Nancy and I have had one thing in common from the first day we met, and that is we both love to be in the water. So what better way to kick off our lives together as newlyweds than to attend surfing camp! We both like a challenge and love the thrill of speed so now that we will no longer be able to participate in our beloved sport of Autocrossing back in the States, we thought surfing could help to fill that void.
From a very strong recommendation by one of Nancy’s colleagues who has surfed for years and has attended a handful of different surfing camps in Central America, he recommended we spend a week at Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica,so we did and had an absolute blast…new thrill hobby found!
We made reservations in September of 2014 before leaving on our European excursion so we’d be ready after our short return to the states. The reservation process was a delight with the Witches Rock staff — they were extremely helpful with the many questions we had, and they were very responsive in an impressively timely manner. We booked one of the Penthouse rooms, deciding to splurge a bit since this was also our honeymoon and we’re glad we did because we shared a rooftop deck with the Penthouse next to us so not only was the view spectacular, but we met some nice surf camp attendees.
Our room was very clean and completely adequate; kitchenette with fridge, microwave and hot plate, double sink bathroom with large walk in shower which had a clothes line inside so drying out our surfing garb was a snap!
The Witches Rock staff had a lovely tropical flower arrangement waiting for us congratulating us on our recent marriage and thanking us for choosing Witches Rock Surf Camp – a very nice touch that was appreciated and not expected, we enjoyed viewing the floral arrangement all week.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, flying into Liberia International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. After making our way through the beautiful new airport and customs, just as the reservation staff said and confirmed before we left, a driver was waiting outside with a sign. We joined the other surfers and had a pleasant 40 minute ride to Tamarindo in a comfortable, air conditioned shuttle. Our driver was very personable and extremely helpful, he even lugged our really heavy suitcase up to our room! There is no need to pack a lot for your stay here, we did though as our tickets were “one-way” so we had some additional items that one would normally not take. We could tell the driver was looking at us a little funny as he lifted the very heavy and oversized suitcase, we just looked at him and said “thank you and that we weren’t going back with a smile on our face”…he then understood.
Arriving later in the afternoon we were tired from our flight so we appreciated very much the two onsite restaurants, they even have a micro brewery with their own signature creations. We sat downstairs at Joe’s and had a bite to eat along with some cold cervezas.
When we did eat at the on site restaurants we were always pleased with the quality of food we received, they even have sushi. Hailing from Seattle, WA where we have lots of quality sushi at our disposal, the sushi at surf camp was absolutely acceptable and was an appreciated menu choice. We were also impressed that breakfast was included in our surfing package and this was no typical hotel buffet fare – we got our choice of anything on the breakfast menu, real food that tasted great! After lunch we went to the main reception area where the staff explained in detail to us how the week would progress. They showed us the daily updated board which stated what time our surfing lesson were for the day, who our instructor was and who was in our group. Additional information on the board consisted of who is arriving to surf camp and who is departing and at what times. It was very organized.
Sunday morning, 11:30 am, day one of surfing lessons! We made our way to the surf cage behind the hotel on the beach/water side and met our instructor and other classmate. The student/teacher ratios appeared to be kept low for obvious reasons, any more than 3 to a group would be too difficult, 3 students was a perfect size and some groups had only 2 students. Our instructor had our surf boards all ready so he instructed us to pick them up and follow him to the beach, so we did like the good little surfing lemmings we were. Our first lesson was on what to expect out in the surf, our instructor was very focused on everyone’s safety and expressed what his expectations were of us when we are out in it, this safety talk was firm and very appropriate. Before heading into the surf we learned and practiced many times the all-important “Pop-Up”, which is the motion you do to stand up after you have “caught” the wave. Nancy and I cheated a little bit by watching some youtube videos weeks before we arrived and made part of our daily gym routine practicing our pop-ups. That and the conditioning we did before arriving to surf camp really did help! After about 30 min of group and individual instruction on the beach we attached the surf board leashes to our ankles and ventured into the surf. It became clear immediately that we will be getting beat up by the waves, carrying an 8-10 foot surf board into the surf was no easy task at first, but after a bit you start to learn how to negotiate crashing waves coming over you while you basically carry a sheet of plywood! The waves at Witches Rock Surfing Camp are perfect for beginners, not too big but big enough that when you do catch a wave, you are truly surfing. It was exhilarating the first time we successfully caught a wave and rode it in. We enthusiastically paddled back out for another! Each day’s lesson was 1.5 hours and that was plenty! We were all tired and it felt so good to retire to our room, change into dry clothes and sit on our upper deck enjoying a frosty one while we reflected on our first ever surfing experience…life is good 🙂
As the days went on we progressed. As our skill set increased so did the quality and performance of our surfboards. Witches Rock has a ton of surfboards to choose from — beginner to advanced, they have them all. They rent all of their boards too, although our surfboards were included in our surf package and we could go get a surfboard anytime outside of our scheduled lessons if we wanted to practice on our own. During the week we had changing weather conditions, which affected the quality of waves. We also moved up the beach to some bigger waves as we got better at surfing. It was great to experience different areas and different surf – a lot like skiing, conditions can and will change day to day.
The quality of instruction was great, the instructors know their stuff and in a positive way they were firm with us in their instructions and expectations. I appreciated this because you could really tell they wanted us to learn and get better, you could tell when they were proud of us with their wonderful, loud yelling of approval when we did something right.
The lessons were not limited to the water only, Witches Rock has a classroom on site where we attended seminars on things like Surfing Etiquette, Surfing History, and photo/video recap of the days lesson which I particularly enjoyed as we all got to be together as students and see what we look like, lot’s of fun and many laughs were had!
Topping off our week, the Witches Rock staff had another unexpected surprise for us. Learning this was going to be a honeymoon trip for us, they planned a special beachside, linen clothed table dinner for us complete with romantic tiki torches. They explained before the dinner night of our choosing to let them know what we would each like for dinner and they would prepare it — anything, even something special that was not on the menu if we wanted! This was such a romantic, special evening, we had a dedicated waiter just for us while we enjoyed sushi appetizers, whole fresh red snapper, prawns, dessert and generously flowing wine! We were absolutely blown away by this unexpected act of thoughtfulness, it truly capped off a memorable week.
So, bottom line…if you have ever wanted to or are planning on attending a surfing camp, you really can’t go wrong with Witches Rock Surf Camp. From quality, accommodations, location and price, they really are hard to beat. Plus you will walk away with a new skillset that you can improve upon if you wish, which is exactly what we will be doing as we unfold and discover our new lives in Central America, and…we can come back if we choose to attend intermediate and advanced classes that they offer, I know we will be back!