Day 8: Surfing Playa Grande and a Tamarindo Massage
After sleeping for nine hours last night, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. with my body's batteries completely recharged. I started my day at Upstairs @ the Rip Jack restaurant, where I feasted on eggs, pancakes and fruit. (I really appreciate this egg/sugar combo. Normally pancakes don't come with any type of protein, and I cannot justify ordering pure sugar for breakfast.)
As I was waiting, Gregory, Rip Jack Inn's charming and knowledgeable manager, showed me a yoga series called the Five Tibetans. Between these new moves and the surf lesson I was about to have, I was set in terms of exercise for the day.
Later on, I met Corryne's husband, Mr. Bean (a.k.a. Ian), who helped me bring my surfing to the next level. He explained that he would more or less be acting as my surfer's training wheels for the day. In sharp contrast to its busy neighbor Tamarindo, Playa Grande has larger waves and fewer visitors, and the enormous white-sand beach is the ideal place to learn how to ride.
First, Ian taught me how to selectively choose waves as opposed to just riding the first decent looking break that came along. Each wave is different, and being able to read them is nearly as important as the physical skills involved in getting up on the board.
Ian explained that I had passed the difficult part, which is getting the muscles of the body to "memorize" what they need to do to get up on the board. After muscle memory is achieved, it's all about form and technique.
Next, we talked about how to turn on the board. Turning? Why it had never occurred to me to turn, I will never know. Of the ten or twelve surf lessons I have taken in my life, I have always been so preoccupied with jumping upright and riding directly to shore, that it has never crossed my mind to tilt the board and ride the wall -- like a real surfer.
So we practiced. With too much weight on the front foot, a nose-dive would result. Too much weight on the back foot creates a brake by slowing the momentum of the wave. I was catching on quickly.
Then Mr. Bean taught me how to choose the best breaks. "A-frames" are ideal, and worth waiting for. An A-frame occurs when the swell grows in a sort of mountain shape, and then breaks both to the left and the right -- if caught right in the middle, the surfer can choose which side to ride. Ian seemed happy with my progress -- I succeeded in getting up on the board and turning with each and every attempt. Before I knew it, my hour was up and I was headed to the final destination in my Gold Coast journey: Playa Tamarindo.
Tamarindo resident Shannon Vaccas had invited me for a welcome massage high in the hills, on her villa balcony which overlooks the entire town. I was thrilled to have her work on my bad back since she specializes in sports massage. Her incredibly strong hands kneaded my neck and shoulders, relieving all muscle tension. The hour flew by, and before I knew it, the time had come to check in to Witch's Rock Surf Camp. I feasted on sushi for dinner, and then went to bed early. I would need all of the energy I could gather for tomorrow's surf tour.