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Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

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Calgary, Canada
posts: 36
reviews: 56
Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

The Tour Operator: Eco-Tours (Tour Desk)

The Scammer: Alex

The Location: Main intersection in Montezuma, Costa Rica. On the corner (across from Chico's bar). There is the Eco-Tours Desk, internet cafe, and real estate office, all in the same location.

Type of Tour: Surf Lessons (from Alex)

The Scam/Problem:

- He's not a surf instructor (local Tico's at the beach couldn't believe he was teaching somebody, expecially in those conditions).

- Brought me to an unsafe location (not a beginner beach, rocks, etc.).

- Unsafe waves and situation (nobody else was teaching).

- Had no idea what he was doing (I heard later that local Tico's have told him before to stop scamming tourists and leave the surf instruction to actual surf teachers and shops). I heard this from multiple sources in Montezuma.

- Used our transportation to get to the beach. (Scratched the hell out of the roof of the rental.)

- Questionable exchange rate practices. (You pay in USD, but he'll give you change in Colones at a brutal exchange rate. You pay in Colones and he'll give you credit in USD at a terrible exchange rate. )

My mistakes:

- Didn't ask around with various shops and surfer rental places.

- Didn't do my research.

- Didn't book in advance with a recommended or accredited surf company.

- Didn't use my own common sense.

- Booked with the first guy I asked.

- Didn't calculate exchange rate there at the time to make sure he wasn't screwing me around. Noticed something but dismissed it.

What happened: After booking a SCUBA dive adventure at Tortuga Islands I inquired about surf lessons thinking that he would directly me to a local surf shop or provider. Alex said he could provide surf lessons "himself" for $40. Problem is he's not an actual surf instructor and has no idea what "safety" is. He will do whatever it takes to grab your $40 for surf lessons chucking safety and common sense out the window. He booked a time the next morning to take us surfing. As we had our own rental vehicle, he told us to meet him at the shop. He strapped surf boards to our roof (we didn't have a roof rack). I wouldn't recommend this, by the way, it scratched the hell out of the roof as he didn't use protection or antyhing (between the car and surf boards). I should have said something (I thought about it, but thought the guy new what he was doing and had my best interested in mind). We drove to a beach on the way to Cabuya parked and started the instruction. We spent a whole of 5 mins of "beach instruction". I heard later you should have a lot more. Then, in the water. Surf was very high and powerful. Later, I learned that most all the shops and instructors weren't teaching that day due to unsafe conditions. Those that were still teaching were at Playa Grande where it was a little easier for beginners and safer (no rocks). This particular beach had hidden rocks (I felt big ones with my feet, close to and just after my face and head was grilled into the sand underwater for 5 seconds when a wave knocked me over. The experienced locals surfing that day could not believe he was teaching beginners in that location and on that day. As soon as we hit the water I was ravaged. The waves knocked me and the long board about. It was crazy. Wave after wave, we couldn't even paddle out. Every wave, I got off and tried to go to the front of the board to duck down into the wave. Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn't. I couldn't get up once. The white water would come, even when my positioning was perfect, and crucify me. The force of everything threw me and the long board about like a rag doll and a toy. After 20 mins or so I was absolutely wasted. I'm in my early thirties, reasonably fit, and comfortable in water (swimmer, advanced SCUBA diver). I fear if it was a weaker individual out there that day, that it wouldn't have turned out very well. I didn't mind getting knocked around a bit by the waves (even had a smile on face for a bit), I didn't know any different until the Tico's at that beach told me otherwise. I also became aware of my safety when I felt the collection of waist high rocks under the water where I was wiping out consistently with my feet. That brought me to the realization that I was playing with my life. I asked for a break and never went back in. Alex proceeded to go surfing himself (to show-off?, prove it could be done?). He couldn't even get up! Used the board like a boogy board and rode back on his tummy, standing up the last few meters when the surf died down. It did give me a chance to talk to the locals on the beach. Some of them were instructors in the area....surfing because they didn't have to teach that day.

So, I felt ripped off. I thought I would share it with you kind folks out there. The Montezuma area is a wonderful place and Costa Rica is amazing. Tico's are awesome people too! But, I did feel a little hussled by this guy. I'm sure I could have had a way better experience with a reputable surf company or instructor. Next time.

Other negative experiences with Alex:

- booked our SCUBA trip with him. He lied about the accreditation of the SCUBA company I thought I was diving with. Divemaster? Awesome guy, very attentive and skilled. But an accredited 5 star PADI dive shop operation? Far from it. Visitbility? Brutal. Gear? Ok, but didn't get a depth guage. They shouldn't have been taking people out with that type of visibility. Didn't see a thing. Took everything I had just to keep track of the Divemaster. A waste of time and money that day.

- Alex's exchange rate practices between Colones and Dollars were questionable. He did it quick and after I went over everything in my head I saw that he screwed me over a bit. My fault for not questioning or noticing, but it was the first time in Costa Rica that it happened to me.

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 43,338
1. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

Ooops...that is a great explanantion...of course Alex is out of my xmas list!



Grecia, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Province of Alajuela
posts: 6,726
reviews: 39
2. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

thanks for the warning.


Jaco, Costa Rica
posts: 1,013
3. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

Thanks for the warning! A little tip when looking for surf lessons. Go down to the beach and watch the various instructors. Even though you don't surf yet and are going for a lesson, you will be able to tell a good instructor. Use this in addition to recommendations from a surf shop. And go with a Tico instructor whenever possible. I don't know that Alex was or wasn't, I just like to throw that in there...

Calgary, Canada
posts: 36
reviews: 56
4. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

Good points jako1313. Yes, Alex was Tico but I definitely should have done some homework even if my trip was fairly rushed.

Montezuma, Costa...
posts: 538
reviews: 8
5. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

I'm sorry for your bad experience, but glad that the rest of your time in Montezuma was good

Normally experienced surf instructors take beginners to Playa Grande or somewhere else that the surf is much more gentle.

I'm not a surfer myself but these places are reputable


Proyecto Montezuma or ask at Luna LLena hotel or Zuma Tours for who they recommend.

Cabuya, Costa Rica
posts: 3
reviews: 1
6. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

Most Surf Instructors care about their guests. Montezumasurf.com provides quality instruction, excellent equipment, and advanced safety guidlines.

Surfing should be fun, relatively easy, and well within your comfort zone.

Spread this TA review to help us warn other potential Surfers of the SCAM. Yesterday I watched this same instructor going to give a lesson at Low Tide Playa Grande...absolutely impossible to find safe waves to ride...but he was taking 2 poor souls out anyway. Spreading the Stoke of Surfing is not about the money..it comes from the heart

Cabuya, Costa Rica
posts: 3
reviews: 1
7. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

Luna Llena Hotel and Zuma Tours both use Montezumasurf.com to provide their guests with Quality Instruction

Calgary, Canada
posts: 36
reviews: 56
8. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

Wow, it's tough knowing that he is still scamming unsuspecting tourists out there. That's too bad. I hope he see's these posts and stops what he is doing. Or, locals should try talking to him again. One day, it will happen, somebody will get hurt under his careless watch. It would tarnish the area's reputation for quality surf instruction for beginners. That would be a shame. Thank you all for your posts and interest.

Ocean City
posts: 4
reviews: 1
9. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

WOW! Thankfully this is out there now! This is so true. I run Proyecto Montezuma (a nonprofit TEFL training, Spanish and Surf School) and must say we have been waiting for this. We are so sorry it happened to you, and to numerous others.

Please research what you are getting into. The ocean is no joke and your safety must be #1. Proyecto Montezuma works with all Costa Rican bilingual surfers with only your safety in mind. The ocean is unpredictable, but the real, local instructors know the area beaches and should never take a beginner to area with extra danger (rocks, for example).

And, yes, a long time is needed on the sand to learn and master your body's position.

Please come back and join our surf team: Manuel, Maykol, Pai are ready to surf with you! (And you will love it!)


Pura Vida!

Calgary, Canada
posts: 36
reviews: 56
10. Re: Montezuma Surf Lesson Scam - Beware of Eco-Tours (Alex)!

Thanks for this! I definitely will do my research next time. Proyecto Montezuma was actually mentioned by the Tico on the beach that was speaking with me and warning me when Alex was attempting to surf himself. From what I gathered (my Spanish is quite poor), he was referring your organization. I'm glad this is getting out! It was really brutal that day out there with Alex. Cheers!