Learning To Surf in Costa Rica: You’re Never Too Old… Right?

Follow Ben Barnhart as he learns it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Where better to learn how to surf than on the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica? Read about his experience and find out if he manages to catch a wave!

Like many beaches on Costa Rica's west coast, Playa Samara attracts both experienced and novice surfers. Photo by Ben Barnhart.

Climbing down from the bus in the center of Playa Samara on Costa Rica’s west coast, Molly and I are tired and sweaty after the meandering four-hour ride from San Jose and all we want is a cerveza and a palm tree to lie under. Surfing isn’t part of our plan.

Beer and shade are easy enough to find in this quintessential beach-lovers village. The main drag, all of about four blocks long, is lined with Tico sodas and more upscale restaurants and bars–all serving ice-cold Imperials –- mingled with local artisans selling hand-made jewelry and at street’s end is a wide beach lined with tall coconut palms blocking the hot mid-day sun. The beach is mostly empty now in the heat of siesta except for a dozen surfers wrestling with their boards in the rolling waves.

Maybe it is the beer and the heat, or the exhaustion of travel, but surfing actually begins to look fun. Even the ungainly novices who dismount their rides with feet-up-in-the-air gracelessness seem to be enjoying themselves.

Thirty Cold, Miserable Minutes

My only experience on a surfboard was thirty cold, miserable minutes at Cape Cod where I was drubbed by the waves before limping out of the water a broken man. Molly has never been on a board so her memories of the sport are fonder than mine.

Turns out a lot of people come to Samara to learn surfing. The horseshoe-shaped beach, a couple of miles from tip to tip, is sheltered by a large reef producing consistently gentle three-foot swells that roll softly in to shore and treat even the most inexperienced wave riders with some dignity. Think of it as a bunny slope for surfers.

As a result, you can’t walk down Playa Samara without tripping over a surf school and that’s just what we do. Attracted by the breezy beach hangout scene and the bustle of ongoing lessons, as well as the lady next door selling delicious fruit smoothies, we stumble into the C&C Surf School and our fate now seems determined.

Learning to Surf in Costa Rica: You’re Never too Old…Right?