Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 6: A Morning Surf Lesson

Destination: Tamarindo

Eli surf instructorI couldn't leave the warm waters of this surfing Mecca without trying my hand at the popular sport. To many who grew up on the Gold Coast, surfing is more of a lifestyle -- an art form of sorts that has become a part of the local culture. Surf camps and shops are ubiquitous, as are the tanned and toned people who frequent them.

While the adventurous and the seasoned pros travel to nearby Witch's Rock or Ollie's Point, beginners like me have a chance to learn in Tamarindo's mild waves without being pummeled. 

Beach surf lessonI was joining Tamarindo Adventures, a company that runs a surf camp and specializes in surf lessons. Our group of six geared up in rash guards and carried our lightweight long boards, made especially for beginners, to the beach. Try as I might to listen to the instruction, my thoughts were elsewhere as I gazed at the taught muscles and perfect brown skin of our handsome instructors. I am certain they were imparting crucial information, things like correct body position, the importance of balance and how not to drown, but I was in the zone and smiling.

Catching waves surfingAfter a few minutes of practice on the sand, we were ready to dive in and become one with the ocean. We paddled out to the beach break and waited for good waves. The beauty of it all was they kept coming, wave after perfect wave. The first few attempts were total blowouts, with boards going one direction and bodies the other. But with each approaching swell, we mastered the art as much as possible in 30 minutes.

Our surf instructors were right there with us, giving pointers and inspiration when needed. After an hour or so, we were all carving up some respectable waves. I found surfing to be much harder than it looks; the guys and girls who do it so fluidly and seemingly without effort are no doubt skilled. Surf lessonBalancing on the board over those slippery waves is a fine art indeed.

I thanked our instructors at Tamarindo Adventures before retiring to Hotel Chocolate for some leisure time by the pool. I was driving out the next day and asked manager Danielle where I could find the nearest gas station. To my surprise, Tamarindo, along with all of the Gold Coast beaches, lacks this one major amenity.

The area's only gas station in the pueblo of El Llano is a 15-minute drive inland. Danielle assured me that, in a pinch, I could always purchase some emergency gas at the local hardware store at a whopping $6 per gallon.

This was my last evening in Tamarindo and, as much as I wanted to go out with a bang, Tamarindo BeachI was still recuperating from my previous indulgence with Bryan. A laid-back movie night in the comfort of my room it would be.

There was still much to do and see here, but I was pushing north to Playa Grande. Despite seven years of development, I discovered an underlying charm in Tamarindo, a glimpse of that surf town I once knew. Of course, good friends, great music and cold beer always help, but friendly locals and a beautiful beach bring it all together.

Day 6: A Morning Surf Lesson in Pictures