The first leg of our trip was to the Nicoya Peninsula's Pacific side, the very small town of Playa Carillo and its slightly larger neighbor, Samara Beach. Costa Rica is really unique in that it offers a balance of fascinating wildlife and more typical beach activities. The next two posts will attempt to emulate that balance.
We got a taste of Costa Rica's relentless waves on its western coast our very first morning as we kayaked from Playa Samara (Samara Beach) to the nearby and rocky Isla Chora. Although Playa Samara is relatively calm compared to many beaches in Costa Rica, I experienced the Pacific's unpredictability and relentlessness within seconds of our kayaking excursion.
Before we could paddle pass across the breaking waves, we capsized. Sunglasses and earrings were lost to the ocean. We resettled, and this time, paddled as hard as we could to pass the wave break before the waves broke us. We made it, although the current pushed us to an area where huge rocks protruded out. Luckily, there were coast guards in a boat, yelling, directing us exactly where we go. Finally, we made it to Isla Chora. The rocky beach was painful to walk on, so I grabbed some fins and a snorkeling mask and headed back to the water. I had a few peaceful moments of snorkeling and drifting, but I made my way back to Isla Chora's shores when I realized how close I was to huge rocks that protruded from the waters.
I enjoyed some fresh fruit and got my first lesson on survival: camouflage is the name of the game. I was apparently looking directly at an iguana, yet I couldn't see it. In addition to playing hide-and-seek (in plain sight) with some wildlife, I began to climb around Isla Chora's rocks, taking a moment to enjoy the beauty of the rocks themselves. I found myself singing, "But I know every rock and tree and creature.. has a life, has a spirit, has a name!"
I got another taste of the waves at Playa Samara the following day during my two-hour private surfing lesson. Surfing is something that has been on my bucket list for nearly a year, and I refused to go all the way to Costa Rica and not give it a try. The class started rather easily--I sat on a surfboard in the sand while my instructor from Samara Adventure Company, taught me some basics. Things quickly became intense when he demonstrated how to jump up on the board to catch a wave. You basically do a burpee in the middle of the surfboard. Since I really did not have the ability to "bounce up" from an upward dog (yoga!) position to standing, I learned a way to mount the board that required less upper body strength.
The only thing left for me to do was try out my skills in the ocean. With the surfboard strapped to my ankle, I walked out into the waves. By this point, I was absolutely terrified. My face must have shown how frozen I was with fear, because my instructor looked at me and told me to breathe. We even practiced the timing for plunging through waves that crested well over me. Finally, I mounted the board, waited for the right wave, and then began to paddle into the wave. I jumped up, tried to balance, and nearly immediately fell off. Falling off of a surfboard proved to be more comical than anything. Plus, all it took was one fall, and I realized that I had nothing to fear--the ocean would catch me.
After a few more attempts, I made it up on the board and was able to balance and ride the whitewater of the wave all the way to the shoreline. Make no mistake--this was far from easy and required my complete concentration. Any lapse of concentration and I found myself falling into the water. Surfing is relaxing in that it necessitates tunnel vision. While I was preparing to stand on the board, the only thing I saw or cared about in that moment was the water rising up around me. I now know why surfing can be addictive--the thrill of conquering something as ferocious as waves in the ocean, coupled with the required physical concentration, strength and balance.
Check out the links below for some AWESOME videos of my surfing attempts! ;)