I recently returned from an extended stay in the fine area of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. It was the rainy season, which proves to be a good time to sit back and review the finer details of life that your mind frequently dismisses. Rain is certainly plentiful, but one of the nicer bonuses of this season is the consistently good swell. Making for prime surfing conditions.
My girlfriend Heather and I take up residence at a local hostel owned by friends Pablo and Marcela. It is a great environment to mingle with backpackers and travelers. Hearing engaging tales from Central America, as well as “unique adventure quests” that only most extraordinary individuals embark upon. It is a very good place to be to remind you that we as humans are pretty much all alike. We strip down to the basics of life, and for some reason it makes the most sense. It is a good place to remind you that the absence of ego is a good thing. I have found and continue to find that the most humbled and often quiet individuals are usually the most interesting and exceptional.
Costa Rica is a special place. Yes, there is a lot of tourism. You will see a lot of backpackers, surfers, and a lot of just straight up tourists from all over the world. And I would imagine it is, because this place is fu*king awesome. The land is lush and vibrant. The water is warm and the beaches are beautiful. There are a lot of things to do here, or not do. Like get drunk and lay on the beach or pool getting ridiculously sunburn, if that’s your thing.
I find that if you are observant and look past all the touristic culture you still find the core local culture. The locals still exist and are very hospitable, for the most part. They work hard (for $2-4 an hour) and will always give a friendly hello. They are nice to you when you’re surfing, provided you are not a dick. I have been lucky enough to travel a fare amount around this country over my life and my current favorite spot is in this area. I especially enjoy the diversity of surf spots in a relatively small proximity.
On any given day you can find good waves and pretty much any time of the day. The Mal Pais area has a lot of quality stuff going on. I have been focusing a lot on that word quality, largely do to one of my favorite books I have been revisiting, Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig, a fellow Minneapolis native picks at the definition of quality in this iconic novel. Without getting too deep or sounding like hippy with a head full of acid, I believe that quality shapes our environment and character. It is how you conduct yourself, what you eat, how you communicate, what you choose to do or not do, and basically ya… quality is everything.
The way I came to this ever expanding inner monologue is through surfing. I live in Colorado and spend most of my year skiing, which I feel very fortunate to do, but it doesn’t help with surfing. When I got done skiing I could have gone to the rec center and swam in preparation for surfing. Instead I didn’t. So, when I showed up here the first weeks I struggled and I was pissed at myself for not doing that. To make up for it I paddled extra hard into every wave and basically looked like an ill-fated lunatic, and was making painfully slow progress. I so badly wanted to get back to where I knew I was capable of, but instead I forced it, which slowed any sort of development (physically or mentally).
Luckily I met a very cool Scotsman named Sandy who discussed the Inner Game of surfing with me. I determined that in no way what I was doing quality. I then found that my Spanish practice was pretty much the same deal. These two endeavors in which I wanted desperately to be better at were going no where. I was jamming a square peg into a round hole. After doing some quality mental maintenance things started to go a lot smoother.
My surfing improved to a level that I felt was “good” and I noticed when I was speaking Spanish I was actually communicating, rather than just trying to get through interactions. I came to the determination that a lot of my life quality was being hindered by my ego. I didn’t want to look like a kook surfing so I compensated by trying extra hard, which in turn made me look even kookier. I didn’t want to sound dumb speaking Spanish, so I didn’t engage in dialogue. Realizing that my ego is not my amigo helped me focus on the quality productions of life and helped me get to where I want to be.
Thank you to all of my friends. You all inspire me.