Growing up in the mountains with my feet firmly planted on two skis, surfing was never really on my radar. Even in my native Brazil, we were always inland — visiting family in rural Sao Paolo state. The coast and ocean was just a distant idea.
Years after my clocked ticked 4-0, I gingerly made a first attempt at the “new-to-me” sport as a healthy way to take a break from the extended winters that Montana is noted for.
It started (and sort of temporarily ended) with a trip to Mexico where I had a ad-hoc hour long lesson. Forget learning any details on technique, the lesson consisted of some pop up instruction, a few shove-ins from the whitewater, and a stance consisting of placing my lagging hand upright and the leading arm outstretched in front pointing at the beach, in a sort of American basketball offensive foul call.
The following days were filled with being trounced in the spin cycle surf then tossed out and cushioned by a vast carpet of a recent sea urchin bloom.
The monotony was broken by the jolt of a sting ray. The sting painfully abated by soaking in a concoction cooked up by the local surf shack. A bucket of indigenous leaves mixed in boiling hot water and a local hooch tequila chaser provided slow relief.
After three weeks of dutiful punishment I ended up in a crowded ER deep in the old part of Zihuatanejo with a festering and spreading infection.
“Mi mano no esta bien” — a phrase curiously absent from the Lonely Planet phrasebook — gave the local doc on duty an afternoon smile.
An embedded urchin spine was the culprit. I was sent out the door with a prescription for a hefty dose of “antibioticos.” The receptionist typed out the invoice in triplicate carbon copy — forty two pesos equivalent to the price of an order of guacamole which would most certainly have been more enjoyable. The experience left me with a wilted attitude toward the ocean and the sport. I could see no fun in prolonged periods of pain followed by panicked excursions to the local hospital of a developing nation.
See below the receipt, which I taped into my journal for proof of the cost of a visit to the local ER:
I was ready to throw in the towel when my husband and his friend Sarah discovered a place called Surf Simply in Playa Guiones, Costa Rica. They went down on a trial run to see if the place was truly as great as all of the glowing 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor.
Todd returned from Costa Rica raving about his trip. “It’s the perfect beach break for learning. The surf is incredibly consistent and friendly. No crowds. No sea urchins. Top notch instruction. Lovely accommodations. Etc. etc. etc.”
He had a proposition; He would take me to try the place out as a holiday gift and if I still wasn’t psyched about surfing, then he would agree that it may truly not be my sport.
How could anyone say no to that kind of offer?
By saying yes to learning and adventure while saying no to my fears and insecurities, I came to know and love Surf Simply, the sport and have a new found appreciation for the ocean and waves.
The surf camp completely changed my perspective, skill level and confidence through a spectacular experience in and out of the water.
To begin, your experience level is assessed by a detailed pre-trip questionnaire.
The coaching ratio is exceedingly low and overall group size limited to 12. One coach for every one-three students, but typically two. Two sessions per day allow for ample personal instruction under different conditions, punctuated by on-land theory lessons and video analysis. The teaching ability and technical skill level of the coaches is stellar, but they’re also just plain fun people to be around.
Here Harry is describing the finer details of a white water climb to Todd and Sarah:
My initial forays into the sport had left me with precisely no knowledge of surfing. My run-ins with critters of the ocean had left me with, well, lets call it a concern for what lurks below.
As a Level 1 beginner, I learned with Coach Jessie and Prado how, why and when to pop up on a surf board, how the board works and how to control it, what your functional stance should look like. More advanced skills such as trimming and carving turns, paddling techniques, turtle dives, reading a surf report, the science of the swell, and safety protocol were introduced throughout the week. Most importantly, I learned a critical skill for ocean excursions — “the sting ray shuffle.”
This year I transitioned to Level 2 with Coach Jessie. We covered how to read and assess waves, binary and dynamic selection of waves, finding spot X, angled take offs, board design and etiquette were added to the arsenal of knowledge as well as a lot of review of Level 1 skills. I also learned a great deal about small victories and my own perceived limitations.
Below Coach Jessie and I are OTB (Out The Back) with the advanced students:
A slight miscalculation on a bigger wave leads to a great wipe out hall of fame photo:
Our friend Whitney consults with Coach Andre about her great pop up:
Team Skittles, 2015. A group consisting of our close friends took over the camp and we had a great time!
Surfing three hours a day is enough to exhaust every muscle from the tip of the head to your toes. Throughout the week, I discovered muscles that I’ve never used – ever.
Thankfully, Surf Simply has a strategy to counterbalance the intense physical activity of the practical sessions.
Daily yoga sessions and massage available to each of us brings relief. A fantastic private chef keeps our appetites satiated. A community refrigerator stocked full of cold beverages and ice cream greets weary participants every day. Fresh baked treats and hot coffee by the gallon available 24-7.
The community rancho is flanked by an inviting and fresh pool. Hypnotic looping surf videos and an enormous built in sectional, comfortably host nap and relaxation time.
Oriana, the photographer for Surf Simply, professionally documents the experience. Ru, the founder of the resort, navigates the waves with his Go Pro, capturing a unique action perspective from water level. Laura shoots and edits all the Surf Simply monthly films. Upon departure they give you a stunning album of images and video on a thumb drive to share and print from – a cherished send-off gift.
It’s an intimate, luxury experience in every way. Thoughtful approach, attentive, friendly and professional staff, excellent cuisine both within the rancho and the restaurant selections for our dining field trips. I couldn’t have a higher recommendation for a week at Surf Simply. It’s simply the best.
Until next year – thank you for the great images and video Ru, Laura and Oriana! And thank you to all the amazing coaches who make the week memorable for a lifetime!