We couldn’t be further from the nonchalant-surfboard-on-a-bike dudes if we tried.
Three beginner surfers and one middle aged lumbering idiot.
But we tried and, hats off, three of us succeeded.
We are staying at Santa Theresa but the surf school does beginner lessons 15 minutes up the coast at Playa Hermosa. It is the same beach but a calmer spot more suited to beginners.
We hire instructors and, because this is low season and there are no other surfers, these become 1:1 lessons almost.
[We have no photographic evidence as the protocol is you don’t take anything of value to the beach and you leave nothing in your car, so we took no phones or cameras. Shame.]
They had a 17 year old local surf champion to teach them, a ponytailed Costa Rican. He talked them through some theory (the ‘chicken wing’ school of surfing) and then one waited on the shore.
He took the other and held the board before releasing it slowly as the right wave came along. This meant the girls could focus on trying to stand up rather than paddling etc, and the wonderful thing about it was….IT WORKED. 🙂
Both girls stood up on the first day, standing like someone had pressed pause on a nightclub floor, the lead arm pointing, the following up bent at an angle, knees bent, back straight. Their natural balance puts us adults to shame and this is a (middle class, I give you) rite of passage: catching your first wave. It took me until I was 34 so the girls have 25 years on me.
Both of them seemed to enjoy it. Once you catch a wave then you sit on the shore and the other sister gets a go. The instructor was kind and focused and we did three lessons in three days. Bravo.
I have been trying to think of the hardest things I have done. Running a marathon when slightly unwell was a nightmare; I hated some of the Army Corps stuff at school, but nothing compares to how hard surfing is.
Or rather, getting yourself in a position to surf. If we put to one side my inability to ‘pop-up’ on the board quickly (you could boil a cup of tea in the time it takes me) the real challenge is getting out past the breaking waves. Even in 2-5 foot waves the power of the white water is immense and several wipeouts humble me. The current wants to pull us down the beach. Yet even when the sea is beating you up, you are still having fun in the water and it is as good for the soul as any sport. I end up about 50/50 over the 3 days (standing up vs wiping out) and my technique regresses.
Luce on the other hand has a revelation. After 2.5 lessons of getting it wrong, it suddenly goes right. She makes peace with her board and finds the ‘sweet spot’, a concept known to anyone who has struck a cricket or golf or tennis ball. In surfing the sweet spot is where your board is balanced below you; you are standing in the most stable position and she stands up on 3 waves in a row. Cue that big dazzling smile we all know and love and the surfing bug gains another acolyte.
At night I show the girls some videos of surfing on the world’s most famous waves; they seem more interested in the crashes than the surfing pyrotechnics.
We are moving on today but more surfing is hopefully in store.