Surf Noobs

Trip Start May 07, 2010
Trip End May 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel El Pargo Feliz

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Thursday, May 13, 2010

With the weather being so hot and muggy, along with the stagnant air, the place was becoming a little unbearable.  We took the opportunity to lounge around a bit since our surf tour didn't start until 1PM.  Breakfast was in order so we headed to the Restaurante La Naranja.  We chose that place because its menu was rather affordable (I still can't get over the fact that food and beer is priced similarly to the U.S.).  Breakfast was typical Costa Rican fare consisting of black bean rice (super yummy), tortillas, eggs, and plantains (sweet fried bananas).  We struck gold because this breakfast was delicious!

I wanted to head back to the room to catch up on sleep since the night before was so uncomfortable.  Still fearing bed bugs, I opted to sleep on one of the wooden tables in the room. LOL.  Rowena hung around in her hammock then eventually made her way to the beach closeby to take some photos.  As 1PM neared, we headed back to the surf shop to meet up with our group and instructors.

At the surf shop, we realized that the other couple was the same German couple in our zipline tour group, Christian and Sylvia!  Cesar, the shop owner, quickly introduced us to our surf instructors, Bi and Alfredo.  Each couple was to have one instructor dedicated to them.  The plan was to do a 20 minute hike to a nice beach spot, get surf instructions for about 15 minutes, hit the water and get more instructions for a couple of hours, take a break, then allow us to continue surfing if we wanted to.

We set off on this 'hike', which was more of a trek because a) it took us about 40 minutes, and b) we trekked through everything from debris filled (mostly tree branches and tree trunks) beach sand, skirted the forest, clumsily teetered on rocks, etc.  By the time we got there, we lost about 5 pounds (hehe kidding, but it was a huff). 

According to our instructors, we were to lie down and center balance ourselves on the board, ankles touching the ends of the board (feet hanging over the tail edge), legs together...  paddle slow at first, gain some momentum and paddle fast... then doing a military push up (flat palms on the board because clamping down on the edges would make it difficult to make quick adjustments), pop-up quickly... legs apart, knees bent, and positioned towards the middle part of the board.  Too far forward and the board would dig into the surf (though I was told it would increase your speed) and to far back, one would simply fall back.  When ditching the board, we were to cross our arms in front of our face in the event the board snapped back.  When we were approaching the waves, we placed our front hand on the side of the board while the second hand at the tail.  This ensures that we had full control of the board when the oncoming waves hit it.  Pretty easy I thought.

When we got to the water, I followed their instructions to a tee and was rather successful from the start.  I tried duckdiving (as opposed to holding the board as instructed) because I thought I was an advanced, natural, bad-ass surfer, born to ride the waves with dolphins.  Well, my instructor Bi said I don't think so and slapped me back to the training pen.  He was right though.  Even with my years of experience body boarding the big waves of California's beaches (that's boodie boarding for those not really familiar with the generic term), riding a surfboard was quite a bit different.  Different muscles, slightly different techniques... and when a little bit of fatigue set in, it was just enough to throw me off.  After a while, my age caught up to me, and I had to take periodic breaks in-between sessions.

Rowena, on the other hand, was struggling from the get-go.  First, she was nearly drowning from the surf because she hadn't been to a beach with waves.  The beaches she did visit (in the Philippines) were like lakes with ankle slapping waves.  Second, she was short, and the instructors were trying to drag her to chest high waters; their chest heights by the way. LOL.  Third, the weight and size of her board (they gave her the largest one to make it easy to ride; the bigger the board, the easier it is to ride it) completely eclipsed her diminutive size and was tossing her around like a rag doll slowly dragging her out to sea.  The current too, was strong at that area by the way.  It really worked my own ankle muscles.  After 45 minutes of trying, Rowena called it quits.  She felt that she was taking too much time from the instructors when others could've benefited from their attention.

Sylvia did very well and along with Christian, surfed, and surfed, and surfed, and surfed, then swam, then surfed, and surfed, and surfed, adjusted their swim suits, then surfed, and surfed, and surfed, and... surfed.  These two were like the Energize Bunny!  They took advantage of the opportunity and then some.  Christian was a natural at this and was probably the best surfer in our group.  He was very successful at keeping himself up then began turning the board later in the day.  Sylvia was successful as well, standing the majority of the time.  I found out later that these two were very active athletes back in Germany.  And Christian was looking to do as much surfing as he could that day because Germany is a landlocked country.  For them to surf again, would be a big travel commitment.  And they simply found it fun of course.

After 2 hours, we all got out of the water for a break and our instructors disappeared temporarily to get us some fresh coconut.  Those things were as refreshing as water and we all quickly gulped it down when they got back.  The dog hanging around us liked it too :).  From there, we all went surfing again.  Christian and Sylvia really surfed, and surfed, and surfed, and...  you get the point.  At about 4:30PM, we all called it quits and began the trek back.  Along the way, I got to talk to Christian about his experience in Costa Rica, his thoughts about Germany, the U.S., and anything else under the sun.  Here's a some interesting points in our conversation:

- Christian and Sylvia were on whirlwind tour of Central America, having started out their vacation in Guatemala, then to Nicaragua, then to Rataan (which they found to be super-cool, extending their vacation there past their original plan), then Costa Rica.  They had used public transportation the entire time.
- Christian works as a Product Engineering manager for a German company and Sylvia works for UNICEF, the humanitarian organization for children.  They are both active athletes as previously mentioned (volleyball, snowboarding, cycling for Sylvia, futbol (that's soccer for you 'Umericans) and swimming for Christian.
- Germans get 25-30 days of vacation/year standard, and can accumulate unused vacations for the following year.
- The German language can express thoughts and ideas very precisely with little room for various interpretation according to Christian (I thought that was an interesting piece of information).
- Christian got asked if he was a Nazi as part of the security check at the Houston airport. We both laughed about that one...  LOL!
- Christian was very informative in explaining to me how strategically important it was for Germany to be in the EU and assist Greece, even if he admits to intentionally shying away from politics.
- There are over 2000 bars and clubs in their hometown city of Cologne (aka Koln), ample entertainment there.

When we all got back to town we agreed to meet up later for drinks the only bar in town, Chico's Bar.  Chico's was rather ho-hum personally with a predominantly foreign tourist clientele (to be expected of course).  Music was good and included other reggae artists besides Bob Marley.  All of us hung out for a bit, then parted ways.  Christian and Sylvia were headed for Mal Pais then to a jungle tour for 3 days then back to Germany, ending their 3 weeks+ vacation run.  As for us, we were contemplating on Mal Pais as well... one last destination to squeeze in our action packed vacation.
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