The following day, I went for a run along the hard-packed, narrow dirt road that twisted up and down through the jungle and emerged at a little bay with a rocky point along its southern edge. I stopped to take in the vista – coconut palms to the North leaning far out over the turquoise water and the bay curving gently to meet the jagged rocks of the point. All was quiet, except for the put-put of a motorized vehicle off in the distance. The sound drew closer and soon enough a red motorcycle made itself known as the source. It pulled up to where I stood. The rider was a young man about my age, white but with a good tan, dark hair and an athletic build – he wore only board shorts and sandals. Looking closer I noticed that the left side of the motorcycle sported a rack with a surfboard in it. I smiled and he smiled back. I tried a tentative “hi,” wondering if he spoke English.
“Hey, what’s up?”
He was Canadian (“like me!” I thought) and was living in Costa Rica full-time. He was from Calgary, Alberta and had moved to Costa Rica to learn to surf.
My curiosity was piqued and I quizzed him on how he ended up there, how he made a living and how long he’d been surfing. He was friendly and gracious enough to entertain my questions and told me if I really wanted to learn to surf, I needed to immerse myself in surf culture and to “get a subscription to Surfer’s Journal.”
After he left to continue looking for waves, I stood there a bit dazed, the realization sinking in that my dream to learn to surf was maybe not so crazy after all. I was not alone in my desire and someone else, another landlocked Canadian, had actually made it happen. Why couldn’t I?
Running back to the Inn where Maria and I were staying I felt like I was floating on air, my energy fueled by what I would eventually learn was a shared “stoke.” My mind raced with ideas of moving to Costa Rica, living on the beach and picking up house-sitting and other odd jobs while I became a local surfing legend. The more I thought about it the more it seemed to be in the realm of the possible. Well, I might not become a legend, but I could at least become a surfer.
After a couple of days in Montezuma, Maria and I traveled on further North along the same coast to a place called Mal Pais (“bad country” in Spanish). Not quite a village, it was more of an outpost kind of place with a population consisting mainly of traveling surfers and expat settlers from America, Canada and Germany. Our first night there Maria and I took a walk to the endless wide flat beach where people were surfing just offshore. I marveled at the acrobatics of the guys on the waves, their agility and the way they moved with the wave. I felt their excitement. I wanted to learn this sport like I hadn’t wanted anything my whole life.
The next day I went in search of someone who would teach me to surf. I asked the guy repairing surfboards and he brushed me off like an annoying fly. I asked the Tico in a restaurant decorated with surfboards and he looked at me blankly. Time was ticking – we were supposed to visit some senior expats who’d invited us to their place for a late lunch before we headed out on that evening’s bus. Furthermore, Maria had no interest whatsoever in surfing. As time slipped away, I accepted that my surf dream would have to wait until another time. I left Mal Pais that night vowing to return there to surf.