A family tradition: surf camp in Costa Rica

Five years ago, we rolled the dice and booked a surf camp in Costa Rica. Only my husband had ever tried surfing, and the camp we booked was brand new– referred to us by a friend who had gone to University with the owner.  We had never been to Costa Rica, never been surfing, never taken our kids out of the country…it was a risk, but one I’m so glad we took.


This past Thanksgiving, we made our 3rd family trip to Peaks n’ Swells (my personal 5th since I snuck in a girls trip and a quick surf trip with my hub). Every time we booked, I went through that moment of doubt…there are so many wonderful places in the world, should we go back to Costa Rica again? Or try someplace new? It’s an either/or proposition, since we save our pennies and budget for one big family trip every year or two. Is there value in returning to a place that is familiar and well-loved, or should we roll the dice again?

After this trip to Peaks n’ Swells, I can say without a moment of doubt there is nowhere else I would rather have been. Obviously, we love it there. The near perfect surf conditions, the incredible organic food, the rugged coastline and abundant wildlife, the little town of Montezuma, and our casita on the beach make it an easy choice. But returning year after year is a choice we make for different reasons:

Learning to surf (for real).

I’m not a natural in the water. My first time surfing was terrifying. But over time, with good instruction and a lot of practice, I have become an OKAY surfer. When we visit the ocean, I now have enough confidence to paddle out and give it a go, which has opened up a whole new world. No more sitting on the beach with a book for me! Since that first trip five years ago, we have surfed at breaks all over the world, including Nantucket, Eleuthera, and Iceland.


While I’m perhaps proficient (in perfect conditions), Dave is really good. He caught the bug early on, and now has a real and true passion for the sport.


And the kids, of course, are such fast learners! Watching them progress this year from long boards to short, paddle out on their own, and catch beautiful green waves was truly awesome. Peaks n’ Swells assigns each kid their own coach for the week, offering instruction that is completely customized to help everyone reach their potential– whether that is practicing turns and maneuvers, or simply standing up.



Making friends, meeting people.

I have met some incredible people through surfing, and specifically through Peaks n’ Swells, some who have become good and real friends (I’m talking to you Hillary, Dagmar, Kara, Jenny!), others who have inspired me with their adventurous lives, and a few whose paths I feel fortunate to have crossed even for a few days, such as Ali Kaukas.


Two years ago, on a little puddle jumper from San Jose to Tambor, I squeezed into a seat next to a woman who turned out to have grown up a few towns over from me in Southern Vermont named Ali. She was traveling around Costa Rica taking photos for a few months. I started following her on Instagram as she traveled around the world, so I recognized her when she arrived at the beach to take photos of our family, hired by Peaks n’ Swells! Her work is amazing (most of the photos in this post are from her) and you can follow her on Instagram @allliiibaba. We may never cross paths again, but the photos she took of our family are among my favorite ever.



Creating core memories.

Did any of you see that movie, Inside Out, about children’s emotions and the development of “core memories”? I watched it at my son’s school recently and can’t help thinking that this investment we’ve made into travel and adventure have in some way formed their core memories–the ones that define the kind of person they are. I love to see our travels reflected in their school and art work, and hope that they will look back on their childhood and remember these family trips as fondly as I know I will.

These two photos were taken on Thanksgiving, which we celebrated with a sunset surf and bonfire on the beach. Too bad the kids didn’t have any fun.


Becoming a blogger and Carve ambassador.

That first trip to Costa Rica inspired me to start writing this blog, which led me to all kinds of unexpected experiences, from writing for Ski Vermont, to publishing my first article in Mountain Life Magazine, to becoming an ambassador for Carve Designs. When I told Jen Hinton, owner of Carve, that we were spending Thanksgiving surfing in Costa Rica, she shipped over a box of samples from their spring 2016 line (pictured in this post)– it was like Christmas in November! The line is SO good. Great colors and patterns that mix and match, and of course Carve is designed by women who actually surf and live the beach life, so they know how to make bikinis that work in the waves. Love this company and am so grateful to be connected with them!


And so with big love and gratitude for Peaks n’ Swells, Ali Kaukas, Carve Designs, and all the wonderful people I’ve met since learning to surf, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year filled with adventure and new experiences!



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