Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nosara III

We've got a surf lesson. No time to look around/comment on the beatific scenery here in paradise. We eat toast and our stopsign-sized platter of fruit, coffee then it's off to town. (Pictures are of us biking down the hill.) We arrive at the Oasis for our 9am lesson ($90, incl board for the day). What we have come to understand is that the best surfing is from 7 - 10am, then people retreat from the afternoon sun and return to the waves around 4 - 6pm, or until it is too dark to see. 

Peadro and Luigi are our surf instructors. Both are rail-thin local - Tico - boys in their late teens. A day in the life of Peadro: wake, surf, teach lesson, lunch, siesta, surf/lesson, surf, sleep. Threehundredandsixtyfivedays a year. We first go to the board shed behind the Oasis and Peadro gets our monstrous 9' boards, straps a leash to each then we are off to la playa, about a 4 minute walk. 

The lesson begins with Peadro drawing with his finger in the sand what his English vocabulary won't sustain. 3 basic rules. 1) Always keep your board perpendicular to the wave; 2) There are stingrays in the ocean so shuffle your feet to avoid stepping on one - this will clearly ruin your day; 3) When you come up from under the water put your hands over your head, just in case there is a board/other rider coming toward you. 

He then draws two longer lines in the sand and demonstrates how to "pop up" on the board. We practice. Think getting up from a push-up but at the speed you would if your toddler was about to put his gummy fingers into an electrical outlet. 

Then Luigi comes bounding out from the cemetery.... He is a local talent, rumored to be Professional caliber, but is choosing to stay in Nosara. He has long curly hair covered by a white hat which he wears even into the waves. (He is, however, the local dance champion. Apparently last night he won a dance contest at the discotheque, for which he received a pair of jeans and not the $40 he was promised. We check this with Debbie's son who was at the club with a Tica girl four years his senior and he confirms.) Luigi and I head into the water, Sara and Peadro head into the water. 

There is a nuance to surfing. Many nuances. The competing factors are balance, velocity, buoyancy, strength, knowledge, patience. When all of these sync together, you get a wave. Then long boards we are assigned, unlike the shorter, fierce incisor-shaped rockets the pros get, account for several of these factors we will not be able to assimilate out of the gates. The longboards, for example, displace more water (buoyancy) and cover more area of the wave (balance) and reach speed more quickly (strength). 

Which still doesn't help me. Well, sort of. The waves here come frequently - several a minute - and are medium-sized. Also, where you catch the waves is only about shoulder-deep water, so it's easy - as easy as one could hope - to learn here. I catch the first wave and ride it about 10 feet toward shore. 

Here is the order of operations in surfing: see wave, analyze where it is breaking, is this the wave for you? it will break in one consistent direction - left, right, not both, get yourself in a position to catch this wave, close but not too close, board turned around, hop onto the board, begin paddling, balance, when the wave begins to rear up under you pop up, position yourself on the board, ride.

Simple right? After the first wave it is another 20 minutes before I catch another. All the while Luigi is patiently reminding me to not be too far forward, too far back, to remain balanced, not too paddle too quickly, to push up evenly. Then another wave. Sara's success is similar. First wave, then a long dry spell (so to speak). Patience. Then the successful waves come more frequently. We are up and riding sometimes 10 sometimes 20 feet toward shore. 

This is tiring. Back at the cabina both S and I find bruises on our elbows, knees, ribs. Two hours of surfing and we head with Luigi and Peadro back to the Oasis for lunch (Asian rice, salad, rejuvenating smoothie, 11.000 colones). We lean the boards together with the thought that we will return to the waves after eating, but this doesn't happen.  

At lunch we run into the Berkeley hedgefund manager (T.) and her boyfriend the molecular biologist researcher (M.) and their 4 mo/old baby who we met at VdP at dinner last night. M tries to convince Luigi he's ready after four days for a shortboard, unsuccessfully. We talk with T about the financial collapse ("We, in the finance world, saw it coming a year and a half ago." "It's going to get much(!) worse before it gets better." "All along the interstate between San Fran and Sacramento there are communities of sprawl built for buyers at super-low rates - = subprime - and are going to sit there vacant until the price drops, which is, if you think about it, the case all over the country with foreclosed houses no one wants to buy." "But we're here, in Costa Rica!") Oh, and she thinks more regulation wouldn't have necessarily fixed any of this. Also the Auto Bailout give the Big 3 about 60 days. Then what....?

It's hot in the noon sun. We bike toward town for some gelato at Robin's. Robin is a 5-star chef who left the culinary world to make gelato in Nosara. We debate leaving the bikes in town and taking a cab up the hill, but S is able to convince me otherwise. We head for the hill. 

About 1/4 mi into the climb my petal snaps off the bike and punctures first my upper calf and then the bottom of my foot. Grueling climb complicated by having to walk, bleeding, pushing a bike. But the reward at the top of the hill - cool pool, shade - makes it almost worth while. Then both of us nap. Hard.

The restaurant is closed on Sundays but Debbie has decided to make coconut shrimp and Costa Rican style tamales (wrapped in banana leaves, not corn husks). We sit family style with Debbie, her mom, and the family from Boulder to eat. Talk ranges from education to war to the NFL, but altogether pleasant. Dinner is amazing - again. We sit poolside long into the dark, before retreating to the cabina where there is a massive bug!

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