Back in March, my partner and I had the honor of taking a surf lesson with Manuel from Young Vision in Montezuma. Manuel is wise beyond his years. In the hours I spent with him, he gave me the gifts of not only the foundations of surfing, but of some hard-won wisdom as well.
In terms of the lesson -- it was perfect in every way. Manuel met us in town at the designated time (in fact, he was early), and led us on an amazing walk through a nature reserve to Playa Grande, where we'd be surfing for the afternoon. The walk alone was amazing. Manuel, a lifelong Montezuma resident, walked barefoot over the sharp rocks and hot sand; it was as if there was no distinction between his feet and the earth he walked on. As we walked, he gave us an excellent oral history of the area -- it was one of the highlights of our trip.
Once we got to Playa Grande, I started to get nervous. I had never surfed before and I was more than a little anxious about it. My partner had surfed a few times before, so he was excited to get back in the water. Manuel saw that the tide wasn't quite right for us to begin surfing, so we took our time with the sand-side lesson. Manuel was 110% focused on us the entire time he was with us -- not once did he appear rushed or distracted. His "live in the moment" attitude helped me relax and enjoy the lesson.
One of Manuel's many strengths is that he is endlessly positive, while at the same time extremely good at encouraging you to try harder and do better. I'm sure I must have been one of the clumsiest, least graceful, most nervous people he's even given a lesson to, but he never stopped finding genuine compliments on my progress. He has a way of using compliments to point out your areas for improvement in a way that felt completely non-judgmental and incredibly supportive. He made me feel capable, which I honestly didn't think would be possible.
Another one of Manuel's strengths is that he is able to work with people of varying skill levels at the same time and give very personalized attention and feedback to everyone. My partner had a foundational understanding of surfing but could use some help developing techniques to refine and advance his skills, while I needed help getting the courage to try to stand up on my board! Manuel was right there for both of us the entire time, never seeming tired, bored, or overwhelmed. His calm attitude made me feel calm and relaxed.
While I honestly didn't think I would ever manage to stand up on the board that day, I did! And the first time I did it, it felt amazing. But perhaps even more amazing was Manuel's reaction -- he was overjoyed! He kept saying that he thought he was more excited than I was when I finally rode my first wave. Having that kind of unconditional support and encouragement from someone I'd only met an hour before was a pretty incredible feeling.
At some point we took a break and enjoyed fresh coconut water from coconuts that Manuel skillfully sliced open for us -- another trip highlight.
After our lesson -- which lasted as long as we wanted it to, with Manuel letting us decide when we were ready to call it a day -- we took our time walking back to town. We learned that Manuel is a new father (congratulations again!) and that both of his parents had passed away. My own mother died last year and I'd been struggling to embrace the joys of life in the wake of her death. That was something Manuel and I talked about on that walk back to town, and I soaked up his powerful and healing energy and attitude of enjoying the present moment and making the best of each passing day.
To cap off an already unforgettable day, Manuel ended our excursion to a little grove where he keeps the surfboards and where he spent his childhood growing up. We talked about the fruit trees and he picked us some fresh mangoes from the branches. And when we mentioned that we hadn't seen any monkeys yet on our trip in Costa Rica, he pointed to some trees and there, sure enough, was a family of howlers! We watched them for a long time, eating our mangoes and soaking up the incredible moment.
Thank you, Manuel, for a truly life-changing day! You not only taught me how to surf, but you taught me more than a little about life and how to live it, too. Hope to see you again someday.
To anyone considering a surf lesson, or even just a day in nature with an incredible guide, I cannot recommend Manuel and Young Vision any more highly!