I have been back from Costa Rica going on 72 hours now and am still replaying all of the amazing rides and meals and waterfall jumps in my head. The second inaugural CSC + RDA surf retreat was a total smash hit. We were blessed with plentiful swell and gorgeous weather. We stayed on the video and everyone saw dramatic improvement. After this retreat I feel now, more than ever, that hiring a coach is the only way to fast track your surfing. All the pros have them, why not people who are just starting out? Some of the people on this retreat have only been surfing since August and October 2015 and are now dropping into overhead (for them) waves with style. It's truly impressive. Below is a highlight reel followed by a few more words:
There are many highlights in this video, but I have to say that Beni's wave at Pavones — the long left pictured in the screen saver — is one of the best waves I have ever seen a beginning/intermediate surfer ride. Working with back siders, it is imperative to make sure that head and shoulders are turned down the line and opened up to the wave face. The grab rail technique is not always necessary but it is a good skill to have in one's arsenal to help manage the drop and pull the rail into the water. There's a nice close up of Beni using this technique in the GoPro footage of the wave we shared at a secret spot near the Rancho towards the end of the video. That wave is hilarious because she kept looking back at me and I had to keep pointing to the shoulder so that she would turn her head to make the wave. I must admit that I cannot take full credit for Beni's success. She has a naturally quick pop up that she has honed at a variety of surf camps and schools around the world. This is simply more to the point that new surfers who seek out instruction improve more quickly than those that don't.
I like to think, however, that starting with a technique like ours gives one an even faster advantage than the other techniques. Helena, Mariza, and Christina are all perfect examples. Helena has been surfing with me since August and Mariza since October 2015; and Christina only started during the first retreat in January 2016. Both Mariza and Helena are taking off at the peak and managing really tricky drops with style. In one day Christina went from a labored pop up with a little too much bend at the waist to a fast pop up with the weight shifted back over her right foot. Beyond particulars, all these women absolutely charged. The waves were not small during this retreat and everyone came to the table ready to play. Unfortunately Mariza and Christina had to leave this trip early before we got all the insane left handers, which is why we only see Beni and Helena towards the end of the video.
The other people in the video, Bryan and Juan, were there to help Andrew and I out with camp particulars and lineup safety. Juan is a very competent bodyboarder from Puerto Rico who has also been learning to surf since working with Andrew. He in fact got the best stand up wave of his life on this trip and was invaluable when it came to preparing meals and logging footage. Bryan has been surfing for 5+ years. He is one of the heads of the NY Surfing Buddies meetup group and is a general good vibing frother who has has gotten into shaping his own alaia surfboards with the help of Jon Wegener. I was particularly glad Bry brought the alaia because I got some of my best waves of the trip on it. I put one particularly long one in the video. The alaia is all about picking the right wave and being in position. It takes so much energy to swim that piece of wood around a lineup, so you don't want to kill yourself going for bad waves. I saw Bry have some particularly masochistic alaia sessions where he went for a lot of closeouts or sectioning waves. He has seen the video and knows that he needs to work on patience. The upside to Bryan's impatience is that he is just so stoked to surf. Beyond his surfing stoke, Bryan brought a lighthearted presence to the retreat and made some of the best and most creative margaritas any of us have ever had. He also did some really valuable filming and commentary for our spoof reel.
Moving towards heavy video review has made a huge difference both in my teaching style and in the students' improvement. We did not miss one wave on video all trip and people could take what they were seeing — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and improve upon it the next day. Plus we got really good at improv commentary which made the nightly video reviews as entertaining as they were educational. A spoof Youtube channel or Instagram may result . . . .
I know that in this age of internet ADD I am supposed to only provide videos that are 3 minutes and under, but we got so much good footage that 7 min 30 secs was the best I could do on this one. The waves we scored were so long and I wanted to highlight that our crew were getting 30 sec plus rides. You put five of those on a video and that's 2.5 minutes long already with none of the fun lifestyle stuff, which I think adds so much flavor and depth to what we do down there. I cannot express in words how great it feels to swim in a cool freshwater waterfall pool after surfing all day. Definitely a top 5 life experience.
We're in the early phases of planning our future retreats for 2016 and 2017. Until the dates are up, please feel free to email about Conatus-style lessons and mini retreats in Costa Rica. Andrew is down there and he has all the skills and video equipment necessary to help out 1-3 people at a time. We are also gearing up for the New York season, which is soon to be upon us. I am starting to book up for when the water gets warmer, so make sure you get on the schedule asap. I'm also solidifying some great plans for CSC mini excursions to RI, LI, and NJ for the summer. And don't forget that Chris is out in Montauk if you need lessons out there.
I am really stoked that CSC is growing organically and finding its niche in the flourishing surf community. For those that have believed in us and continue to, I thank you with all of my heart. Hopefully we'll see you in New York or Costa Rica soon!