Jul 21 2017

I’ve always thought it a shame that I live in Sayulita, and I don’t get out in the ocean and try to surf more often. However, a big part of it is my lack of confidence when it comes to the sport. So, on Wednesday morning, I was extremely excited to take a surf lesson with the owner of Costeño Surf School in Sayulita, Adrian “Gato” Rodriguez. After all, he is a local surfing PRO, and I’d also heard he is one of the best surfers in Sayulita.

It was 9:30 in the morning, a beautiful summer day, with the sun already brightly shining down. Camilla Fuchs, with Camilla Fuchs Photography, and I were warmly greeted by Gato with a welcoming smile and a firm handshake at Costeño Surf School’s location on the beach. He asked us about our past surfing experience, and based on our response that we’ve had very little, he started by teaching us the surf techniques.

He taught us how to position ourselves on foam surfboards (which are perfect for beginners, like us), and explained if one’s position on the board is wrong, it makes surfing extremely difficult. For example, if one is too far up on the board, the board (and the surfer) will take a nosedive, and if one is too far back, no matter how hard one paddles, it’s impossible to catch a wave. Gato explained, while demonstrating, how to go from paddling to standing up on the board. It’s about getting into a rhythm, building up speed, and smoothly going from paddling to standing up. A secret of getting up without falling off, he said, is not to take one’s hands off the board until both feet are in the proper position, and upon standing, knees should be bent, with 60% of one’s weight on the back foot (for stability), while 40% of the weight on the front foot (for steering).

Gato gave each of us a rash guard, and taught us to correctly attach the surfboard leashes to our ankles. Upon getting into the ocean water, which felt refreshingly good, Gato taught us how to hold the boards to easily make the transition from holding them to getting on and paddling. He also taught us how to paddle at an angle into the waves as we made our way to a spot near the point. (I’d never been taught this strategy, and it proved to be extremely helpful).

We sat on our boards, facing out towards the ocean, waiting for the waves to roll in. Compared to the norm, there weren’t many surfers yet in the water. The waves were slightly larger than we’ve tried to surf before, and Gato assured us that we could handle them.

Upon being told to paddle, I began to paddle, and when Gato told me to stand (after giving the board a gentle push), I put my hands shoulder high on both sides of my chest, tucked my toes, put one foot forward, then the other, and promptly and excitedly stood. And then I immediately fell. Gato explained that I rushed getting up on the board, and he assured me that there is plenty of time for me to properly position myself on the board, and I shouldn’t rush it.

He was right. The next time, I slowed it down and was able to get up on the board and ride it nearly to shore. As I got close to shore, I bent my knees, crouched down, and fell back into the water as Gato had taught us.

Several more times, I caught waves, riding them close to shore, as did Camilla. Through the entire class, Gato patiently corrected and improved our techniques. The time simply flew by, and before I knew it, the Costeño Surf School class was over. The whole experience was extremely fun, and I learned a lot. In fact, I plan to take some additional lessons with Gato and build my confidence and surf skills.

If you’d like to experience a surf lesson with Costeño Surf School, or go on one of their surf tours, contact Gato here.