Playa Grande Played Me (or How I Learned to Surf)

I grew up in a small town in a large province very far away from any ocean.  Two days driving in one direction would get me to the Atlantic.  Four days driving in the opposite would get me to the Pacific.  However, I did grow up surrounded by water.  Rivers, lakes, puddles, ponds, pools….swimming, canoeing or just playing around.  I love water, and every time I hit an ocean I’m reminded again of just how much.

While in Costa Rica, I decided that I needed to take a surfing lesson.  I had wanted to in Hawaii, but didn’t find the time.  There would be no excuses this time.  I contacted Point Break Surf and booked a lesson for January 2.

There were two other women 9sisters from LA) taking lessons with me.  We started with a how-to demonstration on land – how to paddle, how to stand, how to stay safe.  Afterwards we hiked our boards down the beach to an empty stretch where we wouldn’t hit the real surfers with our beginner bumblings.

The first time on the board in the water, we just body-surfed the board to the beach.  The second time, we rode it on our knees.  On the third try, we were to try to stand up.  Standing up proved not to be the problem for me – staying standing is where I needed to put in a little practice.  The next try, though, I managed to ride the bunny-wave (borrowing some ski terminology here) to the shore.

We were just riding the white water – small waves that wouldn’t prove too much for our meager abilities.  Hey, everyone has to start somewhere right?  Gotta learn to stand before you can ride.

I did not too bad – every other wave I fell off, true, but I rode as many as I floundered.  It’s a learning curve – learning when to start standing, learning how fast (or slow) to do the litany of steps towards standing (ok, so….on my knees like a table, check.  One foot between hands, check.  Start standing and turn body, check.  Eyes on the beach!  check.  Knees bent, check.) But I (somehow, someway) managed to stand on a few waves.

A quick break for water that wasn’t salty, and a new application of sunscreen, and we were back in the water.  I was given a different board – one that was a little more stable than the others.  I got to ride two or three waves when suddenly, I pearled.  (That is to stay, I dived nicely off the front of the board, as if I were diving for perals).  The board flew out behind me, and I hit the water, with a sharp pain hitting my knee.  I looked down, and it turns out I had gashed it pretty good.

The new board had a mount in it for a camera, and that mount hit my knee, cutting it pretty good.  I was lucky – my instructor, Matt, was cool and calm.  He grabbed his med kit, bandaged up my knee, and took me straight to his doctor.  She took a look at my leg, and set to fixing me up.

6 stitches later, Matt drove me back to my hotel, and made sure that I was ok and didn’t need anything.  I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get to surf more.  I had a fantastic time, and Matt was a great instructor.  It’s definitely something that I’ll be doing again, regardless of the accident. 

Once my leg heals up, I’m getting “Playa Grande, Costa Rica” tattooed around the scar.  It’s an awesome souvenir!

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Surfing in the…


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I recently joined the website couchsurfing.org.  The basic premise is that when travelling, you stay on people’s couches for free.  Likewise, you host “couchsurfers” for free in your city.
There are several safeguards.  Each host/surfer is given a reference from their hosts/surfers – i.e. when someone stays at my place, I give them a “surfer” reference, and they would give me a “host” reference.  There are three options – good, bad, and neutral – and room for a few words.  You use their references when deciding whether to let someone stay, and when deciding who you, as a surfer, would like to stay with.
As well, you are not obligated to let someone crash on your couch.  When contacted, you can decline, for any reason.  Maybe you’re busy those days, maybe the person creeps you out, maybe you just don’t want company.  Whatever it is, it’s up to you.  However, you are expected to respond to the person, even if it is just to say “no.”  The site keeps track of the requests you respond to, and that percentage is shown on your profile, another way to designate a dependable host.
As a host, you can put any (reasonable) limits on your guest.  The number of nights they can stay, how much access they have to the house (i.e. the kitchen, your room.  Basically, anything beyond the couch and the bathroom), any hours they cannot be in your house (e.g when you’re at work, when you’re giving piano lessons, when you’re bathing fluffy the iguana.), you can even state which gender – females only, males only, or either.
These limits, as well as other conditions surfers need to be aware of (pets?  Your hours – are you a morning person, or night owl?  Are you willing to act as a guide and show them around during their stay?) should be written in your profile.  These (should) help ensure that there are no surprises for either surfer or host during the stay.
Shortly after signing up, I was contacted by a guy in France, who was looking for a couch mid September, for two to three nights.  And after him, a girl from Germany who was hoping to find a couch for the weekend of August 27.  The last one was a little short notice – I got the request maybe a week before the intended dates (it is currently one day before her arrival).  I figured I might as well jump in with both feet, and said yes to both.
I have since put my couch as unavailable.  I’d like to see how these two stays go before I entertain the idea of more.  I also need to determine what I’m comfortable with – once a month?  More often?  Less?  Would I prefer someone only on weekends, or is during the week ok?  How long am I comfortable having someone else in the apartment? 
Potentially, I will try the opposite in December, when I travel to Costa Rica?  Canary Islands?  Wherever I end up.  I’m hoping to couchsurf at least on city – perhaps not the entire trip, but one portion of it, to see the other side of the coin.  If I enjoy it, I can always do it again in another country at another time.