When I was living in Costa Rica last year on the Pacific Northwest coast, I decided to learn how to surf. I grew up snowboarding and had played around on skateboards in high school in college, so I picked up the basics pretty fast.
After a few days catching white wash in Playa Grande and Tamarindo I concluded that the only thing holding me back was the size of my board. I thought the longer board made it too difficult for me to paddle out to the bigger waves, so I sashayed into a beach front surf shop on the Tamarindo shore and told them I wanted to try out a short board. The surfer bro took me at my word that “I was pretty good”, and let me take a 6 footer out, free of charge.
I remember making my way back out into the ocean, it was around 5:30 pm or so, close to when the sun sets in that part of the world. The pacific ocean had taken on the surreal quality of sunset, when the water turns into a mirrored gray glass scattered with cracks. I paddled out towards the break, attempting to duck dive between spitting out mouthfuls of water and the steady realization that the waves I was headed towards were HUGE.
I finally got to a calm spot and waited patiently for the next wave to roll towards me. I tried to keep my balance on the board, still believing that I could handle it even though the center of gravity was completely different from the 10 foot board I had been learning on. As I saw a wave coming towards me, I took one look up at the massive gray peak, and started paddling as fast I could. I felt it begin to lift me and just as I was about to stand up, the wave overtook me and I was tumbling and choking through a mass of water. I remember trying to get out, but there was nothing I could do except give in to the water until it was done chewing me up and throwing me around.
When I emerged, with my nostrils filled with with water and more than a little shaken up, I felt sore and embarrassed, but somehow invigorated by the experience. I wish I could say that I went back out for more and ended up catching the best wave of my life, but instead I took the board in my hands and slowly made my way back out of the water.
When I reached the beach, I collapsed on the ground in a heap of relief, and watched the Costa Rican sun set in the distance. I watched the bursts of pink, orange, yellow, red, purple and blue make their way across the sky and slowly melt into the water. While I didn’t catch a wave that day, I knew I had found a challenge, a challenge that I knew I would some day meet and conquer. And hey, at least I got to see a beautiful sun set.
Alexandra, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize!