At promptly 11:45 a van for Manuel Antonio Surf School pulls up out front of our home, Villa Oasis, for the last three nights of our 10 day Costa Rican vacation. My boyfriend, Michael, and I are greeted by two locals who help us into the van. Our instructor, Lorenzo, introduces himself and informs us that we will be heading to Dominical, a surf spot about 40 minutes outside of Manuel Antonio. We drive along a typical Costa Rican highway, which consists of one lane each direction. The speed of Costa Rican drivers fluctuates from 20 to 70 miles per hour on the highway so cars pass by swerving into the left lane and hoping to make it to the right before a collision with head on traffic. Upon landing in Costa Rica, we had rented a car and had grown relatively acclimated to this “pass and pray” method, but it still jolted me every time we’d swerve back into our lane, moments before oncoming traffic.
We arrive safely at Playa Dominicalito, a less popular surfing spot known for its great waves, yet the tide was quite low by the time we arrived around 12:30. The low tide exposed various rocks and Lorenzo decided we should head to Playa Dominical instead to avoid surfing into rocks. As a complete beginner who has never surfed, I was grateful for his professional guidance. We learn that we will return later to have our lunch of shrimp and rice at one of the carts located at the beach entrance.
Four steps to surfing
At Dominical, Lorenzo gives us a 5 minute run down of the four steps to surfing: 1. Lay with your stomach flat and your feet almost off the edge of the surf board and place your hands close to your chest, making sure that everything is tight and compact. 2. Use your arms to enter the cobra position in yoga, with arms straight and abs engaged. 3. Twist your dominant leg out so that your knee is bent and ready to propel yourself to a standing position on the surf board. 4. Step with your other leg to the center of the board and twist so your feet are parallel to one another and perpendicular to the board, keeping them about shoulder-width apart. It is important to keep your knees bent to improve balance on the board. Once we have practiced those four steps two or three times on the sand we are ready to put them into practice in the water.
Lorenzo explains how to maneuver the surf board over the waves and we are off. He is standing in the water which is almost to his neck, and at times over his head. We are both on our boards. He positions us and gives us a push as he yells “Get up!” I am first and I stand up immediately! I fall shortly after but the moment fills me with the sense that this is totally doable, even with no experience. I am 5’3″ and my boyfriend is 6’4″ and we were both up and surfing within the first few waves.
We continuously return to Lorenzo who positions us before we pop up and surf for 30 seconds or so each wave. After about 45 minutes or an hour we are informed by our driver from the shore that lunch is ready and we head back in.
Fresh pineapple and cold water is ready for us as we reach the van. We head back to Dominicalito and enjoy a low-key lunch. We learn that Lorenzo, who was born and raised in Manuel Antonio, is like most Costa Ricans and learned to surf at the young age of 8 and started teaching as early as he could, when he was 13 and could help out older instructors. Michael and I discuss how surprised we were at our abilities to stand up and ride in such a short amount of time but I was still frustrated by my lack of prowess and wanted to be better. Yet I had the feeling that this is all the surfing we will be doing for the day and it definitely felt like just a taste. I am also a little disappointed because I didn’t have the opportunity to take a photo or two to commemorate the experience. We participated in multiple tours throughout our time in Costa Rica (including ziplining and monkey hikes) and most guides made efforts to ensure that everyone had a photo to remember the experience. I was surprised that our guides didn’t offer to snap a photo or two. I asked if I could get a picture of Michael and I with our boards and Lorenzo could sense that we weren’t ready to be done. He asked if we wanted to surf more, we resoundingly responded with “yes!” The plan was to visit a waterfall after lunch but he said we could cut down on time spent at the waterfall to surf more. I knew prior to our lesson that the itinerary would include surfing, lunch, then a trip to the waterfall but our guides didn’t make it clear what our timeline would look like for the day.
Surfing Playa Dominicalito
We appreciated Lorenzo’s willingness to let us surf some more. After lunch the tide had risen at Playa Dominicalito so the waves would be more enjoyable and less rocky so we headed into the water. Our driver took photos on Michael’s phone from the shore. After lunch our surfing skills had greatly improved and we both rode almost every wave. After about half an hour I have had enough of the rocks and constant waves, so I head back to shore and Michael follows me soon after. He sustains a minor cut on his foot from the jagged rocks but our guides have first aid equipment and bandage him up without a problem. I am happy to see all the great actions shots our driver took of us learning to surf. We drive for a short 5 minutes to “El Ojo de Agua,” or water eye and take in the view of this lovely waterfall. I climb along the side and swing off the rope near the falls into the water. Swimming in the cool water is a refreshing way to end our day after getting pounded by salty waves in the morning. After about 15 minutes we load up into the van and head back to Manuel Antonio.
Our ride back to our hotel is quiet as we are all exhausted. Lorenzo passes out because he did 99% of the work, positioning us both while getting pummeled by waves. We arrive back at our hotel around 5 pm and thank our excellent tour guides. Overall we had a wonderful experience with Manuel Antonio Surf School.
Need to Know:
The Dominical Tour offered by Manuel Antonio Surf School is $130 for the day and includes a lesson, lunch and a stop at the waterfall. If I were to do this tour again I would have signed up for their basic lesson which runs at $65 and focuses exclusively on surfing. The all day tour was great, however, I was mainly interested in learning how to surf. If you want to maximize your time in the water, I recommend surfing lessons. If you know how to surf and want the combination experience of surfing in Costa Rica and a scenic excursion, sign up for the waterfall tour. As I reside in Portland, Oregon where skies are often grey and rainy I am already planning a trip to sunny San Diego, California with hopes of catching more waves thanks to a great first-time surfing experience with Manuel Antonio Surf School!
If You Go:
Manuel Antonio Surf School 506 2777 4842
Calle Principal a Manuel Antonio, frente a Pajaro Azul
Quepos, Costa Rica
Learning to surf review written by Kendall C. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. She received a media rate from Manuel Antonio Surf School while traveling in Costa Rica. The post Riding Waves at Manuel Antonio Surf School first appeared on https://www.nancydbrown.com.