Good Vibes Only
Easier than you think, if you just remember to stand back up.
Mary Kathryn Carpenter
Cutting through the waves of Playa Jacó, falling down and standing right back up again, visitors to Costa Rica can learn to surf after only one lesson.
Surfing has existed as an adventure activity for hundreds of years, though it is uncertain when or where it began. In Playa Jacó, Costa Rica, surfing is an ever-growing industry, and Tortuga Surf School is one of many surf schools in Jacó that teaches surfing to both locals and tourists.
Michael Gutierrez, owner and operator of Tortuga Surf School, said when he began establishing his company in 2007 there were a plethora of surf stores, but no schools on the beaches to teach people how to use that surf equipment.
Tortuga Surf School teaches one-on-one surfing lessons, but more than that, they teach water safety.
“At Tortuga, we teach 99 percent safety and only 1 percent surfing,” Tortuga Surf instructor Josh Mendez said. “We concentrate on teaching people how to be safe in the water first, and then how to surf.”
Left: Some of the surfboards Tortuga Surf Camp uses for their daily lessons in Jacó. Vida Magazine | Mary Kathryn Carpenter
Center: Michael Gutierrez discusses the growth of his company in his hotel, Perico Azul.Vida Magazine | Sam MacDonald
Right: Surf trolley holding some of Tortuga’s surfboards. Vida Magazine | Mary Kathryn Carpenter
Gutierrez and his team all strive to make sure that anyone who visits the company has an experience to remember.
“Tortuga is one of the most professional surf schools I’ve seen in my life,” Mendez said. “They really care about their guests. They want to make sure you really have a good time here.”
Though Tortuga now shares Playa Jacó with numerous surf schools, its extended camps still set the company apart. While other schools offer extended camps, Tortuga Surf School is the only camp that teaches more than just surfing, Gutierrez said. Tortuga offers week and month long camps where campers hike, surf and follow individualized nutrition plans, all to help teach them how to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Surfing is a great way to burn calories and lose weight, both of which are great for heart health, Gutierrez said. However, surfing alone is not enough to improve campers’ lifestyles, which is why Gutierrez said he covers the cost of a nutritionist and personal dietary plan for all of his campers throughout the duration of their stay.
Gutierrez has a piece of advice he gives to all of his students and instructors.
“In life you don't make plans, you make goals,” he said. “Plans never work out, make a goal. Draw a line in the sand, put your goal in front and be so disciplined that nothing will deviate you from your line, and that way you accomplish things, one by one.”
He wants his campers and instructors to improve their lifestyles, but he doesn’t want them to get so obsessed with the end goal that they forget to enjoy life and celebrate the small accomplishments that lead up to the end goal.