I’m sitting out in the middle of the ocean, legs straddled over my surfboard, tears streaming down my face. It’s pouring rain and the stench of my long-sleeve surf shirt worn by a few too many surfers before me overwhelms my senses. My feet throb from carrying my surfboard over the rocky Costa Rican beach and I’m shivering. There’s only one thing going through mind at this point: surfing sucks.
Now let’s back up a moment and just get on the same page here. I love the outdoors and will openly and not-so-humbly admit that I pick up new things pretty easily. The thought of a new adventure activity gives me the anticipation butterflies in the best way possible. As a Girl Scout, I constantly tried paving new trails on our hikes, literally going off-the-beaten-path. So when I first tried surfing in Lagos, Portugal and didn’t pick it up right away, I was a little disheartened. Figuring practice makes perfect, I would just need to go be a surf bum for a summer and then I’d be an expert. You know, competing against all those other washboard-ab blonde girls with the cool bikinis that somehow never fall off even though I cannot keep one on in the ocean for the life of me.
So when someone brought up the idea to go surfing on one of our first days altogether in the land of pura vida, I actually hesitated for a second. Flashbacks of surfing failure flooded my mind. But, the adventure-lover in me squashed that bug and jumped at the opportunity. As I began my visualization exercises as any professional athlete would, I was sure this time would be different. There were waves, just for me, waiting out there.
Our first day out on the water was almost too perfect. The sky was cloud-free, the weather so warm that there was nowhere else you’d rather be than floating in the blue. We’d all just arrived to paradise ready for vacation bliss. We took pictures with our surfboards and did the Baywatch walk out to the water to try our hats at this thing they call surfing. My cousin, the dancer, got up right away and immediately stole the heart of our surf instructor, Flaco. When her arms got too tired from paddling back out (because she was able to catch so many waves in, Flaco was thrilled to pull her board back out for her. I tried a few times to get up and while there were a few seconds there that I think count as “getting up”, I was no better than that first time I attempted this incredibly difficult sport back in Europe. But, it was a beautiful day and I couldn’t complain. I just need some more practice, right?
After we all called it quits to go watch the sunset over our Jurassic park backyard, I knew I needed to give it another try. The next time would bring that epic moment when I catch that perfect wave and ride it all the way in. I’m no quitter and this is something I’d actually like to be able to do in my future travels.
When one of the boys asked if we wanted to try surfing again on our last day together, I was in. At this point, I’d become accustomed to our new routine and as the howler monkeys awoke me for our 6:00a wake up call, those butterflies resurfaced. We met up with Flaco who shared that we’ d be heading to a more advanced and local surf spot where the waves were bigger and better. We must have really impressed Flaco with our surf skills.
As I tiptoed across the rocky beach, ouch-ing the whole way, I was anxious about getting back into the water. I struggled to paddle out as the waves’ strength felt like a barrier of bricks pushing back on me. By the time I reached a place where I could sit on the board and wait for a wave, I was physically and mentally exhausted.
Watching wave after wave pass me by, tuning Flaco out as he pointed to the ones I should grab, I finally sucked up my inner-whining and went for it. I promptly tumbled off my board, somersaulting through the waves while inhaling gallons of salt water. When I finally reached the surface, gasping for air, I was done – the ocean had defeated me.
I’ll get back out there one day, but until then, I’ll stick to what my uncle likes to call the “janitors of the sea”: Stand-Up Paddle.
Details | There are multiple options for your Costa Rica vacation. Head to the main beach strip and talk to a few shops until you find one you’re comfortable with. We went with Flaco from Dominical Surf Lessons and he was patient and incredibly talented. While he didn’t turn me in to a professional, I would recommend him over and over again.
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