Going surfing is an activity that’s almost an obligation on a visit to Costa Rica. Mandatory even. On pain of death. Many people go there solely for its epic breaks and beautiful beaches. In my 30 years on the planet, I had yet to try it, so this seemed like the perfect time. I’d done a bit of body-surfing (catching waves with no board- the poor man’s surfing), but that pales in comparison to the speed you get on a board.
After doing some reading, Tamarindo seemed a sensible starting point. The waves were good for beginners, which sounded perfect, but proved to have it’s negatives too… On the one hand, it means people who are set to fall over a lot (like me) won’t get too badly hurt- which is good. On the other hand it means the waves are likely to be crowded by loads of learner surfers falling over and crashing into each other- which is bad. We also soon realised that part of the learning process was learning to avoid all the people in the sea, who seem to pop up at the worst moment (ie just when you’ve managed to stand up on the perfect wave).
The photo above was taken in Tamarindo in the morning, before all the american tourists, boozehounds, and american tourist boozehounds come out. The long sandy beach stretches far into the distance on both sides. To the right of this image is a lagoon that houses a collection of crocodiles, who occasionally stray into the sea via the river mouth. The thought of man-eating crocs lurking beneath the waves certainly gave me an incentive to stay on the board.
But despite this fear, I fell into the water many, many times. At one point I struggled to even get back on my board as wave after wave knocked me under. Being hurled under a wave with a giant fibreglass floating device attached to your leg is quite an experience. While you’re being put through a spin cycle in a salty, sandy washing machine, you’ll feel a sharp yank at your leg as the board, oblivious of your struggles, is aching to take the wave itself. It’ll pull you backwards, and as you surface and try and control the beast, another wave will crash down on your head and the cycle will start again.
A new-found respect for surfers was quickly fostered in me. It was one of the toughest workouts I’d had in years, and I’d barely been in the sea 30 minutes! But the rush of getting a wave for the first time, and not falling off, was sheer adrenalin. When our two hour lesson was up, we took the boards back barefoot and negotiated with the trainer dude to take them out again in a few hours. As the sun set and we went in for ‘just one more wave’, I knew I’d answered a calling I’d had for a long time.