Ten minutes later we arrived on Playa Jacó closer to Playa Hermosa and we looked out at this vast ocean steadily banking with waves of immaculate beauty. We went under this white portable canopy and took off our slippers and shirts and our instructor, Juan explained, was on his way. So we took a moment to walk up to the beach and dip our feet into the water and the temperature was absolutely PERFECT! Adam correctly identified that since the sand was finer and with a tinge of black then it must’ve been volcanic, which indeed it was. So we admired this vast ocean and this heavenly sky and at one point with ecstatic excitement I cried out in discovery “Can you believe it! Between HERE and JAPAN there’s nothing but OCEAN! It’s HUGE!” So we went back to the canopy and there were a couple of pretty attractive girls up there surfing who came up for a drink of water and a break and then returned to the ocean and they were followed by a milfy Asian surfer with quite a fine voluptuous bod and then a silver-haired man and Adam put it all together and concluded that they were a surfer family. Then from behind us emerged this super-tanned dude with long dark hair and blond ends to his shoulders and a goatee and this was Julián, our instructor. He was jolly and cool and he gave us a whole bunch of complicated handshakes with fists and fingers and shit, and then before us were two huge surfboards and he started to show us how to surf. Step by step he explained the pretty technical process of riding a board, catching a wave, achieving balance, and riding out the wave to the end. Adam and I are both quick learners so in no time Julián brought out our boards and applied some surf wax and we put on our rash guards (long-sleeved shirts to protect from the scrapes of the board and sand) and it was time to surf!
As we waded into the ocean the smooth steady waves embraced us candidly and the water rushed our senses and our spirits. We waded farther and farther as Julián instructed us on how to proceed. We got on the boards, centered and belly-down. We waited. He held down our boards until the right wave came along. Julián turned us around. “Foot up” “paddle paddle” “Stand up!” And suddenly from behind me a strong sturdy force propelled me forward. And with my right foot in back I stood up and leaned forward and centered my left foot and folks on my very first try I rode a complete wave!
The rush was incredible. I screamed and hooted. It was such an addiction and I paddled back craving more! Adam was cheering and hooting and jumping around and couldn’t BELIEVE he’d never done this before! And it turned out that both of us were very decent beginner surfers due to our backgrounds in skateboarding and snowboarding— for those same mechanics come into play here— and we were ecstatic. And after five or six runs I was riding three or four waves IN A ROW! Then Julián asked us if we were ready to go deeper and of course we were! So it was time to get on our boards and hit the REAL waves.
I watched with what grace, what calm, what submission Julián interacted with the water. For to resist or to fight water in any way was a CERTAIN defeat. But Julián knew the water. He was its child. He did whatever it wanted, or he got out of the way. So if a giant wave came his way, either he allowed the wave to take him wherever it was going, or he dipped below it and let it pass over him. No struggle. No conflict. Complete tranquil liquid submission. I saw this and watched admiringly this man’s gentle surrender to the universe. For he understood that the ocean, the universe, the flow always wins. And those who try to order, to command, to conquer, to resist the flow, soon succumb to the flow. Yet those who succumb to the flow by their own wisdom find that the flow knows best, and they are at peace.
I wanted to learn what Julián knew. I wanted to see into this mind of the flow, of the submission. He knew water. He understood water. So as we swam out into the ocean’s great white-capped mountains I called out to him, “So I want to learn more. Like, I don’t understand the water.”
And Julián looked at me and he said with a look of sheer bewilderment: “What do you mean?”
And I thought, “I sound crazy”.
So I didn’t bother to explain further and Julián didn’t bother to ask. And I assumed that this highly intricate abstract philosophical concept which I’ve just expressed to you must be something he knows intuitively but isn’t able to articulate. So I moved on and Julián ordered that we begin to “paddle out paddle out paddle out”. I wasn’t sure what he meant exactly but I knew what “paddle” meant so I did that after him. And as we swam farther out into high tide the waves grew monumentous and solid and reached five or even six feet high and you really had no chance against them. So they started tossing me sideways and I called out to Julián “how do I turn?” meaning, how do I paddle myself in the direction I want to go. And with great frustration Julián commanded “paddle out paddle out paddle out”. I didn’t know what that meant at all so I kept paddling but whatever it meant, I knew it didn’t mean to just keep aimlessly paddling.
See, Julián had a very specific plan in his head. Direction, purpose, technique, objective…it was all in his head. But he wasn’t articulating it. And Adam and I were aware enough to ask, but either he wasn’t understanding our questions or wasn’t interested in answering. So amidst this enormous chaos of tidal fury, he just kept saying “paddle out paddle out paddle out” and that meant NOTHING to me if I didn’t understand 1) what “paddle out” means in surfer lingo, 2) what or why we are “paddle out”ing, and 3) what the objective is, like how do I know I’m doing the correct “paddle out”. And then suddenly out of nowhere Julián cried “paddle in!” and I thought, “paddle IN? Fucker I’m still trying to figure out ‘paddle out paddle out paddle out’ and now you want me to ‘paddle IN?’” But whatever I was doing was wrong because very soon I found myself drifted over fifty feet away and facing sideways and bombarded with waves and Julián looked concerned and the other surfers were giving me that look people give you when you’re drifting into oncoming traffic at five miles per hour. So Julián swam to me and fished me out and I could tell he had really lost his patience. But in truth, I couldn’t understand why HE had lost his patience. All he kept saying was “Look, you need to do how I taught you” and I wondered, when did he explain how to do ANYTHING like this, because I would have remembered that! If he could find the words— Spanish, English, or otherwise— to explain what we were doing perhaps I’d actually impress him. But he must’ve said “paddle out paddle out paddle out” over a thousand times and I still knew then and know now just as much what “paddle out” means as you do, my Illustrious Reader. The bottom line was, Julián was teaching a teacher and he couldn’t teach. So I realized that unless I was gonna just bob out here like a shipwreck survivor I might as well move on with my life. I told Adam I was heading back and I semi-rode the waves back to shore and that was more fun than “paddle out” could ever fucking be.
I sat on the shore and let the tide caress my feet and knees and I played with the dark ash-tinged sand and watched the ocean, the mother of our planet, do her earthly work. And it doesn’t take very long of watching the sea or the sky or the earth before time slows down and you gently swirl into a new primal consciousness and suddenly you and the rest of the universe all make perfect sense. So I sat there in the euphoric trance of the sea and sand for what seemed like a beautiful cyclical eternity and when Adam came back he was so damn geeked and I was so happy to see him this excited.
We showered off and changed as the skies darkened and it began to thunder and rain and after saying goodbye to Julián a Russian-ish girl named Nadine approached us with a laptop and she was the photographer for the Surfer Company which had authorized our lessons. She showed us whole SERIES of high-quality amazing photos she had taken of us surfing and said we could buy the whole file for $25.00 and I said HELL YEAH because those right there were high-quality shots of the first time we ever surfed at one of the surfing capitals of the world! We thanked everyone and Juan drove us back to Riva Jacó where we had time to unwind and relax a bit, for we had accomplished some of the most memorable activities of our lives within the last eight hours and it was time for us to sit back and revel in our grand and glorious triumphs. Plus it was getting dark and starting to rain.