Surfs Up!!!

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Note: For the remainder of our trip we will occasionally have a special guest writer in addition to the usual "he said, she said". Julie, a good friend from the US has joined us for our travels throughout Central America.

Julie Said:

Clearly a beach resort town, Tamarindo caters to international and domestic tourists. On our initial drive through town, none of us were particularly impressed. This beach side settlement was far from quaint, marked by many souvenir shops, American fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, and overpriced tourist guided activities. However, after some searching, we stumbled upon Casa Cook, slightly outside of town but along the beach so we could walk beach side into town if we chose. Although the street side of Casa Cook was under construction, the beach side, around the other side of the custom made pool, offered a tranquil, scenic place to spend our nights. Also, our ¨cabina¨ had a full kitchen where we (well, Todd, mostly) cooked our meals. He fried up an outstanding snapper (which we bought fresh and whole at the local market) one night. Eating has not been a problem for us!

The first day on la Playa, we spent lounging on hammocks, hanging from trees yards from the beach. All three of us read our books, snoozed and enjoyed the slow pace of the day. Eventually, the daily thunderstorm rolled in and we scuttled inside like the colorful red and black crabs that peppered the beach. Oh...and have I mentioned the beach? The water held almost a Caribbean blue hue, but because of the black and tan (yes, like the beer) shades of the velvety sand, the water, although a clear blue, is somewhat subdued. The waves role in on a long, flat stretch to the beach so that at low tide, one looks across the black and tan mottled beach and imagines that it´s a giant swath of smooth ice, but instead her footsteps are absorbed by the warm waves gently spreading across the beach. Of course, at high tide, the surfers bring out their boards to catch those long, rolling, approachable waves. Even Katie and I, after a try our two during our two hour lesson, were able to stand on our boards and catch a wave. La Playa Tamarindo is a novice surfer's playground and I have to say, I understand the surfer's addiction. I wanted to continue to catch those waves long after our two hour lesson was finished. Alas, my thirty something body began to creak a bit and both Katie and I decided to call it a day before we incapacitated ourselves for the rest of the trip. Todd, of course, rejected the lesson and surfed throughout the morning with much success and many antics to distract Katie and me from our watery endeavors. All in all...I´ll be happy to jump on a board anytime the offer presents itself!

Todd Said:

It seems that a pattern we've established on this trip is that anytime we spend a few days sightseeing and bouncing around from place to place, we want to stay in one place and sit still for awhile...and that sitting is preferably done on a beach. The location this time is Playa Tamarindo on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. This lovely stretch of speckled sand dotted with small hotels unfolds around a large bay with gentle breaking waves. One big bonus; every night the beach plays host to some of the most lovely and richly colorful sunsets I've ever witnessed.

Tamarindo is one of those exceptional beaches that is perfect for learning to surf. The waist-high waves roll for extended lengths through the shallows providing the ideal place for novices to give the sport a try. Yesterday morning while Katie and Julie took a first-timers lesson, I rented a big longboard (10') and paddled out. My surfing experience prior to Tamarindo consisted of a few feeble attempts in Oregon thrashing about in a thick wetsuit and being battered by freezing cold waves. I think my cumulative time actually standing up on the board added up to less than fifteen seconds. Needless to say, I was hoping the huge stable board, no wetsuit, and calm waves would help me to at least get up once or twice in this go around. I was not disappointed. Within a few minutes of paddling out, a set of waves began to swell, I got into position, started paddling like mad and before I knew it, I was up, and as the Beach Boys sing, "Sittin' on top of the world"!!! I couldn't believe it! The wave propelled me along at a slow pace for a good half minute, longer than all my previous rides combined! In the next two hours I had at least a few dozen similar waves and began to figure out how to maneuver the huge board. No "hang tens", but I picked it up fast and soon was able to weave through the crowds bobbing in the water without decapitating anyone. Katie and Julie did equally well, each getting in a lot of long rides! Maybe we should look into buying boards...I wonder how the surf is in New Jersey?

Reluctantly we'll be leaving the beach tomorrow. We are continuing the adventure on into Nicaragua where we'll hopefully start to experience the "real" Central America!

Katie Said:

We lucked out in Playa Tamarindo and found a really cute two-bedroom cottage with a kitchen right on the beach owned by a retired American couple. The place had a private pool and was located at the end of the beach in a tranquil area. With the complete end of our trip and our jobs lurking in the not too distant future, it really felt like we were on a real vacation (instead of constantly moving and repacking our backpack).

It feels good to be back at the beach again. I LOVE the beach and think that I could possibly be addicted to beaches. There is nothing like beach breezes, the sound of crashing waves, and soft sand beneath your feet. Throw in a good book and a beach chair, and you have the makings for the perfect afternoon (and sunscreen and some shade, of course).

Add in waves with gentle conditions and a two-hour surfing lesson, and you have just put the icing on the cake for any beach bum. Usually, surfing would not be something that appealed to me...huge waves crashing on you, sharks mistaking you for a seal snack, cold water, rocks and coral just waiting to cut you, and just generally taking a beating while trying to learn. Plus standing up on a board on moving water looked really tough... at least in snowboarding the ground is stationary. But in Tamarindo, none of these conditions exist... shallow warm water (we were never in over our shoulders), nice waves with little undertow or strange currents, complete sandy bottom, and an extremely low history of shark snacking. And our teacher (an American girl from Pennsylvania) was soothing and patient, and really made you feel like you could do it. And what do you know... on my second attempt, I made it on to my feet and rode for about 10 seconds! Really cool. We spend the next few hours learning all the basics, like how to choose a wave, when to start paddling, and getting better at standing up. It was really fun, and our only regret was that we didn't have more time there to get in a few more surfing days. Looks like we might be making a trip back in the future!

Anyway, Todd and Julie are really keen to move on into Nicaragua (while I would be just as happy staying here!), so tomorrow we are off again. But, I am looking forward to our final week of traveling... all on the beach in Honduras.
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