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Costa Rica JAWS 15

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Ocean Healing Group JAW’s (Just Add Water)

Hola, I have to say, things are amazing here at Shaka! I have been having quite the adventure getting to know this beautiful place and trying my best to learn the language! I have been meeting so many great people and thoroughly enjoying every exchange! My first week at Shaka, the Ocean Healing Group arrived. This is a non profit foundation for disabled children and their families. The gang here at Shaka host these folks and provide them with adaptive surf lessons, zip line tours, yoga, and a variety of other sweet offerings. I was grateful to be a part of such a heart warming experience!

Montezuma Waterfalls


The group comes together, owners, volunteers, kids and their families. All with the intention of allowing the kids to experience physical activities, like surfing and yoga. Also, an opportunity for the families to have a break from being the primary caregivers. There were many activities during the week, including a zip line tour through the waterfalls in Montezuma. This was an amazing adventure for the kids and also a kind act on the part of the volunteers who carried them up and down steep slippery stairs in between rides.


The group had also rented some quads to cruise around on which were a big help to bring the kids to and from the beach. A few evenings we were lucky enough to experience marine phosphorescence, which is apparently a type of algae that actually glows In the dark! Seriously, the waves were lit up like yellow glow sticks! I was drawing in the sand and everywhere you walked your feet lit up below you! It was truly a sight to see!

Mama Sea Turtle Sighting

Just when I thought I had met the quota of a pretty freaking rad night….there was more! We also witnessed a big sea turtle mama laying her eggs right there in the glowing sand! I hope that her attempt was a success and that the eggs will be safe until the time is right for them to hatch and make their way back to the ocean. Such amazing creatures, prehistoric…also endangered…it seems that they are making a comeback right here in Playa Hermosa!

A Vast Ever Changing Moving Target

Of course, the highlight of the week was seeing the kids out in the ocean surfing the waves! I have been here for two weeks now, and been surfing quite a few times. It’s not easy…actually one of the more difficult things I’ve attempted…even with great instruction! More difficult than snow boarding down some of Colorado’s finest and makes my yoga practice seem like a walk in the park! My point being….the ocean is a vast, ever changing moving target…imagine attempting it without total use of your legs! Thats what Mercy and Christian did, with the help of Larry, Frank, and the volunteers.

You Guys Rock!!

They have have a system, where they have what you would call the “pitchers”. A few of the guys handle the back of the board and one rides along with them and helps them catch the wave. They are also surrounded by volunteers in a V-line formation prepared to assist if needed. Then you have the “catchers” a team awaiting for their arrival. My hats off to the kids for their bravery and eagerness to step out of their comfort zone, also to the volunteers who assist them in this process. And of course the kindness and generosity of the Shaka crew who make this all happen…Larry, Frank, Mo’e and Krista..keep up the good work…you guys rock!! Until next time….

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Wow, I am actually here! I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself, my name is Megan Panchinin. I am a yoga instructor and wellness coach, from Denver, Co. This last month was filled with excitement and anticipation as I prepared to leave the country. My original plan was to come to Costa Rica for a month to volunteer at Shaka Beach Retreat, that one month turned into seven. The family here at Shaka have been kind enough to host me as a volunteer for the month of November. Lucky for me, teaching opportunities have presented themselves that will keep me in this amazing location until May 2013!

From Denver to Costa Rica

A bittersweet transition, as I was saying  “hello to a Costa Rican adventure ” I was also saying many “see you laters”, as I would like to call them, to friends, family and students, that I have grown to love along the way. That was the bitter part….the sweet part was arriving here, welcomed by new friends, new family and new students! I knew there was a chance I may fall in love with Costa Rica….what’s not to love??

This place is unbelievable, the locals are helpful,  the beaches untouched and the land an explosive celebration of life! When my taxi arrived at Shaka, after a “smooth”, but lengthy journey (you have to travel a ways to find paradise), I was greeted by the most recent volunteer Matt and one of Shaka’s guests Steve.Matt a recent graduate and surfer extraordinaire, Steve a Canadian Life Saver….seriously…EMT and fire rescue professional.  The guys were hanging out in the Rancho, Shaka’s common place where meals are served and good conversations a plenty.

Shortly after settling in, I immediately headed to Playa Hermosa to enjoy a late afternoon swim. After a lovely stroll through the jungle canopy, the vibrantly colored path continued to stimulate my senses. I was immediately welcomed by the warmth of the sun and the peaceful sounds of the ocean…a tropical paradise. I found the perfect spot…on this beach, every spot is perfect. I took in the scenery and then went for a swim. The water is warm and the view of the landscape is like the green section of a jumbo sized crayon box. All of this seems to melt the month of preparation to leave Denver away. Finally…I had reached my destination….now what?

Getting into the Costa Groove

After a rejuvenating swim, I arrived back at the camp, where I met Haydee and Jerry, longtime friends of Shaka and staples here in the Rancho. Haydee, who has been an part of Skaka for a few years, is here from LA.  She is surf photographer and a charismatic entrepreneur, here launching her new company “Pollo Pass“. Right away I realize she is quite the entertainer, with her great sense of humor that is perfect for guest relations.

Then of course we have Jerry, a Captain and surf instructor from West Plam Beach, Fl. Jerry, a veteran of Shaka and childhood friend of Frank Bauer (co-owner), has spent several seasons here providing top notch surf lessons while also proving to be quite the comedian! I then have the pleasure of meeting the Mo’e family co-owners, Chris and Krista. They are also an absolute delight.

Their children are a direct reflection of that! Ki’ili, age seven, their daughter, helped me prepare the rooms for the Ocean Healing Group that arrives with Frank today. Atua, age ten, their son, was my translater as I negotiated with the neighbor regarding a place to live next door to Shaka…smart kid…he said he’d do it for an ice cream! He did a good job, because I got the place and that is a huge relief  for me! I’m stoked  to live in Playa Hermosa, which is apparently prime real estate!

Great New Possibilities

The best part about this trip, thus far, is the recent discussion to build a yoga shala right here at Shaka! Allowing me to assist in this potential creation is beyond fabulous! This land is sacred and would be the perfect place to have a yoga center! We walked the land yesterday and found the ideal spot, nestled under a green canopy and surrounded by old growth….absolutely gorgeous! A yoga girl’s dream come true!! Toto, I don’t think we’re in Denver anymore….Oh My!!

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