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The Heartbeat of Shaka

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Hola Friends,

 The Collective


I’ve been a part of the collective at Shaka Beach Retreat for almost four months now. It has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate artistically and share space with such a wonderful group of people.

The Heartbeat of Shaka


The community here is strong and stretches beyond the Rancho which is the heartbeat of Shaka…..the commonplace where all the happenings take place. We share meals here, surf lessons, yoga classes, movies, tarot card readings, just to name a few…and of course the WiFi which is our connection to the rest of the world while we play here in Paradise!

A Sweet, Simple Life


I had been dreaming about this for a long time, to be with like minded people, near the ocean, teaching yoga in a beautiful setting, surfing, and living a sweet, simple life. Well, I made it…here I am…and it most certainly is sweet!

Mmmmmmm….Raw Cacao


Sweet, like the gooey, fresh, raw cacao I feasted on this past Sunday. I sat on my porch with my neighbor and two new friends and ate one of the most delicious foods I have ever experienced. The cacao is encased within a hard brown shell, the inside is filled with little, vanilla flavored triangular seed pods and in the very center of the creamy pod, a little cacao bean…soft like milk chocolate that melts in your mouth….but a million times better!

Quality Time


The sweetness of sharing quality time with your neighbors, your friends, your family, your guests is truly what life is all about. You’ve got the peas….I’ve got the carrots…well stated by my friend Desi a few years ago. When we come together and give our gifts, we also learn to receive the gifts of others. We all desire to contribute, to feel connected and to be welcomed.

Good Company


That’s why I love it here, we offer a space for people to do just that! To enjoy good company, in a picturesque setting, away from the normal distractions that pull us away from the simplicities of life! Come check it out and see for yourself!
Pura Vida!!
Megan Panchinin
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Costa Rica Yoga and Surf Amazingness!

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My humble abode

It’s been a minute since my last post, as I have been busy settling into my new life in Costa Rica. I finished with my volunteer position at Shaka the first of December and moved in next door to my new place. A little casita, a studio with a bed, a refrigerator, gas stove, sink and a bathroom. All the necessities covered, my favorite part of my humble abode is the porch where I am lying in my hammock writing this.

The snooze button

I am surrounded by tropical flowers and a menagerie of critters…dogs, cats, roosters, chickens, birds, and of course howler monkeys. Between the monkeys and the roosters, there is no need for an alarm clock, they will begin to wake you at about 4:30 am. At least they are kind enough to allow you to snooze for about ten minutes between intervals of their good morning celebration!

Stepping into the flow of the jungle

The good news is around here you tend to sleep with the natural rythyms and pulsations of life, stepping into the flow of the jungle! Another great reason to wake early is to head over to Shaka and begin my day there. I am extremely grateful and excited that they have asked me to continue on as a part-time volunteer. I will be helping out with guest relations, cooking with Cristelia and begin teaching regularly scheduled yoga classes there this week.

New roof for the Rancho 

We will be practicing in the Rancho (which just had a new thatch roof put on it this week!) until the yoga platform construction is complete. I was amazed how quickly the roof was rebuilt and have been informed the yoga platform will be finished by the end of January. It will be nestled behind the existing structures, closer to the beach and under the jungle canopy. It is going to be so amazing, as if it isn’t already enough!

Launching the new website

The other really awesome news is that I am launching my new website, where we will be offering yoga and surf Amazingness! An extension of Shaka, these retreats will include yoga classes, surf lessons and delicious, healthy cuisine. I am filled with delight to be a part of this expansion!

Free downloads, healthy recipes

I am also thrilled that this will keep me in Costa Rica on a more permanent basis…I have fallen hard for this place! Please stay connected and keep your eyes open for the new site. We will be up and running for 2013 and ready to start this new year off with a bang! I will be offering free downloads for tasty, healthy recipes and some get fit quick yoga routines, etc.

Have a good time, live a simple life

I think what has been most appealing about my experience at Shaka, besides the breathtaking beach and jungle landscape is the feeling that I am with family…a real collective..a bunch of great people who like to have a good time and live a simple life. What more could anyone ever ask for? Well, maybe some really good chocolate! Haven’t found that here yet! A sacrifice I am willing to make for paradise! Until next time…..

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Surfed the back side! Whoot-whoot!

Hola, this is my third week at Shaka surf camp and today I caught my first “big” wave! It was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had! I have been taking daily lessons with Mo’e the owner, and the guests here at Shaka for the past week. Daisy was the first guest to arrive after the Ocean Healing group departed, and we took our first lessons together.

5 rules of the water and the 5 universal principles of alignment

As a practiced yoga instructor and skilled snowboarder, this surfing thing is gonna be a breeze…no problema! Our first lesson with Mo’e was in the Rancho, where we discussed ocean safety and the 5 rules of the water. Distance, staggering, cover your head, never turn your back on the ocean and….hmmm…I forget the 5th? I immediately resonated with this philosophy, since I teach yoga with the 5 universal principles of alignment…gotta be similar right?

Loosen up! Slouch a little!

Next we practice positioning, alignment, paddling and popping up. Like a good yogi, I have the principles of alignment imbedded in my body, active feet, steady shins, thighs back and wide, tailbone scooping. Right away Mo’e corrects my rigidity and informs me that I need to loosen up….to slouch a little…huh? I always harp on my students about holding the integrity of the alignment….always…siempre! Now I am being asked to do just the opposite of what I have worked so hard on engraining….ok Mo’e you are the surf boss… I will do my best!


We then head down to the water, where Mo’e helps us catch our first waves by pushing us along and getting us started. Again, no bueno para me….I seem to be doing everything wrong….too stiff, wrong stance, not paddling enough, too far back on the board. The waves are pounding me, one after another and the entire time I am extremely irritated by this humbling experience. The good news is, that I am thinking about my beginner yoga students and how they feel coming to a yoga class for the first time….I’m guessing just as frustrated as I was in that moment.


Each morning Daisy and I would go down with Mo’e and practice in the whitewater. Daisy was great at popping up…I was a good paddler…if we could just combine our skills we could make one good surfer! We both gave it our all and day by day we got better. With skillful instruction and determination finally it was starting to sink in! I was able to stand and ride, but still needed to refine some technical difficulties. By about day 5, things were going pretty well!

Preparing for departure 

Daisy was at the “tail end” of her journey and would soon be leaving Costa Rica having surfed some good waves. As she was heading out our new guest Frank arrived and the lessons continued.   At this time, I was feeling pretty comfortable on the board and progressing nicely. Frank and I continued to follow Mo’e’s lead and instruction…continually refining. Each day Mo’e would tell me to go further out and teach me a new skill to assist in my departure to the back side.


Today was the big day! I learned to turtle roll, how to appropriately time my decent into the deep water gracefully and how to ditch my board and swim under the swells if needed. We paddled out and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared shitless. I have the utmost respect for the power of the ocean…but also mad respect for great teachers…which are plentiful here at Shaka!

Back of the bus! 

I made it! I was out there with the cool kids…back of the bus style! Everyone is hanging out on their boards, chit chatting and waiting for the right wave to come along. The view is spectacular, and quite a different experience from being in the white water….quiet..until the sets start rolling in!  Another skill….picking the right wave…patience. As we wait, I try to remain calm, but know I have the ” deer in the headlights look in my eyes”. Finally, I get the heads up that this is my wave, with butterflies in my stomach and a send off from Mo’e, I successfully ride the first big wave of my life!

Mas para mi, por favor?!?

So freaking awesome! I couldn’t believe that a week before I could barely stand up and here I was riding this big wave, one with the ocean….totally in the moment! I decided today that I need more of that! I have fallen for Costa Rica in so many ways, the people, the land, the sunset….and now the surf. This day will be remembered and celebrated as the beginning of a new, exciting journey into the world of surfing….muchas gracias Shaka Costa Rica!

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Rare Penguin Sighting in Costa Rica

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So I went down to check the waves this morning and found much more than I was looking for. As I came through the tall sloping coconut trees at the edge of the beach I noticed an unfamiliar creature waddling out of the water in my direction. As we approached each other I could see more clearly that the creature was black and white and had something red around its neck. Getting even closer I determined that what I was looking at was none other than a penguin! But how impossible? There are no penguins in Costa Rica. It is way too hot for a penguin around here.


I scratched my head and figured I’d wait a few seconds to wake up from this silly dream, but I could smell the sea breeze and feel my fingernails on my scalp. Was this really a penguin I was seeing? And what was with the red thing on its neck? It kept waddling closer and closer in my direction (I assumed it was in search of some cool shade) and I did not wake up. I I ran back to Shaka to get my camera and tell the others. Everyone was still asleep so I ran back to the beach to take advantage of this totally Nat Geo opportunity.

Luckily, the penguin was still there and hadn’t moved much. As I got closer I saw that it was very large, like the size of a grown man, and it had a surfboard under one of its ‘wings.’ Also, the red thing on its neck was a big floppy bowtie. WTF?

Turns out it was not a REAL penguin. It was Steve (!), our cheeky Canadian guest, sporting his penguin costume he brought down for Halloween. How could I forget?

these kids were stoked to meet a Canadian

Although Steve is not a real penguin, he did say he felt like one, sweating his feathers off in that suit. And he still made a great subject for a photo shoot, regardless of the fact that I will not be sending my pics in to National Geographic now.

In more serious news, we have a new volunteer here that is not me, which means I shall be moving on soon. I have been invited to stay and help with the upcoming OHG (Ocean Healing Group) camp but I will probably have to sleep in a hammock (something I do rather often anyways). It sounds like a cool opportunity but I also wouldn’t mind getting out to see a bit more of the country in my remaining two weeks here in Costa Rica. Hmm, what to do….Any suggestions for a surfer dude on a $300 budget?

Pura Vida


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Montezuma Waterfalls

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Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to go see the waterfalls in Montezuma with our new guest Steve and Shaka family member, Jerry. Steve is a firefighter from Canada and Jerry is a yacht captain from Florida. Both pretty cool dudes. Jerry has been coming down to this area for years now so he has been more of a host than a guest since being here. He bought a clean ’91 Isuzu Trooper with 4wd so we have been able to mob around a bit like yesterday, to the waterfalls!

The sun was up and shining bright and early, perfect for a little field trip. We mobbed through fresh green landscape, up and down steep hills covered with fast-drying mud. Perfect conditions for a full on test drive of Jerry’s new Trooper.

test drive terrain

This allowed me to put my 2 dollar “tico squeek” shoes to the test. (I have some nice 80 dollar Teva sandals my mom bought for me but I feel too touristy when I where them, sorry Mom). When I first visited the waterfalls in July there was much less water and it was much more brown. Now, after all the recent rain, the agua is falling at full force and looks clean enough to drink (not tested). There was a misWe dropped into Montezuma, a cute little fisher gone tourist town just on the other side of the peninsula from here, and went straight for the falls. The waterfalls are just a stones throw up a fresh little river that drains into the ocean at the entrance of town. The trail is pretty much just the river, which you follow up from the road about half a mile.ty gust that blew off the pool at the bottom of this 100 and something foot gusher.

the trail

Above this big ‘fall is a big pool and another 40 something foot waterfall. Both upper and lower pools have ledges and ropeswings to fulfill whatever thrill seeking needs you might bring with you. Yesterday, after the warm, rock hopping hike up the river, we just chilled at the foot of the falls, absorbing the cool mist sprinkling off the pool.

On our way back we stopped in Cobano so Jerry could get his new cell phone dialed in. We had lunch at a little ‘soda’ for lunch, picked up some cheap supplies at the big grocery store (beer was like twice as cheap there than here) and mobbed back to home base.










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Hamaca Vida

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SLOtown USA vs Costa De Oro vs Playa Hermosa.
The Definitive Comparison

It is hard to say I live a life of routine, so a ‘day in the life’ type post won’t suffice. Instead, I offer a flurry of things that are/were dear to me from my three most recent locations, San Luis Obisbro, CA, Costa De Oro, and Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.
The main thing I miss from SLOtown right now is sandwiches. There are heaps of them everywhere and they are delicious. Although they are expensive, there is one place called High St. Deli that offers all its sandwiches for just 4 dollars and 20 cents between 420 and 5 pm. Yep, miss that. I also miss smooth roads for biking on, and bike lanes. Any type of lanes for that matter. For about far as a crow flies in an hours time ain’t nothin but dirt roads ’round here.
What I miss from Costa De Oro, the little beach pueblo north of here that is nothing but fisherman and vacation homes, is sipping agua de pipas, young coconut water, all day err’y day. We had a plethora of stubby little cocunut trees in the backyard where you could just reach up and pluck ’em off. Could even crack ’em open on the trunk right there if really thirsty. But a word of caution, cocunuts kill 8 times more people per year than sharks do. This is on account of the high frequency of earthquakes. The quakes (terremotos) shake off the cocos onto some poor little Tico just passin by or chillin in a most dangerously situated hammock. These skull cracking fruits, which some call ‘nature’s cannonballs,’ are not always as sweet as they seem….
What I will miss frome here, Shaka, Playa Hermosa, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Mother Earth, is the proximity to good surf in warm water, duhh, and a full kitchen and fridge pretty much all to myself. I’ve been cooking all sorts of stuff. When the surf is not “up,” the temperature of the stove and/or oven most likely is. Another thing I will miss from here is the rain. Although it makes everything wet and muddy, the sound and smell of the rain is relaxing, revitalizing, reassuring thirsts will be quenched. It also keeps the crowds away. While there is plenty of room for more people here, I am kinda selfish and like having it all to myself.
In summary, Shaka is probably the best out of the last three places I have dwelled. And I don’t like using surperlatives (words like best) but everyone knows this is a subjective blog post so I am sayin it. Shaka is the best! (No, but seriously, its pretty chill.)

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Rainy Season? What Rainy Season?

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So, October is supposed to be the peak of rainy season but in this first week it has only really poured down once, while light showers have sprinkled down here and there every so often. The locals are a bit worried because their wells might run a bit dry this year, but I have no complaints because I was able to surf two solid sessions today. There was a light offshore during the morning that made available some speedy low/tide barrels. The sun got hot early and my back was feeling burnt approaching my second hour in the water. The afternoon session didn’t have such a fortunate offshore but it was still clean and  the swell filled in a bit more, offering overhead peaks up and down the beach.

surf all day

My psuedo- routine is slowly taking form here, surf, eat, chill in the hammock reading, random activity (see what Carlos the maintenance dude is tooling around with and if I can help, maybe bike around, go to the store in search of produce or little Tico snacks, maybe flip through some Spanish note cards, draft blog posts, etc) surf again, eat again, and so on.  You might think it would get lonely here by myself at night but the family dog, Vida, has taken a liking to me and has been chillin with me here just about every night. She pretty much does my job for me, yapping away at anything and everything that comes near.  There are also plenty of jungle noises like cicadas, howler monkeys and off/road vehicles to keep me company at night.

Everyone says the same thing about this place, but I am part of that everyone and I will repeat it, ‘the people here are really nice.’ This place is teeming with smiles, even if you cannot hold a meaningful conversation in the native tongue (I am working on it).  I know how to communicate to get what I really need, and I look forward to maybe someday having more philosophical conversations with the Ticos (regardless of the fact that the philosophy here doesn’t need to go much deeper than two words, Pura Vida).  That being said, did you know that many nonverbal communication scholars believe that smiles were originally a sign of either submissiveness or threat? Such has been observed in several studies of the ‘higher level’ primates and is assumed to be true for our early human ancestors. This thought popped into my head today after about my 36th smile of the day and was kinda trippin me out because I am sure some of my smiles have at least a little bit of that original submissiveness in them. I am still the new kid in the village, you know. (Note, I got my bachelor degree in Communication and one of my last classes I took was Nonverbal Communication, not just completely pulling facts out of thin air. Matter of fact, the air here isn’t thin at all. It is rich with damp, beachy, rainforesty oxygen).  Pure Life, Pure Life. Pura Vida.

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Greetings from Shaka, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about what we are doing and hope to be doing in the comming months leading to 2012.

Its currently the rainy season so its nice to have a slow down. It lets us refresh ourselves, reflect on the past year and do some maintenance, as well as dream and imagine possible new things and ideas that we would like to implement in the near future. Here is a summary of  things recently or in the near future

1. First off we had a good year so far. It was ou busiest year even in this down economy. Shaka as well as OHG is maturing and improving. We are excited to head into the new season right around the corner.

2. In August We started fixing and repairing surfboards, Our surfboard fleet was getting a bit dinged up and a our broken board pile was adding up. Shaka invested in the proper equipment and material to do proffesional board repair. The hassle, expense and delay of paying board fixers is now behind us. We now have Alejandro who has shown an instinctive talent in board repair and painting keeping us sharp

3. Ted a Volunteer with OHG has launched a campaign to get Shaka a SWIMMING POOL. You told me to hold you to it Ted, so here it is. I hear that he has already raised over half the money, so hopefully any one who visits shaka in 2012 will be able to enjoy this addition.

4. We plan on launching a project to turn the Rancho common area into a work of art incorporating Mayan, Polynesian and tribal style artwork. Headed By Chris. More info on this comming soon.

5. Our next OHG group is planned to take place in November just before the upcomming 2011 season.

6. Krista is putting together a yoga adventure package. All inclusive 7 day packages based at Shaka but daily yoga excursions to all the world class studios in the Montezuma, Mal Pais, Santa Teresa and Hermosa areas.