"The world needs more places like this." That is the sentence and sentiment that Amelia and I kept repeating for the first two weeks of this new year. Pura Vida is not some bumper sticker catch phrase for tourists. It is the way of a beautiful country, and it's great people.
This year makes two in a row that Amelia and I have started the new year in Costa Rica. Now I can't imagine a better way to rejuvenate my entire being. I did not deny myself the indulgences that come with the holiday season - beer, wine, cheese, hors d'oeuvres, cookies, egg nog and the shameless materialism that is Christmas in my wonderful, gift-happy family. However, it's really refreshing to pull a 180 degree turn from these splurges. And though I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, I do believe in this literal, personal reset coinciding with the dawn of a fresh new year.
My body started to feel a whole lot better after just a few days of fresh fruit, seafood and pipas frias (chilled coconuts cut for drinking). Getting to be outside all day with the sand, sun, wind and waves was medicinal. Taking a break from the inescapable, insane U.S. news cycle felt equally refreshing to my mind and spirit as the healthy food, running, yoga, surfing and skiing feel to physical being.
Perhaps even more uplifting than the surfing, skiing, food or adventure, however, are the people. Ticos must be the friendliest, most welcoming people in the world. (No offense Canada, you're still up there). What stands out most is the way people always seem to have time for other people in Costa Rica. Folks don't hide behind their cell phone screens, pretend to be busy, or avoid direct eye contact. As a matter of culture, pride and respect, people everywhere smile and greet each other earnestly. Everybody is ready to lend a hand or give an hour to help out a neighbor or even a stranger.
On my last night abroad I was talking to a San Jose native at the hotel. In my broken Spanish, I shared these rosy observations that I've formed over my numerous trips to Costa Rica, asking if I had formed a false impression. He assured me that I had not. He validated my exact thought that whether by necessity or tradition, Ticos tend to operate from a state of cooperation rather than competition. I would not go so far to say that human nature is different in Costa Rica, but they have found a way to improve the ratio of heart to ego, and even if it's just a marginal change, it's enough to inspire me to live the Pura Vida wherever I am.
I shouldn't even start on how rich and enchanting the flora and fauna are. It's truly overwhelming, and none of my words, nor pictures could possibly do it justice. I've never been to a place where the natural beauty was so stunning that it actually keeps people from trying to dominate the land.
I'm not saying that there aren't other places where this is the case, only that this is the case throughout so much of Costa Rica. Their pristine jungles, forests, rivers, waterfalls, beaches and wildlife are a huge national treasure, and Costa Rica has done well to protect and preserve such vast amounts of this resource.
Somehow, Pura Vida really captures all of it. It's in the lush plants and colorful birds. It's in the food and water, and therefore gets into everyone. That good life force in everyone is shared among neighbors, strangers, friends and tourists alike, and it's also offered back to the land in appreciation and husbandry.
Now I'm already feeling ready to go back. I've confirmed the same two weeks with Waterski Costa Rica - January 5-19, 2019. If at all possible, I hope to spend the first week of 2019 exploring new places, cleaning out my body, clearing my mind and restoring my spirit. I just hope that I can stay centered and grounded through all of 2018 as easily as it was for the first three weeks in one of the greatest places on Earth.
I was going to stop there, but this is a site for Peace, Love AND Waterskiing. Thus, I should mention that the time on the water was simply wonderful. Yes, Amelia and I and all of the skiing guests had to go through that severe soreness that only comes from the first set of the year, but it was totally worth it! Amelia and Darlene got to put their Radar Vapors in the water for the first time.
I'm not sure who was more stunned by how well the ski felt right out of the box, them or me. They both ripped the course up, while our new friend, Patrick, attempted a slalom course and a tick tock for the first time in his life. The effort and massive crashes were both impressive and entertaining. This week also happened to mark five years since Amelia first learned how to ski on two skis. It was on that same trip to Costa Rica five years ago, that I first told Amelia that I love her in a romantic hot springs. In these five years, I'd say our love has grown at the same pace as her progress on the slalom ski.
After sharing stories, sets and laughs, it was hard to watch this group dissolve. There was hardly time to dwell in melancholy, as the new group showed up ready to shred. The weather was not nearly as nice during the second week, but it never held us back at the lake. I can't recall a time where I thought the whole group of skiers of all levels learned and improved so much in the span of one week. It was truly an honor to be a part of. Two skiers, Angela and Werner, ran six buoys for the first time, which I think of as the greatest accomplishment in the long waterski journey.
Though I'm happy to be home and reunited with Amelia and our puppies, I can't stop thinking about my next chance to get on the water. This trip has been the perfect start to 2018, and to the new ski season. My next ski ride will be in Florida, training for the Moomba Masters and Latrobe City International. I may be doing a couple of Radar Demo Days in South Florida on May 11-13th(ish). For the most part, however, I'll be training and available for coaching at The Boarding School from February 14th-24th. Feel free to contact me - h2oSkiJunkie@gmail.com if you would like to get your season started, get a winter boost, or try a Radar with me. Whether it's next month, this spring, during the heart of the summer, or next winter in Costa Rica, I'll do my best to share the Pura Vida with you. Happy New Year, Amigos!