“Surfing On The Break”

“Surfing On The Break”

Giant breaths are what you take
Surfing on the break
I hope I don’t wipe out
Surfing on the break
We could surf forever
Surfing on the break
We could live together
Surfing on, Surfing on the break

Surfing back from your house
Surfing on the break
Surfing back from your house
Surfing on the break
Feet they hardly touch the board
Surfing on the break
My wake don’t hardly make no sound
Surfing on, Surfing on the break

Some may say
I’m wishing my days away
No way
And if it’s the price I pay
Some say
Tomorrow’s another day
You stay
I may as well play

Giant breaths are what you take
Surfing on the break
I hope I don’t wipe out
Surfing on the break
We could surf forever
Surfing on the break
We could be together
Surfing on, Surfing on the break

Some may say
I’m wishing my days away
No way
And if it’s the price I pay
Some say
Tomorrow’s another day
You stay
I may as well play

Keep it up, keep it up

(to the music of the Police Walking on the Moon)

September 7th, 2013  in Uncategorized No Comments »

Tamarindo to Whistler – Three months later

It’s hard to believe that it has only been three months since I left the warm waters of Costa Rica for the harsh cold of Whistler.  When I left Tamarindo, the temperature was 35c.  In the middle of February, the temperature outside my house in Creekside was -25c.  That’s a 60 degree temperature difference.  Ugh!

Patrick ‘shredding the pow pow’

Since coming here, I have picked up snowboarding pretty well, and for a beginner, am holding my own on the blue runs to the point of being comfortable through the trees.  I have done a few black runs, in fact, to get home; I need to traverse one almost every day.  Runs are colored by difficulty for those of you who don’t board/ski – green is the easiest, then blue then black.  Then double black!

So far I have only had a couple of major wipeouts.  On day 4 on a board, I almost broke my ankle and tore up my knee pretty badly.  In fact, the first aid guys on the mountain who took me off the hill on a snowmobile thought it was a career ender.  Whatever.  The very next day I went swimming, and by mid week was boxing and lifting weights with my legs.  One week later I was on the hill.


My other nasty wipeout was when I attempted to hit a straight-away section of flatter terrain at high speed; probably about 50 km.  A blind skier came out of nowhere and my attempt to avoid him resulted in a spectacular single person (me) collision with hard packed snow.  I guess he didn’t see me coming…

Anyways, for a couple of days I couldn’t lift my arm at all, but now it is somewhat better and it only hurts like a son-of-a-bitch to lift it over my head.  Oh, I was boarding a week later.

So I like snowboarding a lot!  Just not the wipeouts.

My house is to the right in the trees – about 50 m from the hill

Whistler is much like Tamarindo in many respects.  The town is small, full of ex-pats, tourists abound and people are generally in good spirits.  Never have I encountered so many Australians in my life though, unless you count my trip to Australia of course.  There are also a lot of Kiwi’s, Brits, Japanese, South Africans and even one guy from Ireland named Padrigh.  Oh, yea.  There are Canadians here too.

Weekends here remind me of weekends in Tamarindo.  All of the tourists show up, the chairlifts are busier and people are generally ruder.  “You live here?” They will ask.  “Oh.  Well without us, you wouldn’t have a job.”  That seems to be the attitude.  And much like Tamarindo, I just don’t go boarding on weekends, or I stick to obscure runs that are gnarly and not gringo-friendly.

reacquainting with old friends – Andrew Wong, Owner Wildrice restaurant vancouver

Being a local has its advantages anywhere I guess.  Being a local here means anywhere from 10% to 20% of shopping, restaurants and up to 50% on services such as massage and snowboard tuning.  I really wish Tamarindo businesses did that for locals; they just didn’t really get it minus a few places such as WRSC, Banana, CR Surf and Kelly’s.  It helps keep things local, and helps the economy, especially during the slow season.

One of the biggest differences for me so far has been the speed of the internet, and consistency of my BlackBerry’s signal.  As many of you know, my job is being on the phone, and my VoIP phone just didn’t have the strength of a signal in Costa Rica.  I believe that as a direct result of having a solid infrastructure, that my business has improved immensely.  And even though I live up a hill like I did in Tamarindo, it is paved and when it snows, we have plows hitting it nonstop.  But those roads in Costa Rica are part of the Pura Vida attraction, so it’s all good.

Now one thing that has been different is the price of things.  People, things are expensive in Tamagringo!  My monthly grocery bill has dropped by at least 50%, and my utilities are about 25% of what I paid before.  Gas is cheaper, especially on the Indian reserve in Pemberton, and when I took my car in to get it fixed, it took 2 hours and was done properly.   Costa Rica really needs to get its import taxes under control.  As a stalwart conservative, less taxation creates more available capital to grow the economy.

I miss Tamarindo though immensely, especially the friends that were made and the surfing buddies that I would see daily on the break.  Surfing has been ‘replaced’ for now by boarding, and now that summer is only a couple of months away, I will be mountain biking, mountain climbing and of course, fly-fishing the rivers and streams for trout.

So, there’s my three month report.

Me and my CrackBerry working away
April 16th, 2011  in Uncategorized No Comments »

Tamarindo – The fleecing of Gringos

The fleecing of Gringos

This is my last post from Tamarindo, Costa Rica for the next while as I decided to move to Whistler, British Columbia for the next year. I am planning to come back here both in the short term and long term.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t pull any punches and call it the way it is. While the surfing here is second to none, sometimes I feel like a second class person. It’s because of the gringo tax. Here are some examples.

Alamo car rental – prices rose 100% from September to December’s high season “because of the tourists.” So my SUV rental went from $50 a day to $100. Okay fine. Supply and demand. But come on? I live here.

Economy Car rental – they tried to charge me extra insurance even though the website clearly stated one price of $10 a day, they wanted $30 a day. I was told insurance on all cars is mandatory in Costa Rica. Bullshit. My Jeep doesn’t have insurance nor is it legally required to have insurance. I got on the phone with the owner, told him to fuck himself and ended up not paying the ‘insurance’.

Shopping – a blond friend of mine walked into a small grocery store near Avellanas. Two beers and two bags of chips cost $8.00. WTF??? I walked in the next day and purchased the same items. It cost me and my darker skin $4.00.
Water – When the government took over the water service here last year, my bill went from $5 a month to close to $100. Seems I was not alone. A lot of bitching, phone calling and dropping in unannounced at their offices and it is back down to $16. No reason nor explanation ever given. And no refund.

Electrical bill – When we moved to Tamarindo, our electrical bill was about $100 a month. Now it is over $300. That’s right. In four years it has gone up that much. That’s about the average salary for a Tico. Do you think they look at where I live and give me a ‘special rate’? You bet they do.

It is what it is. Don’t even get me started on the road to Langosta!  Or how when you take your car in to be serviced they swap out your new car battery and replace it with an old one!

January 17th, 2011  in Uncategorized No Comments »

Nicaragua – Friend or Foe?

I just got back from my third trip to Nicaragua this year, and was caught in the middle of a debate by locals and expats about the border ‘war’ with Costa Rica. Having grown up during the era of Ollie North, communism and Time magazine, I always figured that the president of Nicaragua, Ortega was nothing more than a despot ruling under the guise of socialism. Well, I still feel that way.

However, I have learned that the average Nicaraguan (Nico) is friendly, hard working and will treat you with same respect that you show them. On the surf breaks, there was ZERO territorialism, and in fact, I found myself hanging right in the middle of the pack at Playa Ramanso and Play Yankee with some really great locals who I watched encourage some of the beginners who had ventured out into deeper waters. I cannot even imagine this happening at Dana Point or even one of my local breaks like Playa Grande.

Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, has widespread underemployment and poverty. GDP fell by almost 3% in 2009, due to decreased export demand in the US and Central American markets, lower commodity prices for key agricultural exports, and low remittance growth – remittances are equivalent to almost 15% of GDP.

Per capita annual income is $2600 or $217 a month. They suffered a major disruptive civil war and these people are literally starving, yet they seem to be happy with what they have. Maybe that’s a lesson we can all learn.

We stayed in San Juan del Sur again at the Hotel Villa Isabella which is run by Mike and Jane. They also run the volunteer library there, and seem very involved in the community. The usual suspects were visited including Iguana Bar and the Crazy Crab, and a couple of restaurants that served $10 lobster dinners. And instead of Playa Maderas, we surfed the southern beaches this time, Ramanso and Yankee, which were way chill and less crowded.

Next time you come down to Tamarindo, set aside a few days to go to Nicaragua too. The country needs your dollars, and I bet you will have a great time!

I just got back from my third trip to Nicaragua this year, and was caught in the middle of a debate by locals and expats about the border ‘war’ with Costa Rica. Having grown up during the era of Ollie North, communism and Time magazine, I always figured that the president of Nicaragua, Ortega was nothing more than a despot ruling under the guise of socialism. Well, I still feel that way.

However, I have learned that the average Nicaraguan (Nico) is friendly, hard working and will treat you with same respect that you show them. On the surf breaks, there was ZERO territorialism, and in fact, I found myself hanging right in the middle of the pack at Playa Ramanso and Play Yankee with some really great locals who I watched encourage some of the beginners who had ventured out into deeper waters. I cannot even imagine this happening at Dana Point or even one of my local breaks like Playa Grande.

Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, has widespread underemployment and poverty. GDP fell by almost 3% in 2009, due to decreased export demand in the US and Central American markets, lower commodity prices for key agricultural exports, and low remittance growth – remittances are equivalent to almost 15% of GDP.

Per capita annual income is $2600 or $217 a month. They suffered a major disruptive civil war and these people are literally starving, yet they seem to be happy with what they have. Maybe that’s a lesson we can all learn.

We stayed in San Juan del Sur again at the Hotel Villa Isabella which is run by Mike and Jane. They also run the volunteer library there, and seem very involved in the community. The usual suspects were visited including Iguana Bar and the Crazy Crab, and a couple of restaurants that served $10 lobster dinners. And instead of Playa Maderas, we surfed the southern beaches this time, Ramanso and Yankee, which were way chill and less crowded.

Next time you come down to Tamarindo, set aside a few days to go to Nicaragua too. The country needs your dollars, and I bet you will have a great time!

November 29th, 2010  in Uncategorized No Comments »

Costa Rica and the impossibility of doing business

For all of you who think that living in a surfing paradise is easy.

This past week was especially difficult for us who depend on simple things like water, electricity, roads and internet.    The weather has been sunny all week, and the only saving grace is that I have a Blackberry on the Costa Rican 3G Network.  Although, the actual speed of the 3G here reminds me of AOL dial-up circa 1998.

I think that Friday really summed things up with an email from AYA, the government run water monopoly who at least had the courtesy to send out an email for those of us who opted in.  It was as follows:

DEAR CUSTOMERS, We have problems in transportation lines and the network of water supply. This is because the repairs to the streets of Tamarindo, which take place at this time. For this reason and to repair existing damages will be suspended water service.  We have no definitive time to finish our repairs. We can not estimate a time to return to provide water service. We apologize for the inconveniences it may cause you.

Thank God we have a two huge water tanks buried under the garden, which means we can enjoy long showers and washing our cars for at least two weeks while the rest of Tamarindo bathes in the Pacific.

We lost power a few times this week.  It’s kind of expected in the rainy season, but during the sunniest weather we have had in months?  Perhaps the government subsidized monopoly  gave it’s employees a day off at the beach?  In reality, tourism season has started and the air conditioners probably drew too much load off the grid and the electricity company was unprepared.  It’s not like we have had tourists here before, right?

And on that note, the main highway called the Inter American Norte has been shut down for parts of last week.  This is the only route for commerce to move from the ports or from our neighbors to the north.  I guess that closures like this account for such a low GDP as you need to be able to transport good to sell them at market.  Funny concept I know.

And finally, the internet.  Also run by a government monopoly, we have had problems at the house for the past two months and have had countless technicians visit and try to determine the problem.  They tell me that for some strange reason there is not enough bandwidth coming up the hill to my house.  They can’t seem to figure it out, even after having 6 workers here on Wednesday for 5 hours.

I told them the problem.  Someone has parked a server in town and is eating up all the bandwidth so they need to (a) find the server and put him on a dedicated server or (b) increase throughput on the cable lines.

They assured me that I knew not what I was talking about and that it didn’t matter how many people were on the internet at the same time because bandwidth can’t get used up and slow up download/upload speed.

No, I am not kidding.

And then on Thursday, most of the country lost internet for about 40 hours.  No explanation.  No apology.  And no discount on the bill for sure.

25% of the people in the country who are employed work for the government or a monopoly, and this has led to an attitude of ineptness among the same.  They get paid no matter what and have a union that is so strong that the President would not have been elected without their support.  Next month,  all employees of Costa Rica must be paid a full month’s wages as a bonus as mandated by law.  Plus, they all get about 2 weeks off.

Is it no wonder that the country is close to being bankrupt?

I guess my overall point is to let people who think that they can carry out a remote business like I do, is that it is next to impossible.   I have to start a company in the New Year, and if this country had a dependable infrastructure, I could stay here and employee Costa Ricans.  As it turns out, I am moving to Canada where they have competition and people who care about your effectiveness to create wealth and contribute to the country’s GNP.

November 20th, 2010  in Uncategorized No Comments »

Tamarindo now in full swing

Well, it’s pretty much official – the tourists have returned to Tamarindo in the past week, and we are really seeing some busy beaches. This is what we all (well, most of us) wait for and now is the time to start gearing up for a busy Christmas.

And the other way I can tell that its tourism season is that the southern hemi’s have backed down and the waves are smaller. This week, for example, the big ‘swell’ will be hitting us mid week at 5’ at 15 seconds. Yippee?

Look for really South facing breaks and do everything to avoid the main break in Tamarindo where lessons will be in full force.
You might want to try Marbella in the mornings on an incoming tide, or even Grande at sunrise. And look for onshore winds to hit around 11am everyday this week.

And the water has been somewhat cold with the offshore’s blowing all the warm water out and creating this upwelling – suggest a spring suit (shortie) or long sleeved rash guard.

Here are some of the forecast shots from MSW etc.

November 14th, 2010  in Uncategorized No Comments »

Slater Rocks

At the age of 38, Kelly Slater earned his 10th surfing world title this weekend with a dominating performance in Puerto Rico against fellow surfers half his age.

The ASP tour has been giving out world titles for 30 years, and he has won 10 of them.

And in a befitting tribute to a falled friend, he dedicated his win to Andy Irons.

November 7th, 2010  in Uncategorized 2 Comments »

A terrible day for Tamarindo – a brutal day for surfers

We have had a couple of terrible days here in Tamarindo and I guess living in a small town really puts an emphasis on how close we all are here.

No matter our differences, we are a tight knit community that is effected by things both good and bad.

A good friend and member of the local surfing community lost his baby daughter a couple of days ago.  And we are talking about one of the greatest couples in the world.  He is someone here in town that makes every person feel like a million dollars, and when I first moved here, was one of the few locals to make an effort to get to know me out on the territorial breaks.  Our prayers go out to his family.

Then this morning, I heard two fire trucks race into town at 6:00 am and 6:30 am.  Well, we don’t have fire trucks or real EMS here in Tamarindo, so they had to come from the towns of Santa Cruz and Filidelphia; each an hour’s drive away.  I dressed quickly and drove into town to see the firefighters battling to put out Sharkey’s Sports Bar and Costa Rica Surf.  By 730 am as the smoke cleared, it was a no brainer.  They were gutted and will have to be leveled.  I had to get away from it because the acrid smoke of 200 burning surfboards was choking my throat while the sight of seeing good friends in tears made me feel nauseous.

Sharkey’s was a relatively new place that opened a couple of years ago with Ben & Katie at the helm.  It was a place that featured every sport possible on their giant screens, making it the only sports bar in town (not including Langosta).  It was the kind of place that was small and intimate, so no matter how many people were there, it seemed busy.  And most importantly, they showed hockey.  Of course, karaoke Tuesday was always a time to see ‘everyone’ in town make an ass of themselves.  Not only is a business lost, but it also displaces those who worked there, and whose families depended on it.  Even the parking attendant was there and one could only sense the feeling of dread he had knowing that the few dollars he eked out were now gone.

Costa Rica Surf was the place that I first rented a surf board when I came here five years ago, and then was the first place that I ever bought a surf board.  Owned by Sabrina and Diego, it used to be called Banana Surf and the place was always a welcome home to both locals and tourists alike.  I still take my boards there to get dings fixed and bought a custom made quad there in July.  And let’s not forget the schwarma’s and falafels that were sold there.  Costa Rica surf has a second location near Aqua, which doesn’t make it easier, but does provide them with some hope now.  Knowing Diego and Sabrina’s Argentinean strength, we’ll see them smiling on the break at Playa Langosta in no time.

Finally, although not from Tamarindo, Andy Irons died yesterday at the age of 32 from Dengue.  A great surfer and three time world champion, he commented once that I try changing my surfing, which is the absolute worst thing you can do. Everyone surfs their own way. If I try to surf like someone else I look like a dork.  What brings this close to home besides the obvious surfing connection is that he died from Dengue; something that is a problem here in Costa Rica that has struck most everyone that I know here.

Anyways, typical of the infrastructure here, we now have no internet or cable.  And I am trying to send .5 MB files by uploading them to my blackberry external disk, then emailing on the 3G network.  (Which actually works at about 1G on a good day.)

Let’s hope tomorrow is a better day here in our small communities of Global Surfers and Tamarindans.

Pura Vida

November 3rd, 2010  in Uncategorized No Comments »

Cold November Rains and a return of the cold war?

What a beautiful morning here. Well, not really. Last night some sort of tropical storm blew through and knocked out power for most of the night. I guess it’s not bad because we are all in bed, but living here, I like to have the perimeter around my house lit up like a downtown manhattan.

Tamarindo rains

Then this morning, we hear that those members of the Nicaraguan army had been seen on Isla Calero, a piece of land on the Costa Rican side of the Río San Juan. Pictures and video reveal a Nicaraguan flag has been placed on the property. The flag is located on the same property, known as Finca Aragón, where trees were cut down and sediment was deposited by a Nicaraguan dredge that is deepening the Río San Juan.

“A flyover this morning above Isla Calero revealed the presence of Nicaraguan troops in national territory, Costa Rican territory,” a Costa Rican ministry official said. “There is a Nicaraguan flag and tents belonging to the Nicaraguan army. …

As we all know, we have no army here in Costa Rica and the Nicaraguan one has been battle hardened by years of civil war that only ended a decade ago. They have 15 Soviet made The Mil Mi-8 (Russian Ми-8, NATO reporting name “Hip”) is a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter that can also act as a gunship and over 50 operational T-54 and T-55 tanks I guess the ‘good thing’ is that we have about 7000 US Marines and about 50 USN Ships here on a drug combat mission.

Along with about 2 dozen harrier Jump jets, 200 helicopters and AWACS that I always see flying over my house on its way to land in Liberia, I don’t see Nicaragua as attacking anytime soon.

Of course, maybe the USA presence has fueled tensions instead of abating them?

Due to the long history of US intervention in Latin America (perhaps most notably in neighboring Nicaragua), the region is clearly justified in its concern over the disproportionate and virtual invasion of troops into an area that could potentially provide such a logistical and geographic striking point.

We hear all about Iran, but very little about our own hemisphere and the increased US military spending down here and in the Caribbean. Anyways, no point in stressing just yet.

November 2nd, 2010  in Uncategorized 2 Comments »

Aqua Claro and the end of the rainy season in October in Tamarindo?

We haven’t really had any bad rains here for over two weeks now, and this morning when I paddled out the water was clear enough to see the reef on the point break where I surfed.
An amber jack (fish) jumped about 5 feet into the air in front of me, and there was evidence of more fish around. So, my attitude is if the fish are back, then the dry season is upon us. Why? Nature always knows best!
And we are getting great swell due to the southern hemi storms that are still rolling up the Chilean – Peruvian coast, and some days the waves have been overhead with offshore / cross shore winds!
October is usually wet and miserable here in Tamarindo, and many shops and restaurants simply close their door for the month. So, without all the tourists here, we are having some beautifully empty surfing breaks. As an example, this morning there were probably 10 people surfing four breaks in Tamarindo, and earlier this week, about the same amount of people at Playa Grande.
And it should be quiet for a while here, as even the Tico’s from San Jose can’t make it here. With little rain in the forecast many head for the beaches here on weekends. However, it will take up to 9 hours this due to the collapse of Costa Rica’s road infrastructure.

The San José – Caldera remains closed betweeen Atenas and Orotina, the Interamericana Norte at Cambronero is still with “paso regualdo” and the Monte de Aguacate (old road to Jacó) cannot handle the volume of traffic.

For example, a trip from San José to Tamarindo or Flamingo can take up to double the normal time trough the Cambronero and Agucate. An alternate is by way of La Fortuna and Arenal to Tilarán and Cañas. In either case, the 4 to 5 hours normal travel time can easily turn to 8 or 9 hours.
The best news this week was the announcement that Starbucks Coffee, ubiquitous in North America, is set to open its first Central American location in San Salvador later this year. Expansion into the rest of the isthmus is in the works, though the company has not yet released specifics. Maybe we’ll see one here in Tamarindo before long? Right.

October 19th, 2010  in Uncategorized No Comments »

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