Discovering The Tranquillity Of Surfing
19.11.2011 - 03.12.2011
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So I'm going to combine days two and three into a single post, partly as each post is taking me a long time to actually finish, and partly because day two wasn't really that exciting in terms of writing about it.
'Woken by the call of the howler monkey' are not words I ever believed would pass my lips. I've now been proven wrong. The dawn chorus here takes on something a little closer to lots of dogs barking rather than the nice, gentle calls of birds. Not that on this particular day it minded as I had to be awake for the 6 A.M. yoga class. Yes, this is early, but out here the day kind of ends when the sun goes down, so by 8:30 or 9 in the evening, everyone is in bed. Early to bed also equals early to rise here so a 6 A.M. yoga class, at least for the locals, would be perfectly normal. For me, it was a struggle to make it out of bed. Make it I did though, and I'm glad of that, as if I had given up the yoga this early into the trip, I'd never have picked it back up again. This was also the class that felt like a gym session (from my yoga post) and felt like it took all my energy before we even hit the waves!
Surfing for the day was essentially based on practising and perfecting the stance from yesterday and catching as many white water waves as possible. While this doesn't sound overly exciting, it hammered home the fundamentals and gave everyone plenty of chances to correct any errors before bad habits set in.
While surf practice wasn't massively engaging (which after THAT yoga class may have been a good thing), the theory lesson for the day was an expertly presented class on predicting surf. Now, as an earth scientist, I have something of an inkling of how complex a topic meteorology can be and, as such, how difficult it can be to make any kind of accurate prediction. However, Harry (the instructor) gave an excellent, engaging lecture that brought the whole subject down to levels that everyone could follow and understand. Taking a difficult subject and making it appear simple is not an easy task, and to keep it engaging too is even harder. Yet Harry achieved all this without even breaking an academic sweat. I now ask that you all join me in giving Harry the round of applause he is due.
The evenings meal was, again, nothing to really write home about. However two things did stand out. The first was that mojito's available at restaurant rivalled even those I've sampled in Cuba. I'd have been happy to skip the meal and just keep partaking of these rum soaked drinks! The second, and possibly more spectacular aspect of the meal, was the location the restaurant sat in. Being based on the top of a hill, the restaurant and its viranda look out over the coast, jungle and hills found slightly further North of the surf simply resort.
And now, by the magic of the internets, I am able to transport you to this wonderful location.......
As an aside, I will now hopefully embed a few more pictures into these posts now I have figured out how!
Day three marked a big day in my fledgling surfing career. This was the day we all graduated from white water waves to unbroken green waves. As such, we spent a large portion of the morning learning how to paddle a surfboard and how to avoid the white water so that we could get to the much wanted green waves. For the uninitiated (I counted myself as one of these until recently), if you imagine the beach as a line, at some point further out there is another line running roughly parallel. Between these two lines is the rather imaginatively named 'Impact Zone', labelled as such because it is where all the waves break and, potentially, impact with you. The goal of the surfer is to get through this area as fast as possible with the least amount of effort, although regardless of your technique, ability or skill, effort is going to be required.
After going through and practising the methods of making our lives easier in getting to the outback (the area past the impact zone) - more on these at a later point - we hit the water. Now, we have all seen the pictures of surfers running into the water, throwing their boards down, jumping on them and immediately starting to paddle, but in reality walking is much easier than paddling, so we waded out as far as possible before jumping on our boards. In my case, this put the water somewhere near my shoulders. A small amount of effort, and much panting, later finally saw me reach the outback; the home of the unbroken green wave.
It was at this point that I think I finally understood surfers and surfing. To get out to this point, you have to go through a lot of effort, sweat and hard work, fighting through what can only be described as mini maelstroms of swirling water and power. Yet, after all this, you all of a sudden pass an invisible barrier, a force field to the chaotic nature of the sea and find yourself in a strangely surreal calm, staring out at an empty horizon, just you and the world contemplating one another. This all sounds weirdly poetic, especially coming from me, but it is incredibly hard to put into words exactly what this feels like and as I am certainly no word smith this somewhat inadequate description shall have to suffice.
Of course, this is only one small part of surfing and once you get to this point, you have to eventually turn around and return to the shore. And here is where it all gets rather exciting. Surfing in white water is easy. The energy of the wave is all concentrated horizontally and easily pushes you back to the beach. Green waves, however are much more like skateboarding half pipes that you have to ride down before you can ride back in. As such, when a suitable wave comes along, if you catch it correctly, you end up riding down a nearly vertical mini mountain of water. There is a lot that can go wrong here, and if something goes wrong you invariably end up under the water somewhere. However, as I found out when I caught the first wave of the day, when it all comes together, the adrenalin rush it gives you is strangely euphoric. Unfortunately for me, after catching and riding my first ever green wave, I seemed to lose all of my mojo as the rest of the day was a write off in terms of surfing. I caught only one more green wave the whole day and proceeded to wipe out on it. In fact, I was unable to even catch white water waves when we finally headed back in for the evening. I can only hope that whatever black cat crossed my path has wandered off before I pick up my board again!