Chronicles of Costa Rica

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
— George Bernard Shaw

I mentioned in my last post I was heading to Costa Rica for a “Learn to Surf” adventure. Let me amend that statement: “To begin the process of learning how to surf.” I was in the water six days straight and there were definitely moments when I felt like giving up, moments I did not want to fight through the discomfort and the exhaustion—moments when a margarita and a long nap seemed like they were a better choice than perseverance. But I knew nothing would satisfy me like seeing this through. Not to mention I'd previously put it out there in the post, and that's what kept me honest.

Here’s what followed:

Day one: Angie, my instructor, was kind and reassuring. We had an instant and powerful connection. The conversation came easy and felt sisterly, definitely kindred. After a long chat and a brief tutorial on land, I was eager to get in the water. I popped up on the big board. I felt strong and unstoppable. After each wave I caught, Angie kindly took my board and walked me out to catch the next. It was a perfect day. This whole thing was awe-inspiring.

Lesson:  Try new things!

Day two: When I greeted Angie she advanced me to a smaller board. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but it sounded really good. I strutted down to the beach for lesson number two. Angie sent me to paddle out on my own. She also taught me how to get my body in a full plank position each time a wave approached. That’s when reality set in. I got up most of the time and once I was up, the board was easier to manage. It was still great fun, but it was clear that the honeymoon phase had ended.

Lesson: Novelty wears off. Keep paddling.

Days three and four: The time had come for me to perfect the rhythm of catching a wave. I also learned the “turtle roll.” This was described to me as “A maneuver in which one rolls over and holds the board parallel to the body allowing the wave to gently pass by.” On first attempt, I lost my board. It returned with a whack! But once I got out of my head and back in the moment, I no longer feared the turtle roll. I realized it wasn’t that big of an obstacle.

Lesson: Get out of your head. Embrace the unknown.

Day five: Let’s just say on my short walk down to the surf hut, I didn’t exhibit the swagger of previous days. I felt deflated, my energy completely spent. But I was not giving up. Angie (or Angel, as I now referred to her) could sense it. She took it easy on me. About 60 minutes in, we ended the lesson with a great “ride."

Lesson: Know your limits but never give up.


Day six: The final day. My sweet husband decided to invite me out of my whitewater comfort zone and into bigger waves. Angie thought it was a good idea so I agreed to join him.

Shortly after we paddled out, he looked at me and said “These waves are a bit bigger than I thought.” At that moment, it was as if a one hundred pound vest had wrapped around my torso. I could not breathe or think straight. Waves were coming at me one after the other (as they do) and my husband was shouting, “Throw your board,” “Catch the wave,” “Turtle,” “Paddle.” Had I unthinkingly accepted an invitation to Hell?  And, had I, at some point in my education, skipped Dante’s chapter on “Water Sports”?

I made it back to the sand and sat shivering in distress. I could barely look at my husband but I managed to let him know he had ruined surfing for me and I hoped he was pleased. He sat beside me, rubbed my back and said, “I’m really sorry.” His kindness calmed me. I realized I was being overly dramatic. I went from feeling unbelievably frightened and angry to forgiving in the span of a door opening.

Two hours later I was back in the water with Angie. I needed a good finalè. I asked for another 60 minute lesson instead of the scheduled 90. I asked her to take me to a spot where we knew I could ride some long waves. I was willing to turtle, but requested she give me queues. I asked for what I needed. I not only got back on track but I wrapped up on a rewarding note.

Lesson(s): One, spend your life with people who can look at you and say, “I’m sorry and I love you.” It washes most anything (within reason) away. Two: try. Keep trying. Three: Commit to letting go of fear and doubt. And finally, the most important lesson: It’s okay to take a few steps back and ask for what you need, because progress and personal growth, my friends, are never linear.