Why do we say surfing is the hardest board sport in the world? In actuality it doesn’t take any longer to learn to ride a surfboard than any other board sport, but in surfing because of the elements of the ocean the amount of stand up time you get in an average surf session is miniscule compared to say snowboarding or skateboarding. For example I’ve been surfing for over 15 years and am pretty efficient with my time in the water but still in a 3 hour surf session with perfect conditions and no crowds i might still only get 5 minutes total on my feet.

 Point#2 Learning the ocean. Before you even get to practice surfing you have to learn about the ocean, tides swings, currents, how to deal with endless oncoming whitewater or waves, and to top it off you need the strength and endurance to paddle back out then catch a wave over and over. To make things even more confusing every surf spot will have a huge range of changing characteristics such as ,reef break, point break, sand bar beach break, high tide wave, low tide wave, onshore wind, off-shore wind, rip currents, channel or no channel and the list goes on. One of the first things people realize when they take their very first surf lesson is how difficult it is to balance just lying down on a surfboard with the motion of the ocean.

Point#3 The hunter element. In surfing we essentially become wave hunters. A. First you have to find a good hunting ground or as we call it beach. B. Then you have to watch carefully to see where the waves are running, how long the set intervals are and where there are not already to many other hunters getting in your way or stealing your catches.  C. You then need to make sure you have the proper equipment to catch the waves. D. Finally you need paddle out, wait in the line-up, identify an incoming wave, position yourself at the peak, pick the proper direction left or right then finally the chase is on. 

 All of this makes surfing the hardest board sport, but the challenge, the ocean medium, and the lifestyle makes surfing the most addictive board sport as well.

Pura Vida & Aloha

Habla Espanol?

Posted by Jul12, 2010 Comments (0)

I will be the first person to admit:  My Spanish is no bueno.  In most cases and situations, I am able to get by with my fabulous “Spanglish” but that’s just not good enough for me anymore.  So, my newest mission is to work on my Spanish, while I’m volunteering at Shaka Beach Retreat!

Here at Shaka and in many parts of Costa Rica, a lot of people do speak English so i am not forced to learn the language.  I can follow along with  conversations but can’t fully participate because unfortunately, I can HEAR Spanish much better than I can speak it.  This leaves me looking like a total creeper at parties where I just stare at people and try to understand what they are saying…. I’m a conversation lurker. 

So, I’ve made the difficult decision to put my ego aside and make a full effort in learning to speak Spanish.  I had an impromptu lesson yesterday when , Adalayda, out cook stopped by for an hour and a half.  She speaks very little English and well, you already know about my Spanish, so we sat with my Spanish/English dictionary and talked for the whole time she was here.  If she didn’t know a word in English, she would look it up and point to it in the dictionary.  I would say the English word and she would repeat it and vise/versa.  We actually learned a lot about each other and about each others language!

With the help of the locals, Mo’e, and Krista I am hoping my Spanish will improve tremendously by the time I leave.  Wish me luck let’s hope I just don’t offend anyone while I practice!!

For now— Voy a la playa con tabla de surf!

Hasta Luego y Pura Vida,


Categories : volunteers blog
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Surfing, and Costa Rica tides explained

Posted by Jul11, 2010 Comments (0)

Well, as head surf instructor for Shaka beach retreat talking about and explaining the tides has  become an everyday task for me. Many people come to the beach and they don’t understand why certain times of the day are good for surfing and other times are considered bad.  The beach is the beach, so what difference does it make when i go surfing? So anyway the purpose of this blog is to explain how the tides affect our beaches here in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

1. High tide & low tide. About every 6 hours the tide switches from low to high and vice-versa. The tide goes out for 6 hours then the tide comes in for 6 hours. So if low tide is 6am and rising, then mid tide is around 9am, and high tide  is 12noon then it turns around and goes back out. An interesting thing to note is when the tide switches directions the waves can go completely flat for 15-20 minutes. This can give a false impression of wave size and conditions to someone who arrives to surf right at that moment. I always advise beginners to watch the waves for 10-15 to get an accurate assesment before jumping in.

2. Here in Costa Rica the tide swing is pretty big around 8-9 feet difference between low and high tide. An interesting thing is every coastal area around the globe has different levels or measurements of tide swings, some ranging to less then a foot to over 20 feet. Variables such as the the moon phase, time of year, and geographical location greatly affect day to day tide levels. On any given day here the low or high tide can vary 2-3 feet so its important to check the local tide chart as well as a visual check.

3. Every day the tides move up about 1 hour. If high tide comming in Monday is 8am, then Tuesday high tide will be 9am then wednesday 10am and so on. So the 2 things to think about are that tides switches aproximately every 6 hours from either low or to high and roughly every 6 days the time of a high or low tide will completely switch.

Here is a tide chart for July 2010 to show the changes

Day High Low High Low High Phase
Fri 01 02:36 AM 9.60 ft 08:52 AM −0.47 ft 03:11 PM 9.25 ft 09:10 PM 0.02 ft
Sat 02 03:27 AM 9.91 ft 09:40 AM −0.85 ft 03:59 PM 9.73 ft 10:02 PM −0.32 ft
Sun 03 04:17 AM 10.03 ft 10:28 AM −1.04 ft 04:48 PM 10.04 ft 10:53 PM −0.47 ft
Mon 04 05:06 AM 9.95 ft 11:16 AM −1.00 ft 05:38 PM 10.12 ft 11:44 PM −0.42 ft
Tue 05 05:57 AM 9.64 ft 12:04 PM −0.75 ft 06:27 PM 9.98 ft
Wed 06 12:36 AM −0.16 ft 06:49 AM 9.16 ft 12:54 PM −0.29 ft 07:19 PM 9.65 ft
Thu 07 01:31 AM 0.25 ft 07:43 AM 8.57 ft 01:46 PM 0.29 ft 08:14 PM 9.20 ft Last Quarter
Fri 08 02:29 AM 0.71 ft 08:42 AM 7.96 ft 02:42 PM 0.92 ft 09:13 PM 8.73 ft
Sat 09 03:32 AM 1.12 ft 09:46 AM 7.47 ft 03:44 PM 1.48 ft 10:15 PM 8.34 ft
Sun 10 04:38 AM 1.38 ft 10:55 AM 7.18 ft 04:50 PM 1.86 ft 11:19 PM 8.10 ft
Mon 11 05:45 AM 1.43 ft 12:02 PM 7.14 ft 05:57 PM 2.01 ft
Tue 12 12:20 AM 8.04 ft 06:46 AM 1.30 ft 01:02 PM 7.32 ft 06:58 PM 1.95 ft
Wed 13 01:14 AM 8.11 ft 07:38 AM 1.07 ft 01:54 PM 7.60 ft 07:51 PM 1.76 ft
Thu 14 02:03 AM 8.26 ft 08:23 AM 0.80 ft 02:39 PM 7.93 ft 08:36 PM 1.51 ft
Fri 15 02:46 AM 8.42 ft 09:02 AM 0.55 ft 03:19 PM 8.24 ft 09:16 PM 1.25 ft New Moon
Sat 16 03:26 AM 8.56 ft 09:38 AM 0.36 ft 03:56 PM 8.49 ft 09:54 PM 1.04 ft
Sun 17 04:04 AM 8.62 ft 10:12 AM 0.26 ft 04:32 PM 8.66 ft 10:31 PM 0.89 ft
Mon 18 04:40 AM 8.58 ft 10:46 AM 0.26 ft 05:06 PM 8.73 ft 11:06 PM 0.83 ft
Tue 19 05:16 AM 8.43 ft 11:19 AM 0.37 ft 05:41 PM 8.70 ft 11:43 PM 0.87 ft
Wed 20 05:52 AM 8.18 ft 11:53 AM 0.58 ft 06:15 PM 8.58 ft
Thu 21 12:20 AM 1.00 ft 06:29 AM 7.84 ft 12:27 PM 0.86 ft 06:51 PM 8.40 ft
Fri 22 12:59 AM 1.19 ft 07:08 AM 7.46 ft 01:04 PM 1.18 ft 07:30 PM 8.18 ft
Sat 23 01:42 AM 1.41 ft 07:51 AM 7.09 ft 01:46 PM 1.50 ft 08:15 PM 7.97 ft First Quarter
Sun 24 02:31 AM 1.60 ft 08:43 AM 6.80 ft 02:36 PM 1.77 ft 09:09 PM 7.80 ft
Mon 25 03:29 AM 1.70 ft 09:46 AM 6.66 ft 03:37 PM 1.94 ft 10:12 PM 7.77 ft
Tue 26 04:35 AM 1.60 ft 10:56 AM 6.79 ft 04:47 PM 1.88 ft 11:20 PM 7.94 ft
Wed 27 05:42 AM 1.27 ft 12:05 PM 7.23 ft 05:58 PM 1.53 ft
Thu 28 12:26 AM 8.34 ft 06:45 AM 0.71 ft 01:06 PM 7.92 ft 07:04 PM 0.95 ft
Fri 29 01:26 AM 8.88 ft 07:41 AM 0.06 ft 02:02 PM 8.71 ft 08:03 PM 0.27 ft
Sat 30 02:21 AM 9.42 ft 08:33 AM −0.58 ft 02:53 PM 9.46 ft 08:57 PM −0.37 ft Full Moon
Sun 31 03:12 AM 9.85 ft 09:22 AM −1.08 ft 03:42 PM 10.06 ft 09:47 PM −0.83 ft

Many beaches here are categorized as tide optimal breaks; for example Playa Carmen is a mid/high to high tide break, Santa teresa, La lora is mid to mid/low break.

Depending on what time a particular tide is, what the current wind direction is, as well as the swell direction and size  will completely dictate the schedule for an entire day or even week in the eyes of a surf instructor or experienced surfer.

Pura Vida!

Brainstorming in the Rancho!

Posted by Jul10, 2010 Comments (0)

Pura Vida!!  It’s an amazing day here at Shaka!  The sky is clear, the sun is shining, a gentle breeze is blowing, and it is muy tranquilo. 

In between surf sessions and quad expeditions, Krista, Mo’e and I have been busy brainstorming and tossing around new ideas for vacation packages to offer on Shaka Beach Retreat Website!  Inspired by an old friend, Mo’e, a certified personal trainer, is totally stoked on the idea of putting together a Fitness Adventure package.  it’s going to be amazing: early morning yoga on the beach, beach boot camps, hiking and zip-line tours in Montezuma, surf lessons, healthy meals, and so much more!  It’s going to be killer and designed for the vacationers who are interested in getting in shape while enjoying all of the adventure that the Nicoya Peninsula has to offer.

In addition, I’m working on writing a biography for our camp dog, Lady, that we will have posted on the website and a write up to submit to Zoom! Nicoya Peninsula- a local magazine with news and tourist information.  It’s a pretty exciting time here.

I’m totally excited and working ferociously to get camp ready for 2 weeks of adaptive surf camps with Ocean Healing Group!!  It’s going to be great to see all of my old friends, meet some new people, and bring some excitement to our injured campers.  Ahhh…  it makes my heart feel so good when the camps are here.  The experience of being involved with OHG camps is hard to put into words:  emotional, inspiring, soul-soothing, and magical.  I have met some of the most incredible people in my life here at Shaka!!

Mo’e will be here soon to take me out for an instructional surf session…  I’m stoked!  Gotta go wax my board, liberally apply that sunscreen, and hit the beach!

Keep checking back for more news, updates, and stories about my volunteer  experience on The Shaka Front!


Butterflies told me to stop surfing again!

Posted by Jul07, 2010 Comments (0)

Over the past 4 years i have noticed butterflies flutter by me when I’m surfing out in the lineup, and not until the other day did i make an interesting connection. I had to watch the butterflies for a couple of days while surfing before i made this conclusion, but apparently about 25-30 minutes before the wind changes directions to on-shore in the morning you will see an occasional butterfly flying toward the shore/beach from outside.

surfing with butterflies

Surfing conditions here in Mal Pais, Costa Rica are always best in the morning when the wind is gentle and offshore, then usually around 9-11 a.m. the wind switches to on-shore making the surf choppy and crumbling. The ideal conditions for surfing are3 glassy peaking waves with a subtle off-shore breeze which helps hold up the face of the waves creating a nice shape and barrel.

I have no idea how the butterflies got out there in the first place, but if you are out surfing and you start to see an occasional butterfly fly by you heading to shore know that your surf session will turn to crappy in about half an hour. So if you see somebody cursing the butterflies out in the line-up, now you will know why.

Pura Vida

Categories : Surf Journal
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Random Costa Rica thoughts in the Rancho

Posted by Jul04, 2010 Comments (0)

Well its been awhile since i blogged. We have a new volunteer Katie who is gonna keep the blog section updated. This last week has been very quiet so sitting around in the rancho web browsing, facebooking and blogging has become a staple time filler.

Actually the rainy season is my favorite time of the year. No dust, downtime, more swell and uncrowded waves are just a few of the benefits. If you only experience the dry season you really miss out on the greenest time of the year. More animals show up near and around Shaka, and ocasionally the internet and power go out during the rain forcing you to unplug kickback in a hamock and read a book or just sit with your thoughts. Something many of us dont do, or forget how to do in this pace increaing society.

This past week i rebuilt the website for my brothers group SPITBREED. Both of my computers broke in the last 6 months, so Ive been relatively unplugged for a while. Its nice to have the luxury of internet but when i don’t have it i am 3 times more active outside, which makes me wonder if i like it at all. I really cant complain since my office is basically a hammock outside on my terrace looking out to the rain forest with the sounds of wild animals, ocean and waves in the background.

My brothers group SPLITBREED is really gaining momentum in Vegas and their music really suits their location. They just released their first album and you can listen to the entire album online here www.splitbreed.com. Although my web skills makes them look like Starts that have arrived they are still grinding and struggling, so if you have a moment visit their page and become a face book fan they need all the support they can get.

Until next time


Get me out the back!!

Posted by Jul03, 2010 Comments (0)

Another day is coming to an end here at Shaka.  I’ve got the Ipod set to ‘Shuffle” and streaming through the speakers and in the background I can hear the howler monkeys and the waves crashing.  

Mo’e got down to camp nice ‘n’ early so we got in a good morning session in our front yard, Playa Hermosa.  The wind was blowing onshore and made the inside pretty choppy and unlike Mo’e, I unfortunately, did not make it out the back.  I got tossed around a lot and I mean A LOT but I loved every minute of it!!  Like I said, I’m pretty new to the surfing scene so I’m just happy to get out in the beautiful green/blue Pacific Ocean here in Costa Rica and tomorrow is a new day and I WILL get out the back!!

(Here’s a little picture of me surfing from last summer on my first trip to Shaka)

There are a lot of cool things about being a volunteer here at Shaka.  You get to meet tons of crazy cool people from all over the world, you get immersed in the culture of Costa Rica, you make some awesome friends, and you can work on your surfing skills (or just kick it with the big boys if your that good).  Not to mention you get to work on your tan  🙂

Well, I’m off!!  Have a great day and check back soon for new updates!!

Pura Vida,


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New blogger in town!

Posted by Jul02, 2010 Comments (0)

Hey there all you Shaka lovers, I’m Katie, the newest volunteer at Shaka, here in beautiful Santa Teresa, Costa Rica!!  I’m taking over for Emma until later in August and am so stoked to be here.  I might be the NEW volunteer but this is my third time here at Shaka.  I love it so much, I just can’t stay away.

Everything is calm and quiet right now on the Shaka Front: lots of time to relax, read a book, and most important- get in some good surfing.  I’m pretty new to the surfing scene so everyday is kind of like Christmas to me: wake up, throw on my suit and rashguard, slather on some SPF 50, wax my board, and hit the beach running!!  Life can’t get much better than that for girl from 20 Miles west of Philadelphia, Norristown, PA.

Well, that’s all for now.  Just wanted to take a minute and introduce the new blogger in town!  Stay tuned for updates from me and Life at the Shaka Front.  Pura Vida.

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