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Costa Rica surfing honeymoon

Mid-February is an ideal time to escape winter in the Rogue Valley, so Barb and I decided to combine romance and surfing and take a surfing honeymoon in Costa Rica.

After the red-eye flight from LA, we arrived in San Jose and took a shuttle to Santa Teresa, a rustic surf town on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. We stayed at Casa Azul, a beach house overlooking the beach break at Playa Carmen.

The tourist presence in Santa Teresa has generated a plethora of good restaurants, and we had our choice of fresh seafood, Italian pasta, sushi, Argentine grilled steaks and the traditional Costa Rican gallo pinto y pollo (rice and beans with chicken). We usually opted for fresh seafood and enjoyed dorado al ajo (grilled mahi mahi with garlic) or seared ahi with wasabi.

The next morning at 6 a.m., I paddled out into 86-degree water with 5- to 7-foot waves and surfed nonstop for several hours. It took me several waves to get my rhythm down, and I had some spectacular face plants and one over-the-falls wipe-out. After that I had it dialed in.

I surfed my short board, a 6-foot-8-inch quad (four fin) and got some adrenalin-pumping rides — late takeoffs with steep drops and insane speed coming off hard bottom turns followed by snaps off the lip. It was surfing at its finest. I mounted a GoPro camera on the nose of my board and it took some amazing water shots. Exhaustion and hunger finally drove me in and for a breakfast of yogurt, papaya and orange juice, and Barb and I watched a squadron of brown pelicans as they skimmed the water in fluid grace.

Santa Teresa has grown considerably over the 10 years we've been coming here — more restaurants, tourist shops, traffic and baby boomers. Barb and I used to be the only people over 60 here, a stark minority amidst a transient population of 20-something hard bods, but now gray-hairs are common, as are American ex-pats.

One vestige remains of what the town used to be: a pedal-cart vendor selling cold coconuts. He slashes them open with a deft swipe of his machete, inserts a straw and presents the finished product with a flourish and a smile.

Watching the sunset became our evening ritual. It is as timeless as the ocean itself and a soothing balm for the senses. Surfers, tourists and locals all gathered on the beach and embraced the same sacrament. Every day was a honeymoon for us — arm-in-arm watching the sun sink into the Pacific. It was as good as it gets.

One evening at sunset, there was a boil of sardines near shore and the pelicans had a feeding frenzy. Dozens of them swirled and dove in a macabre choreography, gorging themselves until they could hardly fly. After sunset, sublime pastels of orange, red and purple caressed the twilight with their magic until they were overcome by the descending night.

It was hot and humid during the day, so we read in our rooms with the blessed AC on, devouring a book a day. Then in the late afternoon, we practiced yoga and headed to the beach. It was so relaxing. No cares, no worries. Time slowed down. Barb also worked on her scrapbooking. She is making a series of books about our life, because digital photos will eventually disappear if they are not uploaded and printed.

Costa Rica has more than 830 species of avifauna, more than in all North America, save Mexico, and is a birder's paradise. Beside brown pelicans, we saw a white-throated magpie jay, squirrel cuckoo, cinnamon hummingbird, turquoise-browed motmot and the magnificent frigatebird. Iguanas thrive in this climate and love to eat fruit, so they are frequently found near fruit trees.

Each day I’d wait for the optimum incoming tide, when the shape of the waves is best, then surf for two to three hours. I felt like a 14-year-old kid. Every surfer knows the feeling. Unlike back in the day, now I use contact lenses to see, ear plugs to keep water out of my ear canal, a surf cap to shade my face and a rash guard to save my skin. However, I am still a kid inside.

At sunset we’d walk along the beach, lovers hand-in-hand, and witness the ineffable beauty. It was our 44th Valentine's Day together, and Barb is still the girl of my dreams.

On our last evening, we lingered on the beach until dark, and the words from T.S. Elliot’s poem "Little Gidding" expressed my feelings: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

Carlyle Stout lives in Ashland.




Barb and Carlyle Stout at sunset on the beach in Costa Rica.
Carlyle Stout uses a GoPro camera mounted on the nose of his surfboard for some action shots.