and Surf Camp. I gave myself a couple days after arriving in Tamarindo to get settled and find my groove before diving right in to my new experiment. The question I wanted to answer was this: Can I return home from Costa Rica knowing how to surf?
Day 1: Given the above anecdote, I was apprehensive as my instructor Juan handed me the board that would be mine for the next two weeks. I felt acutely aware of how much I wasn’t a ‘surfer’ as I fumbled to figure out how to stretch my too-short arms across the seemingly too-big board. I wobbled down the sidewalk to the beach, glancing at the gently rolling waves. This didn’t seem so bad.
With a lot of assistance from Juan, I realized that it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was actually pretty fun. Now, I’m a little angry at my stubbornness – had I really lived in California for two years without learning how to surf because I was so against lessons? Ugh. Typical.
Day 2: Juan taught me the very valuable concept of the tuck and roll so that you go under the waves and not into them. And, for the first time in ever, I felt like the ocean and I were collaborating instead of fighting. After just one day I’m leaning into the oncoming waves, gauging when they will break…over, under, under, over……wait for it….under.
As I start to “read the waves” (or rather look at the open ocean pretending I’m reading the waves because I don’t really know what I’m looking at), I can see the sun glinting off the top off a would-be wave and know it’s go time. This is it, this is mine. Paddle, paddle, paddle….up.
Day 3: Graduation day. Well, sort of. I accidentally grabbed the wrong board and ended up with a shorter one. I did better than I thought I would with it, but I still felt like a wobbly toddler trying to figure out how to walk. I’ll go back to long board tomorrow.
Day 5: Oh boy am I hungry. Like, always. All the hunger all the time. Four meals today and counting….
Day 7: Looking back on week one, most of it was spent practicing in the water. The theme of my week was paddling with an oncoming wave with Juan yelling “PADDLE, PADDLE, UP!” somewhere in the background. Followed by a post-surf nap (read: 2 hour coma) in the hammock. By now, I’m getting consistently better and am able to paddle and stand up with no help.
Day 9: I’ve acquired some pretty good ‘battle wounds’ – or board rashes – on my knees that are finally healed, so I took a trip to nearby Playa Avellanas to surf and relax for the day. It was my first official day out in the water without an instructor and I can happily say it went really well. I caught every wave I went after. Beer: officially earned.
Note: A surfer friend tells me these are evidence that I’ve been getting up on my knees and not my feet, like I’m supposed to, but we can’t all be natural athletes like that.
Day 13: By this time, I’m having so much fun at that I decided to go surfing twice. Blue Trailz is literally 50 feet from the beach, so it’s only a matter of walking from my hammock to the water (hey, I’m embracing the Pura Vida!). I managed to catch sunrise and sunset – two amazing times to be on the water if I do say so myself. It was somewhere around this time that I texted my friend in Puerto Rico and said: “I’ve been surfing everyday. I TOTALLY get it. This is awesome.” Since I didn’t surf for the whole two months that I was there, I’m making a mental note to do so next time.
Rest days are in order. Lucy (my bike) has been assembled and sitting in the corner and she’s calling my name. Time for some land adventures while my arms recover from paddling.
Now, where are those singletracks?
Ready to learn to surf under the guise of an expert, bilingual instructor? Blue Trailz offers surf lessons and surf packages for surfers of every level. Our surf packages include accommodation in either Blue Trailz Hostel (as part of the Surf Camp package) or a local, boutique hotel (Luxury Surf Vacations)