*The following is a post by WRSC past guest, and now lifelong friend, Sara Shelton.
I can’t believe it’s been a year since I first set foot on Costa Rican soil. I had never taken a vacation alone before, something that I’ll now admit was a bit unsettling, but that was precisely the reason I knew I wanted to try it.
In February of 2010, I had quit my fulltime job as a copywriter for an advertising agency in New York City and shifted to a career of freelance writing. During my two-year run at the agency I hadn’t seen much other than my illuminated computer screen (with the exception of a few blizzards out of the office window. Oh, and I saw Sully land that plane in the Hudson River (which was kinda cool), so I was determined to make 2010 all mine.
Ironically it was my former boss and life-long surfer, Jan Jacobs, who inspired me to take a break from work and go somewhere. Since I had known him, whenever we’d go out for beers he’d tell me stories about his past adventures. Traveling alone changes the way you see the world,” he would say. “One day, not while you’re working for us of course, but one day – you need to do it.”
When I told him I was planning a solo trip to Costa Rica, he immediately directed me towards Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. “You can learn to surf there,” he added. So without taking the time to consider if I would enjoy such a sport, I called the camp to reserve four nights. Then I booked a flight for a ten-day vacation – planning to head somewhere inland after my four nights in Tamarindo.
MIA >> SJO >> TAM
It wasn’t until I checked in and was told my first lesson with Flash would be in two
short hours that I felt the nerves creeping up. I had no idea the whole “surfing” thing would begin so quickly! I didn’t even know what to wear (WTF is a “rashguard”… an ointment?) or how to prepare for such a thing. So I did what I always do when I get nervous – I sat down, freaked out, and ate a sandwich.
At the board cage two hours later, Flash greeted me and two other surf students.
I picked up my giant surfboard, and with each step closer to the water grew more nervous. I could count the number of times I’d been in an ocean on one hand - clearly, I’d failed to think this through. Yet somehow I managed to suppress my nerves, and paddled out with the others.
Not to be dramatic, but that was the day my life was forever changed.
Surfing those four days at WRSC flew by. So I decided to stay two more (“ehh, the jungle can wait,” I told myself). After those extra days flew by, I tacked on two MORE days. (“It’s not like I’m gonna skip the jungle all together, so what’s a couple more days of surfing?”) Before I knew it, I was on a bus back to San Jose’s International Airport having never left Tamarindo. Sure I had lost my opportunity to see Arenal and some butterflies or whatever, but I had gained so much more….
Holy hell, is surfing fun. HOLY. HELL.
Surfing, even when you’re really really bad at it, is one of the most incredible things on the planet. When you are surfing, you are basically inside nature’s Disney World. HOW HAD I NOT KNOWN ABOUT THIS EARLIER IN MY LIFE? And thanks to Flash, Rigo, and Andres – I was catching my own waves. (Mind you, on a board that was about 57 feet long, but still – I was catching my OWN waves. All mine.) I felt forever indebted to them for the gift they had given me. And forever grateful for the new friendships that seemed to be blossoming.
And the budding friendships weren’t just with my surf instructors – but with so many employees of WRSC. And so many other locals I met during my 10-day excursion. When I was on that bus back to San Jose, I shook my head in disbelief at how different my trip had turned out to be. I had planned to spend a lot of time alone. A lot of time sleeping. Most of my time reading. Yet every book inside my backpack remained unread. Much to my surprise, it hadn’t been a vacation of solitude, but rather an adventure that (to put it bluntly) was flat out a damn good time. Plus I was going home with a newfound love for surfing, and respect and admiration for the Tico lifestyle. Having spent so long working in good ‘ol, exhausting NYC – it was a lifestyle I had a lot to learn from. And of course, going home with some salsa dancing under my belt was another sweet and unexpected
But it had been 10 days, so I went back to my life.
Never have I returned from a trip and thought, “I need to do that again immediately.” But that’s exactly what happened when I got back to my “real” life. I couldn’t get Tamarindo out of my head. I constantly regaled my tales to my patient, and (probably) privately annoyed friends. All my dreams were about surfing. When I would shut my eyes I could feel the waves pulling and pushing me. And thanks to Mark Zuckerburg, my new friendships weren’t just being maintained, but were growing. I actually missed my new friends and wanted to see them again. But when?
So you know what I did? Guess. Guess what I did…
I came back three weeks later. Why not? 2010 was supposed to be all mine, remember? I’ll never forget how it felt to click “confirm” for that flight back to Costa. You know the feeling you get when you’re doing something that’s probably irresponsible, but you’re having way too much fun to care? There’s nothing quite like it.
So let’s fast-forward to one year later. Today.
These days, I spend about half of my time in Tamarindo. I write from here as much as possible and I travel back to the states when jobs need me to be there. It’s perfect because no matter what city I’m in, I’m excited to be in it, and I still get to see my friends and family often.
My friendships here have continued to grow. We all surf together. We hang out, drink beers, watch movies (It’s been fun sharing all of my favorite comedies. Paul Rudd as a surf instructor in Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a new level of funny when you watch it with ACTUAL surf instructors). Flash is now my roommate, and our friends come to the house for bbq’s on a regular basis. It’s no secret that the man can cook a steak to perfection. And proudly, I’m becoming marginally famous for my weekly Post-Surfing Pancake Breakfast (the secret hook compliments of my dad: a little brown sugar in the bacon.) In a year, the damn good time hasn’t stopped. If anything, it’s gotten better.
Each friend who visits me leaves with the same refreshed look in their eye and same passionate love for Lizano sauce. I’ve even been lucky enough to see my mom stand on a surfboard for the first time in her life… at the young age of 58. Pretty rad.
I’m still not a great surfer. But I’m so blessed to have the greatest friends in the world to surf with every day. I’m constantly learning about the ocean, about the sport, and about the life. Tamarindo is a special little place on this giant Earth.
Thank you for one hell of a year.
You can view Sara’s portfolio at www.meetsarashelton.com. If you are interested in working with her (or have tips on how to turn earlier because she seems to have a problem with that), shoot her an email at email@example.com.