Cristian was my teacher for four hours a day for an entire week last November and he was incredible. After many futile attempts at surfing on various trips since college, I never was able to pick it up. If I stood up on the board even briefly, that would be a big deal. It was frustrating quite frankly. I never considered taking lessons until last November when I came to SOTW. Then Cristian taught me how to ride waves and everything changed. I actually learned to surf! His instruction that week inspired me to move to Costa Rica and make surfing part of my daily routine.
Cristian is 42 years old and he has been surfing daily for 24 of those years. He is a remarkably patient, bilingual teacher who seems to be uncannily in tune with the ocean. Cristian takes pride in being able to successfully teach anyone with any level of athleticism how to surf. I asked him, “What’s the story with the old guy?” “William is my long-time student and friend,” Cristian explained. “He started taking lessons at the SOTW when he was 70.” For me, learning to surf at the ripe age of 47, and then seeing a 72 year old surfing the big waves of Costa Rica, presented a new sense of awe and respect.
After a strong two hour surf session at Jaco Beach, Cristian and I decided to have a cold beer at Jaco Bar. I wanted to learn more about William. “When I first met him, he was totally overwhelmed. He didn’t even know how to sit on his board, and he was frustrated from getting constantly beat up by the waves. He was determined and persistent, and I realized I needed to give him special attention and that this would take some work to get him surfing. It’s funny, when he did finally get up on the board and catch a wave, he’d look down at the water, freak out, and fall off his board seconds later. I gave him a lot of grief about that. I told him that surfing is a lot about feeling the waves and not looking at them. You have to look ahead towards the beach – it’s somewhat like walking in a dark room.”
We sipped on beers and I asked him about their relationship now. “We’re friends. We like to go mountain biking together and man, he is much better than me. I have a hard time keeping up with him. He’s a serious athlete. We eat many meals together. I cook him dinner and I am really proud of him. I admire the way he takes care of others – the way he sees life. I feel very lucky and fortunate to have met him and I hope to stay in touch with him going forward.”
This guy has gumption! I had to learn more.