Walking by Surfing (Pt. 1)

Walking by Surfing

This week in Jaco, I am learning to pace myself and am seeing that life here with God is a lot like walking by surfing.

The first time I surfed—if you could call it surfing—I mastered the white wash, flailing about like a mad cow. The next two attempts were no more fun than the first. In fact, on the third attempt, I reckoned I’d stick to walking on dirt trails and leave the walking on water to Jesus.

Not Surfing
Tourist or working shirt?

However, living in a surf town, only 7 minutes from a beach and waves, I could only delay my sojourn into the ocean for so long. So, last Thursday morning, at 5:55 AM I hopped in a car with a couple locals named Jair (like hi-ear) and Donny.


Day 1 in Jaco Beach Costa Rica

Jair took me under his wing and showed me around town. Everywhere we went, we didn’t make it far because everyone kept telling Jair hello. This guy seemed pretty popular.

It turns out Jair is a local surf legend for winning a national championship or something. On the beach, preparing to surf, I had my doubts whether I was teachable. In the back of my head, images of me sinking or crashing into cold water flashed through my head. Evidence suggested that another attempt was a bad idea.

In spite of my doubts, as Jair explained my positioning on the board and demonstrated each step of the pop up, like a professor, my nerves settled down. If the champ is telling me that I’m good to go, I guess I follow his lead, even with evidence telling me otherwise.

Past the breaks | Walking by Faith

Once we paddled out past the breaks, Jair sent Donny out on his own with some instructions and encouragement. He looked at me and asked me how I felt. Before long, Jair was instructing calmly,

“Paddle hard, paddle hard, ok, stop, and…,” my momentum now carried beneath me, I heard, “Now, pop-up!”

Before I another word settled in my ear, gargling water engulfed me. My first wave only confirmed my past failures. But as I paddled back, patience and kindness thwarted my frustrations. Jair reminded me of the steps to the pop-up and recommended that I not stand straight up.

Wave Crashing

While waiting for the next wave, we watched Donny only just miss a big wave. When Donny’s wave crashed, I gawked as the sun began to pop up above the mountains behind the beach. In the cool of the morning, sitting in the ocean, I knew that even without standing, today was full.

Although the next wave came and went without me standing, Jair greeted my return with encouragement and attentiveness, until, it was time for me to paddle again. “Paddle hard, paddle hard, ok slow…slow…,” and with a gentle nudge, the board and I lurched forward.

Walking by Surfing with Jair
Surfing with Jair (in background)

Bending my left knee and pulling my left foot forward, I heard Jair echoing in my ear, “POP UP,” and without meaning to my right leg rotated outward. Now, with my hands off the board, two feet squarely planted, knees bent, left hand pointing forward, and eyes locked on the beach, I felt the wave underneath my feet. I guided the board gently left and back right, thinking, “this is surfing.”

The Surfing Legend Himself | Jair Perez

As I fell after getting too crazy, I laughed, knowing I did it.

Surfing with Jair
The Legend himself

This time, when I came out the water, Jairo smiled, extended his pinky and thumb out, and yelled, “¡Pura Vida!” At this he spun his head, sending long brown hair whipping behind him, as he paddled off to catch a wave of his own. I could hear epic ‘80s movie scores playing in the background.

Later, over a cappuccino, Donny, Jair, and I shared our thoughts on the morning surf session. Donny compared today’s surfing to others, reveling at how much fun this day was. He learned quickly how to position himself for the waves under the tutelage of Jair.

As Donny reminisced, I knew that our surf day was a lot like life with the God of Jesus.


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