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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Enjoying the Pure Life in Costa Rica


Remember this post - the one about celebrating the start of a marriage a little bit less and celebrating the continuation of one a bit more? Well B Daddy and I took that idea to heart and decided to throw ourselves a weeklong party to celebrate 10 years of marriage. We left the day after Christmas to spend a week in Costa Rica surfing, doing yoga and having uninterrupted conversations over a dinner I didn't have to cook and he didn't have to clean up.
8 days in Costa Rica. In this beautiful place the locals are known for their expression "Pura Vida," they throw it around constantly. It's difficult to translate into English ("pure life" doesn't do it justice) but basically it means that no matter what is going on in your life -messy, hard, bad, ugly- there is always something to be grateful for. Always something someone else would look at and desire, always beauty in the mess...always joy in the crazy. Pura Vida is an expression of eternal optimism. It seemed like the perfect place to celebrate 10 years of this crazy beautiful life with B Daddy.  

5 days would be spent on a "learning vacation" at The School of the World where we would take daily classes. For me that looked like surfing and yoga and for B Daddy it was surfing and a GoPro class. The last 3 days we rented a beachfront bungalow that fronted one of the most consistent surf breaks in the world.
8 days. It was a luxurious amount of time for us. And then we got there and everyone asked, "Oh...why only one week!?" Funny how different the international perspective on travel is from our American one.

We arrived Sunday and our driver graciously stopped along the drive from the airport to show us a river that more than 3,000 crocodiles call home. He offered to book a boat tour if we were interested. Gosh thanks but no. Nope. Never.
After 90 minutes of driving, we pulled up at the school. 12 years ago I spent a summer here courtesy of the University of Georgia. I was enrolled in Spanish and Photography courses (surf class didn't meet the guidelines of the scholarship money I was using...) so everyday I tailed the surf class to the beach and tried to unlock the mystery of surfing from afar. My memories of surfing that summer are mostly of frustration. I watched other students catch wave after perfect wave, and spent my time in the water paddling too slowly or getting closed out on by smarter, faster locals when I did manage to stand up on my board. Looking back I should have hired an instructor and taken a few lessons, but money was tight and I spent what little I had on excursions around the country and dial-up internet cafe access. Remember that?

The vibe of the school today is almost exactly the same as 12 years ago (although Wifi this time around was a bonus) a friendly, like-minded group of twenty and thirty-something people who love travel and are open to learning new things. How many 40 year olds do you know who take vacation time to go sit in Spanish class in a foreign country? There were 3 there the week we stayed. 40 year olds that is. About two dozen Spanish students in all. Most of whom were taking a combination of yoga, surfing, photography or GoPro classes like we were.

We got to meet several students Sunday night and the rest Monday morning as we wandered into class and got organized for our first trip down to the beach and our first ever real surf lessons.
Y'all. Surfing with an instructor is SO FUN. I highly recommend it, if you have the means. After five minutes in the water on Day 1 I popped up and caught the first wave I was pushed into. I turned back to paddle out wondering if that was a fluke. Wave 2 felt even better. Standing up was the easy part and I found myself grinning from ear to ear on the paddle back out. I paddled over to my instructor, watched the beach and waited for him to tell me to paddle, and then popped up when he yelled at me. Wave. Wave. Wave. Wave. Two hours flew by. Paddle out, sit up, watch the water and wait for my turn. Paddle to my instructor Alonso, face the beach and wait for his cue. Paddle, push, stand and ride. It seemed easy.

On Day 2 we drove south to a beach called Esterillos because the waves in Jaco were small. The waves looked big. The paddle out was rough. There was a rip tide to push against. By the time I made it out 200m and sat up past the break, I was panting hard. These waves looked big. (Big is a relative term when you're sitting out in the water. What looked big to me would probably look normal to you. We are not talking overhead barrels here...) I got the first wave of the day by chance and stood up easily. Alonso yelled at me to turn right and I rode the glassy face of that wave for about 25 yards. It might as well have been a mile. I felt like a total stud. Then I fell off and realized I had to paddle back out again. Crap.

Our long drive to the beach meant that the 2-hour session turned into one hour of actual time in the water. During which I caught four great waves, missed two and sat in the line up watching a bad-ass surf chick from Florida rip up and down waves to my right. It was a gorgeous morning. I was so bummed B Daddy wasn't there to watch. (I was in the beginner class, he was busy doing this in the "not beginner" class.)


We got back to the school and I bounced up to our room, yelling, "Surfing is so fun!" as I jumped on B Daddy Tigger-style. (As shown in this picture and seen in the video below, when you go on a surf vacation you spontaneously start doing the shaka thing with your hand whenever a camera is pointed at you.) Two sessions with an instructor and I'd caught more waves than I had in an entire summer trying to figure things out on my own. There's a lesson there for the girl who came to Costa Rica 12 years ago and rode a bus an hour in the wrong direction because she didn't want to look like a tourist and ask if it was indeed going where she needed to go. Motherhood has humbled me y'all. 

For surf session 3 we were back in Jaco where the waves had picked up but the paddle out still wasn't far. Day 3 was when it started to get really fun. I had the confidence to start turning into the wave and riding the long face of it sideways. I also I realized how much more to surfing there is than just standing up on your board. Alonso stopped pushing me. Which meant I actually had to paddle hard to catch a wave. I watched sadly as more than one crested and crashed in front of me while I slid down the backside.

Between his occasional pushes and my luck catching a few on my own I had the best time. It was an hour before sunset and every time I had to paddle back past the break I had the motivation of catching just one more before the sun set on the day.
B Daddy set me up with the GoPro for the afternoon, which he used to make this brilliant little video and capture some still frames that make everything look cooler and more exciting than it was. Okay that's not true. I was thrilled to be on the waves and felt incredibly cool, so if that's what you get from the picture or video, then they are reflecting real-life. If you're extrapolating that you're seeing a surfer who knows what she's doing - now that is not real-life. I was stoked, but by no means was anyone on the beach thinking, dang that girl is amazing. I made this less brilliant video which is slightly more reflective of an actual surf day. Lots of sitting around waiting for a wave, lots of falling off the board and lots and lots and lots of paddling.
Day 4 and Day 5 were a mixture of fun and frustrating. I'd say I was 1 out of 4 on catching waves on my own and 1/2 on catching and having a great ride on ones Alonso helped me figure out. My take-away from the trip was that it is COMPLETELY worth it to hire a guy (or girl) who knows what they're doing to push you into waves in order to have a higher ride ratio and therefore a better time. This is now my plan for any and all future surf trips.

On the last ride of the last morning of surfing the fin of my board hit me hard in the face while I was underwater and I came up holding my cheek and wincing. A quick glance from the German girl next to me told me that yes, it was in fact bleeding, which meant I had the privilege of visiting the local hospital and getting an insider's perspective on healthcare in the 3rd world. Suuuuper fun let me tell you. But hey, 4 stitches and $106.00 later I was on my way.

But y'all I didn't have to miss a single wave! And after laying around that morning while B Daddy took his GoPro class and field trip, I felt good enough to head to yoga class and stand on my head.
       
On Saturday we checked out of school and headed for part 2 of our adventure, which started off with  an afternoon of zip lining over waterfalls and then rappelling down them. After we checked into our bungalow that evening and pinched ourselves to be sure this was all actually happening, we took a short walk down the beach to watch a sunset surf competition along side some folks from School of the World.

The next day B Daddy woke at sunrise to go surfing while I (heeding advice from my RN sister because all I understood from the doctor who treated me was not to slather my stitches in sunscreen. #thanks) watched from the beach with a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other that I finished drinking all in one go without having to microwave it. How do you like that mama friends!? Cheers to the good life.

We spent all day Sunday rotating from the porch to the beach to the pool to the porch. It was UN-REAL. Y'all the ocean was 50 steps away and the pool was 40. Does life get any better? I argue it does not.


On Monday we did the same thing for a few hours before our ride pulled up to take us to the airport. We left with full hearts and considerable brain capacity devoted to how we can pull off another surf trip soon and maybe even bring the kids along.
We have some amazing people to thank for even being able to get on a plane. Debbie and Bill, Trisha and Charlie, Matthew and Bonnie, Anna and Lee. 8 people sacrificed their Christmas vacation time to care for our kids so we could escape for 8 days. The mere fact that two people who have 4 children all under age 7 were able to leave the country for 8 days is ludicrous. I am so thankful we have a tribe who supports us and our marriage enough to sacrifice for us. It was an investment I know will be paying dividends long into the future.
Again, B Daddy makes much better videos of everything, which you can see HERE (if you follow him on Instagram...which you should cuz he's hot and awesome)  and there should be more videos coming as he finds time to put to use all the new tricks he learned in his GoPro class.

Pura Vida!





 
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