Even though I've paddled out maybe 30 times, I haven't really ever surfed. I might catch one or two waves but that is inconsistent and I don't know what to do once I've struggled to pop up. In February, I was looking forward to focussing on fundamentals for a full week while visiting Guiones Beach on Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula.
I am thinking the traits that are going to be important for me to exhibit to build the skill of surfing are going to be humility and determination.
Ben and I had a plan. We'd hire the surf coach he'd befriended the last time he had visited Guiones. That turned out to be Luigi at Nosara Tico Surf School. The school has about six instructors all local to the Nosara area. We went out with Luigi for a coached session nearly everyday.
Luigi is an incredible instructor. He's knowledgable, affable, and patient. My humility was tested day one as my pop up technique was clumsy and ineffective. This made me aware that I've never focused on the fundamentals. I had a little bitterness at myself that I hadn't been practicing burpees as I had intended to begin such a daily practice in 1999!
The key insight I learned about myself on a surfboard from Luigi was that I wasn't surfing with intent and I wasn't focussing on controlling my body – either as I was paddling, as I popped up, or once I was on the wave in the rare instance of standing up.
The week of lessons has shaped my first goal – to consistently be able to catch a wave. Only after I've developed that fundamental set of skills will I entertain riding waves. I am expecting I will need to improve technique, strength, endurance, and wave selection to reach this goal. I'm really jealous of 10 year olds who can go out each day as grommets and hone the habit to develop a lifelong effortless style. However, we only have today, so why not start this at 40.
Note: The Guinoes beach break invites all comers. If you're completely inexperienced there is a steady stream of white water breakers to get you started. If you're a long-term beginner like me the spread out beach break let Luigi find a spot where I wouldn't have to compete for waves. If your skilled or professional the waves can be head high and peal for a long ride. Nosara Tico sponsored a triple crown contest and the third an final leg took place during my stay so I got to see a bunch of locals strut their stuff, including my coach Luigi.
Photo: My friend Ben catching a wave in an outside set in Guiones. Watching his progress is an opportunity to practice humility. I caught about 3 of these waves (with no real ride post drop-in) whereas he would catch and ride about 50% of the waves he went for.
I am fresh with enthusiasm about investing my time in the pursuit of learning to surf and truly ride waves. Let's hope I'm a successful late bloomer.
I resonate with Buddhist philosophy and tend to be comfortable that we're only able to live in the moment. However dukha is unavoidable and something that I don't let go of easily are all the days in my past when I haven't surfed.
My paternal and maternal grandparents all lived in Cocoa Beach, FL and in fact when I was 4 years-old so did I. Regret one is that I didn't grow up on Florida's beaches.
When I was 14 I bought a Surfer magazine at Ron Jon's while visiting my grandparents. Regret two is that I didn't take advantage of my annual week long trips to surf beside the Cocoa Beach pier.
I finally surfed for the first time as an adult in 1999. My girl friend's sister's boyfriend was a surfer who grew surfing in Huntington Beach. In 2000, I moved to California. I lived in San Francisco. Christ! I didn't start still. We'd visit Erin's sister down south in Long Beach and I might surf then. I probably went 8 times in 5 years in LA. I rented a board 3 timed in Pacifica at Lindo Mar beach. I even took a trip to Oahu's North Shore with a group of surfers in February. Of course, I had absolutely no skill and stayed on shore taking photos of monsters they caught at Sunset or Waimea. The closest I came to improving was watching Step Into Liquid and reading a book on Mavericks. I even lived in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco for two years just a bike ride from Ocean Beach. WTF?
Fast forward, in 2009 I move from landlocked Chicago to Los Angeles. High on my list of goals was to begin surfing. I at least bought a longboard and was given a hand me down wetsuit. I owned a car for the first time. Best yet I lived near surf capital in the continental U.S.A. I lived in Los Angeles (which is next to Huntington Beach which I hold to be the epicenter). I tried to get to the beach before going into the office twice, but since I'm in the east side it was too much of a burden. I petered out quickly.
My high school friend Ben recently picked up surfing in his late 30s. He lives in Brooklyn and took a trip to Guinoes Beach, Costa Rica to practice surfing for one week. He caught the bug and now drives out to Rockaway to surf. This inspired me to join him recently for a week of surfing in Costa Rica. That's where this story begins.
In 2000, I w as thinking about the fact I was getting a late start as a surfer – I was in my mid-20s. I've let another decade go by without progress until today.