Behind the Desk with Shawna Mullen

May 29, 2018

When you come to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, we want you to have life-changing experiences, make new friends, and make the most of your time in Tamarindo.

We know our service plays a big role in that. In a series of posts, we’ll introduce some of the individuals who make up the best staff in the world.

Today, we chat with Shawna Mullen, sales and marketing manager for the camp. She started in 2003 as the one and only front-desk receptionist and surf-program coordinator. Many times, she also filled in as the driver to pick up guests from the rickety Tamarindo airport after catching a puddle jumper flight from the San Jose Airport. (No Liberia airport back then.)

What is your favorite part of the job?

The community that Witch’s Rock has created amongst their employees, managers and guests. It’s what’s kept me here so long. In fact, some of my favorite people I have connected with in Costa Rica have been my co-workers! I owe everything I have learned about the Costa Rican culture to them.

Another aspect that I love is our growth at the camp. We are constantly changing as a business so there is no room for boredom. My office space has literally moved 7 times in the past 12 years to make space for more guest area.

What is a favorite guest memory you have?

We get to know the guests quite well, and in fact, I keep in contact with a lot of them through social media.

But there is one story that I will never forget. Back when I was driving to the Tamarindo airport, I was on a run in a very old and barely running SUV. I picked up a man and his daughter from Quebec. They had a long day of travel and were looking forward to getting to the camp. When we pulled up to camp, which at the time, had a bamboo wall surrounding the restaurant, I pulled into the downhill angled parking lot, and the brakes failed.

Uh, oh. I see where this is going …

Yes, I panicked. I tried to pump the breaks. I tried the emergency brake, but nothing worked. We drove right through the bamboo wall and stopped right in the restaurant where everyone was eating breakfast.

Talk about front door service!

In the end, the father and daughter had an amazing week and went home with a great, adventurous story.

Where do most guests arrive from?

The largest demographic of guests that come to Witch’s Rock come from North America. More specifically, there are tons of guests from the U.S. east coast who visit us.

I love welcoming the New Yorkers who get here all amped up and unable to slow down. It usually takes them a day or two to really adjust to the slow-paced and simple life. After a week, though, I am sure it is even harder to adjust to New York.

That must be why we have so many return campers from that area!

How about families?

Definitely. I’m a mother and I’m always searching for activities and vacations that would bring my family together. There’s a great effect that Witch’s Rock has on family vacations. And since we don’t have TVs in the rooms, the majority of the time, families are spending quality time together doing a new activity—something deemed “cool” by the kids—together.

It could also be the service at WRSC. What does great customer service mean to you?

It’s going the extra mile to make someone’s experience the ultimate best time. Whether this is simply taking the time to recognize someone by their name, personally welcoming them back, inquiring on how their surfing is going, requesting their favorite instructor, or planning something memorable for their stay.

Great customer service is not hard here. We create such meaningful connections that it’s easy to remember each guest and their personal stories.

What is the craziest story you have heard about a guest experience?

We had two guys in their 30s who booked an estuary tour to see the crocodiles, birds, and monkeys. To see the monkeys, the boat docks and everyone gets off—however, our friends did not know this part.

So, when the boat docked deep in the woods, and the boat captain began speaking Spanish on his phone, the guys became suspicious. Little did they know that the captain was only speaking with his wife. As they were followed the boat captain into the woods, their fear grew. They had read about kidnappings in Mexico and worried they were about to be the next headline.

Fearing the worst, they made a plot to run back to the boat, steal it, and get back to Tamarindo—which is exactly what they did!

Leaving the captain in the woods?

Yes! When the guys came back to the camp, they were so scared and worked up, only to have the police arrive moments later and arrest them for stealing the boat.

We had to go get them from the local police department and explain the huge misunderstanding.

We found humor in the situation, and everyone had a good laugh.

Not everyone gets to go home with a story like that. Why should people visit WRSC?

The biggest attraction of our little camp really is the community it creates organically.

Our Costa Rican staff go out of their way to bring each guest into their lives, whether it’s through surfing, language, or even into their personal home. Everyone becomes family here, and with technology, it makes it even easier to stay connected. I love watching the friendships between guests and staff blossom. I have friends all over the world now.

You will find Shawna all over the camp, ready to make your trip an exceptional one.


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