Surfing in Central America

Bike to the beach
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.

Colin has always wanted to learn to surf, but I gather the few trips to Tofino with his friend James weren’t particularly fruitful. I guess the waves that habitual surfers like aren’t so good for first timers. But Playa Samara seems to be perfect for beginners, that is, the waves are relatively small. :)

On our second afternoon, we walked the length of the beach and talked to all the surf schools. We went with Choco Surf School because they seemed cool and laid back, and were able to give us an on the spot deal for a month of board rentals. We took our first lesson right there and then from Shaggy who made the whole thing so much easier than I’d imagined. I got up on my very first try and on nearly every attempt that day thanks to his well timed shouts of “get on! paddle! get up!” and gentle shoves at the back of the board. I actually did better than Colin on that first day, which Shaggy was sure to mention.

But if you know Colin, you know that won’t last long. He goes at everything with such focus, that before the end of the day we were practicing pops on the floor and watching Youtube videos on paddling tips. I would have been happy to call it a successful one time experience and leave it at that, but Colin’s determined that we’ll both be proper surfers before the month is out.

So the next day did not go so well for me; I gave myself a number of accidental Costa Rican Neti Pots (as we call it) and got tumbled more times than I got up on my board. The most frustrating, exhausting part of surfing as I see it is just getting back out into the water, through waves that are constantly crashing over you and trying to wash you and your board back in to shore. Carefully angling your board straight at the wave and upwards is important here, but even when I get that right the wave sometimes just sweeps me off my feet. For the biggest waves you need to lay on the board and duck under, which we haven’t done yet and looks frightening and difficult to me. Most of real surfing looks frightening and difficult to me. I’m still waiting for it to become fun. :(

Since then things have gotten better, in part because the waves have gotten smaller, but in part because I am in fact learning. We started by surfing white water, where the waves break before they reach you and are much easier to ride, although it’s not really considered surfing. Colin almost immediately switched to blue water waves and today I joined him. Blue water – actual waves that don’t break until after you stand up – require extra timing to make sure you’re going the right speed in the right place and that the wave doesn’t break too early and force you under. There are so many variables to remember that inevitably when I get all the hard ones right I’ll forget one of the basics. Colin’s been reading about hind-brain vs fore-brain thinking, and that what we’re doing is training our hind-brain to handle most of it for us because it would be impossible to hold all the variables in your fore-brain at the same time. He thinks the reason I did well on my first day was because I was focused and doing all the calculations in my fore-brain, but I did so poorly on my second day was because I’d started relying on my hind-brain to remember where to put my feet and so on, but it didn’t have enough practice yet. This is a theory for why people have beginner’s luck.

So we’ve tried to get out there for at least an hour every day to practice surfing. The rest of the time we’ve been laying the hammoc, walking along the beach, working, or a combination thereof. I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my game Rebuild which is set to be released on Monday, and prodding at my next game “Word Up Dog”: a game of digging and word building. Today our fellow Casa Coba-mates took us out to see their property, which they’ve been slowly turning into a home away from home over the last few years. They come every January to escape the Ottawa winter and work on the place which is now raised, drained, watered, and mostly walled. We’re taking notes, although I think this particular beach town moved past our price range around the same time it got a bank and grocery store. I suppose the trick is to find somewhere that will have ammenities five years down the road and wait.


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