Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Surfing: The Power of Trying Something Hard

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Let’s face it. Surfing is hard.

This is the least embarrassing photo, which says something

This is the least embarrassing photo, which says something

I just returned from a week surfing with Hillary Harrison at Peaks and Swells Surf Camp in Costa Rica. In the four years since John and I first went to Hillary’s camp my surfing hasn’t exactly improved. Granted, I’m a fair weather surfer. From the get go, I knew that surfing would never replace skiing as the sport I obsess about. I never planned on checking the swell forecast as carefully as I follow low pressure snow-producing storms in the Pacific.

kim and jk sunset 1

Smiles, sunset, surf and fresh coconut

But now, that might be changing.

First, let me tell you about the surf camp. It’s not just about surfing. There’s also yoga, massage, and all-organic meals. And of course, the daily walk to Montezuma for gelato. This place is more like a retreat than a “camp.” Every detail is handled for you, and once you arrive there are no real decisions to make. We attended the family camp with John’s daughter. One of the most appealing components of surfing is the fact that we can do it as a family. I’m not the kind of parent that truly loves watching the kids while they do their own sport (is anyone?). I’d rather be in there too, cheering alongside them.

The coaches at Peaks and Swells are fabulous. Each one of them exudes positivity. Lead instructor Victoria Ross actually smiles the entire time she’s talking. I tried it on for size, but it sounds ridiculous on me (and I’m okay with that). Victoria is an Aussie, so the accent helps. But her happy vibe infected every of her students. Even in the midst of their own cool surfer style, somehow all the instructors bring you along with them on the ride. This is a very special place.

Learning the pop up

Victoria teaching the pop-up

What I learned at Peaks and Swells is the importance (and the power) of sucking. It’s okay not to excel. It’s fine to look clumsy and awkward. It’s normal to be embarrassed. The first day of surfing at Peaks and Swells ends in a photo and video viewing of the day’s adventures in the water, and those feelings of awkward embarrassment are impossible to avoid. So I figured that I might as well embrace them.

If you never let yourself look like an ass, than you probably aren’t learning anything new. Which means you probably aren’t growing. The pressure to look good, and stylish, and coiffed, and camera-ready at all times is higher than ever. It’s only when you stop worrying about what you might look like that you really drop into flow. Only when you cease thinking of yourself from the third person and truly step into who you are in the moment, can you find happiness.

beautiful sunset

The sunset is always stylish

Trying something hard, like surfing, is a risk. There’s a risk (albeit small) of getting injured. But the bigger risk is simply embarrassing yourself. One of the surf coaches last week quoted a recent student you asked her, “when does the sexy part of surfing start?”

Let me be clear. Surfing is not sexy when you’re a beginner. There’s nothing sexy or stylish about that roll of wet snot dripping from your nose when you first pop up on your board. Nor is it very sexy when your bathing suit comes unseated from around your backside. The red eyes from that surprise wave that crashed on your head and the bruises on your hips and elbows from your failed pop-ups don’t scream sexy either.

Beginners are just surviving out there. We don’t care about what we look like. That is, until the photos go up on the screen during happy hour and we wonder yet again, so when does the sexy part start?

Evelyn makes it look easy

Evelyn makes it look easy

But I applaud every single person carrying their ungainly boards out into the surf to give it a go anyways. You’re putting yourself out there. You’re trying something hard.

I’ve written about this before, but adversity is good for you. Trying (and even sucking at) something new changes your brain. We crave novelty. Our brains release dopamine when we have a new experience. It’s the brain’s way of telling us to keep at it. When old habits and skills no longer require much of us, it’s time to pick up a new skill. In addition to surfing this week, I learned another important skill. Humility.

But there are moments that make it all worthwhile. When you catch the wave just right–for me it was catching a green wave and popping up in time to feel myself drop into the trough–the feeling buoys you up. You are in flow. You completely forget about what you look like from the outside; instead you are focused entirely on the task before you. And when surfing is the task before you, there’s nothing quite like it.

Except, of course, skiing powder.

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Ziplining Just Like Real Housewives

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zip_line_big_sky

Adventure Zip Big Sky, MT

High Thrill No Skill

I’m a stepmom. So when my step-daughter wants to go ziplining, I oblige. After all, that’s the beauty of being a stepmom. I get to have all the fun and not (as much) of the responsibility. I’m like a really close aunt to the very best 11 year old in the universe.

On a recent trip to Big Sky, Montana, Evelyn wasn’t the only one encouraging me to try the new Adventure Zip. The employees were proud of this new four line trip that included a traverse 200 feet high, a rappel and the chance for some great photo ops.

Ziplining is fun, but it isn’t scary. I’ve always thought it a bit pedestrian–a high thrill, no skill activity for people who don’t live and play in the outdoors. But still, I was game. Especially since my step-daughter really really wanted to zip with me. How could I refuse?

When our small group of clients and guides met to don our full-body harnesses and helmets, I was a little surprised by the fear rising from the group. At first I wondered if I had signed up for something else. But no, this was the Adventure Zip–four cable rides through the trees of the lower slopes of the ski area. How hard could it be?

If The Real Housewives Can Do It…

I’m inspired by people who face their fears. And when I met Laura and Janet–two sisters from New York City–I almost envied them their fear. Jacked up on adrenaline, these two women twittered nervously on the chairlift ride and short hike to the first line. Having grown up in the city, Laura only recently learned to drive a car. And ziplining was definitely not in her wheelhouse. She was afraid of heights.

Chairlift ride to the zipline

Chairlift ride to the zipline

“So why ziplining?” I ask Laura.

“Because I want to face my fears.” She says. “And if the Real Housewives of Orange County can do it, so can I.”

Apparently the Real Housewives–a reality show populated by privileged women who gossip and kvetch about the difficulties of being pampered–recently went to Costa Rica to try ziplining.

As I stood at the top of the first metal platform, prepared to launch into the trees, I tried to conjure up a little fear and adrenaline. Maybe because my step daughter has nerves of steel, or maybe because it just didn’t look that scary, I stepped off with an even heartbeat and dry palms. It was fun. It was fast. I liked it.

And at the bottom platform, I did feel a little dopamine boost.

Facing Fear

Then Laura stepped off the far platform and sailed through the trees. Her body was scrunched tight like the guides had instructed. The only skill involved in ziplining is grabbing the orange rope on the other side so you don’t slide back into the middle sag of the line.

This should be the cover of the brochure

This should be the cover of the brochure

Laura took that job seriously. She reached her open palm to the rope, her hands shaking like an aspen leaf in a windstorm, and grabbed it on the first try. She landed on the platform and started crying tears of joy.

I was impressed. Here was a woman facing her fears. As the morning progressed, Laura’s fear receded. She opened her eyes on the next line, and let out a little whoop of joy at the end of the final zip. She’d conquered her fear.

Me, I shared a fun morning with my step-daughter, impressed by her unflappable courage.

As we walked down from the final platform into the village I felt a part of that energy too. We can all push ourselves to try new adventures–whether ziplining, kite boarding (haven’t tried it yet, but I’m getting there), or doing live radio–facing our fears only makes us better people.

So I’m curious. What fears have you faced lately?

Learning to Surf

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On the beach at Cedro's, Montezuma, Costa Rica

I want to send a shoutout to booktrib.com for including my post “Finding the Pocket” on their Author-ity page. Learning to surf might not be easy for a couple of ski industry professionals like me and John, but it’s worth every stroke. Check out the post here.

Liver Day: An anniversary of gratitude

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Friday was Liver Day at our house. Exactly three years ago John

Liver Donor Hero, Whitney Meriwether

received his liver transplant. Approximately one-half of Whitney’s, the living donor’s, liver was surgically removed and placed in John’s abdomen. I remember the day at the Mayo Clinic in the waiting room, imagining the surgeons meticulously slicing and tying, opening and sealing back up. I visualized all the cancer,

Whitney and John, post transplant

including John’s bile ducts, getting thrown in the garbage bin beside the operating table.

I would like to say that in the three years since John’s transplant, we’ve lived every day as well as we possibly could. While that’s not exactly true, it’s pretty close. We have made a ritual of gratitude, voicing all the tiny and grand things that we are grateful for every day. Spontaneity has ruled around here.

Skydiving

We’ve learned to surf, we’ve jumped out of an airplane, we’ve traveled to Bhutan and Costa

John checking the depth

Rica, we’ve logged in some serious powder turns.

Going forward I want to keep this momentum going. Life is precious. This miniscule little flame we are given must be tended and appreciated. It’s brief, but brilliant, and I hope we don’t miss any of it. I hope the angel of gratitude always sits at our table.

It’s easy to rack up transcendent moments, if you simply look around and appreciate them.

What about you? What are you grateful for today?

I’m hooked on surfing

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John catches a wave at Cedro's

It makes perfect sense. Ski in the winter, surf in the summer. After a week with Hillary at Peaks and Swells Surf Camp, learning to ride the waves in Costa Rica, both John and I are hooked. As we flew home yesterday, my husband regaled me with future surf destinations–Bali, Peru, Maui. Hey what about those isolated breaks north of Vancouver Island that we see from the float plane? Could we surf those? I think it’s going to take a few more

Happiness is riding a wave all the way into shore

waves before we’re ready for anything like that, but we’re on our way.

This weekend marks the end of Crystal Mountain’s “regular” season and the beginning of the spring season. We will be open for skiing on weekends (starting with Thursdays and Fridays too). Personally my fingers are crossed for a good corn cycle and long, sunny days on the mountain. After that, who knows? Maybe more surfing.

Oh yeah, and in between surfing and skiing, my memoir, The Next Fifteen Minutes, comes out in November. So I need to squeeze in some promotion here and there–maybe a quick guest appearance on the Today Show or Oprah’s final episode or something. As long as it doesn’t cut into my surfing time, that is.

Seriously though, I’m feeling like a very lucky girl. By all rights, my husband isn’t even supposed to be alive. Even more than catching waves myself this past week, I loved watching John catch them. Most of all, I loved the look on his face. Determined to catch a wave, then focused while up and finally exultant as he learned to carve and turn along the face of the glassy curlers, I thanked the universe for our luck.

Surfs Up

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After the crazy avalanche cycle last weekend, John and I snuck away for a week of

The commute from the house to the break

surfing and relaxing on the beach in Costa Rica. We are staying with the Harrisons (the family that owns the Alpine Inn) at Montezuma Beach Houses where Hillary runs Peaks and Swells Surf Camp. It is a much needed break after working so hard this winter. Anyone looking for a relaxed, low-key, destination

Check out that form

free of tourists and high-rise hotels, look no further than Montezuma Costa Rica. I’m not entirely sure we ever want to leave.

Learning to surf is certainly an opportunity to practice humility

Evelyn demonstrates excellent surfing technique

and strength. By now we are catching most waves, but still getting worked in the strong Pacific currents. Fortunately Evelyn is here to show us how it’s done.

John getting down at Playa Grande