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Wild Weekly Photo Challenge: Flowers

Here are some flowers I’ve found in the past year! Hope you enjoy them and don’t forget to vote on Wild Weekly!

http://www.letsbewild.com/photo-challenge/wild-weekly-photo-challenge-17-flowers/

 

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Wild Weekly Photo Challenge – Flying

I’m participating in the Let’s Be Wild photo challenge and this week’s theme is Flying!

As a surfer in Northern California, pelicans are a part of my every day life. They swoop in low and ride the crest of waves. They are certainly not afraid of large crowds of people. And they use the evenings to gather their dinners of unsuspecting fish. As I stood on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean one evening, the sun set low and cast a beautiful gold glow on all the birds gliding by. These three were particularly spectacular.

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Ride Into the Sunset

Well, after the previous day’s experience I figured there was only one thing I could do and that was to go surfing again. So that’s what I did.

My dad woke me with a polite, “Hey, get a move on” although I had been in and out of sleep for the last hour. I had awoke to the sound of fingernails tapping lightly on a chalkboard, except it wasn’t a chalkboard it was our tin roof, and I have been reading a terrifying vampire book while out here. I had let my dreaming brain run away with me so my dad’s wake up was certainly welcomed. We breezed through our normal daily routine; suits on, stuff peanut butter on toast in mouth, dad with coffee, me, I prefer juice, wax boards. But today when we stepped outside we were not greeted with the blazing sun as usual, but a sky that was a thick cloud of white and grey, and it was raining. Raining?! In Costa Rica. In December. I guess that was the noise I had heard when I woke up. I was assured rain wasn’t going to happen on this trip, but of course it would.

Lucky for us, rain doesn’t matter when you surf. And actually, it’s quite nice since it keeps the faces of the waves clean and makes a wonderful noise when it hits the water. The grey clouds however, cause the water to become indistinguishable from the sky and you truly can’t see the wave until it’s on top of you. It’s so much fun and it reminds me of surfing those cold rainy days in Charleston, except it’s still warm. But like everything good that must end, the waves die down with the outgoing tide and we walk back home in a light drizzle.

Skip mid-day siesta.

Rather than partake in my usual napping, Jesse and I decide today is the day we will be going riding. She has a horse and has arranged for me to rent one for a few hours so we can run on the beach for a while. We ride her moto to the barn which is probably more sketchy than surfing and horseback riding put together. It’s an old red Honda with stickers covering the gas tank, which lets in water when it rains. Needless to say then, we have to drain the main tank before we take off on the only semi-dusty road, now that it’s wet.

We arrive at the barn to find an equine dentist pulling the “wolf teeth” of one of the horses, which of course delights me. I get to watch and talk to him about his studies and his practice while Jesse gets her horse Ozzy from the field. I tack up Rambo, a tiny bay horse smaller than my own, if you can imagine that being possible. He looks so little I am afraid I will crush him. Boy am I wrong. This horse is a powerhouse. We walk to the beach via a rocky dirt road that I would never imagine taking my horse on, but these guys don’t even seem to mind. When we arrive at the sand our friend Cindy’s horse Clarita is being a bit of a nut, so we don’t open up full throttle immediately, though I’m certain Rocky can sense that I want to. We take a walk for a while, prance through the water and then in a split second Jesse and I are racing down the beach at a gallop. We are running so close we could reach out and touch hands, I can see her big bright smile and I know I’m grinning ear to ear.

I’m sorry I need to stop this story to tell you that I just bit into the most unbelievable piece of banana bread I have ever had in my life. I might actually be in heaven.

Back to the beach. We slow down and let Cindy catch up, as her horse can’t be trusted to run without taking off. The three of us walk down a long stretch of beach as the sun starts to glow red and dip low in the sky. The view is marvelous and I am once again in awe of this place. We walk past a blowhole in the rocks which at low tide allows the waves to come in underneath and shoot up through a small hole making a spectacular display of water explosion. The sun is well on its way to setting now, and lucky for us the clouds have cleared leaving us with an incredible sunset on the beach from the back of our horses. Jesse and I tell Cindy to go ahead back toward the barn since we would catch up quickly with what we were planning on doing. We let her get well ahead of us and occupy ourselves taking pictures and laughing. When she is out of sight Jesse heads off first at a trot, then catering and jumping over a large piece of driftwood I do the same and catch up with her at a full gallop. We run next to each other for a while and I hear her ask Ozzy for a little more speed, of course I do the same. I lean forward give Rambo all the reins and whistle. Rambo lurches forward taking huge fast strides and gaining speed. I can’t believe this little horse can go so fast! He gets a nose on Ozzy and then a neck as we approach a turn. I can see people running down from their spots up on the beach and in their cabanas to see what the commotion is about, and little kids are clapping and cheering. Galloping full  throttle on a beach is a first for me and while I ride a lot of horses back home, something about this moment is different. Absolute pure happiness and joy.  I’m pretty sure this is one of the best days ever.

When There’s Nothing to Breathe But Water

I can count on two fingers the times I have truly been afraid for my life. They’ve both been in water. And one was yesterday.

Now, for my mother, who I know is reading this, don’t forget I am writing this, so it all turned out okay.

We had surfed all morning and the remaining swell from the previous day was still lingering. The sun blazed overhead as rogue outside sets came in every 15 minutes or so. For those who don’t surf, let me explain what this means… When you are in the lineup waiting for waves, they generally break in the same place allowing you to be patient and wait for a good one. There are however ‘outside sets’ that break well beyond the lineup, and on a shortboard, this is not too big of a deal since you can duck yourself and your board under the wave as it crashes overhead. I have always been a shortboarder but have opted for a longer board this trip because it’s been a while since I have been in the water. So for myself, and anyone else on a longer board, we must make a quick decision on whether to try and paddle over the wave, or turtle roll; this is where you turn the board upside down on top of you, laying face up and letting the wave crash over you. It’s kind of a pain, but is a necessity since trying to paddle over a wave and misjudging can easily pile drive you backwards into the water. At this point you may be able to guess where this story is going.

I have only been on the verge of drowning once before, and that day was a heavy hint as to why I have so much respect for the ocean, and every body of water. So yesterday was just another reminder of how powerful this force is, how short life is, and how every day needs to be the best day ever.

I was set up on the outside trying to decide which wave I was going to take. See, if you take of on one of the firsts in a set, you risk being caught in the inside whitewater until the set passes; which could take 10 minutes. If you wait, you risk missing the set completely. So, I was playing it safe and paddled for the third wave of the set. I was sure I had it, but for one reason or another couldn’t get the speed to be picked up. As I turned around to paddle back out to my spot, I noticed the wave behind mine. A big peak rolling in fast with lots of power. I paddled as hard as I could, hoping I could make it over the top of the wave so I didn’t have to turtle roll. As I neared the top and became nearly vertical, I realized instantly, this was the wrong decision.

What happens next during a moment like this comes with the force and speed of a freight train. As I hit the top of the wave, it breaks, forcing me down backwards with it. This was the last chance I would have to breathe for what seemed like an eternity. Falling, falling, and then being crushed. With the wave crashing on top of me I can feel my thigh get tangled in my surfboard leash, all I can do is hope the board doesn’t come back and hit me in the face. I feel like I am in the worst washing machine on the planet. The water doesn’t go up or down, it just swirls in every direction and is filled with air bubbles making it impossible to swim. I am kicking furiously at this point and I’ve exhaled all of my air trying to keep water out out of my nose. My eyes are closed tight and I don’t actually know if I’m swimming up or down. This is the scariest feeling I’ve experienced, but it’s not the first time and I know it won’t be the last.

I finally go limp hoping the remaining oxygen in my lungs will float me upright and I open my eyes to look for light. Sweet, white, foamy light on the top of the surface. I’m going the right direction. I kick furiously again and paddle upwards finally breaking the surface. I gasp in the biggest breath I can and clear my now very knotted hair out of my eyes. I’m surrounded by whitewater and can see another wave coming in. The last thing I want to do is hold my breath and go underwater again, but I have no choice. I breathe in deep and dive down and far as I can letting the wave wash over me like it has done a thousand times before.

I have to do this a few more times before the set finishes and get my board back under me to paddle out to the lineup again. I am breathing hard, and besides a head full of water and some ringing in my ears there are no signs I’ve just come in contact with drowning; for the second time. I paddle out to my dad and give him a big smile. There’s no reason to mention this, he worries about me as it is.

I let my arms, abs and legs relax a little, and let my breathing come back to normal before I paddle for another wave. I am cautious no doubt, and it takes me a few tries to get my sea legs back. I look out into the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean; so blue and seemingly so calm all the way out there. You almost forget how powerful it is until it reminds you, and then you never forget.

We finish our surf an hour later and walk back to the house for a smoothie. I tell my dad how I got worked going over the falls, leaving out the details. I rinse off in the shower and hang my head, letting the water spill out of my nose and ears, go outside, and curl up in the hammock. Moments like these simply remind me that I’m living, and that being alive makes it the best day ever.

Pura Vida!

When the days run together.

First, I’m going to apologize because the start of every post is going to be; I woke up, I surfed, and it was perfect. Actually, it seems like each day is more perfect than the next, it almost doesn’t feel fair to be this lucky. This particular day was exceptional, the sun blazing overhead by 9am and the water a perfect blue-green. The light offshore winds keeping the wave faces clean and steep, allowing for late take-offs and long rides.

Surfing backside has always been a challenge for me, couldn’t tell you why, it just isn’t as easy as frontside. The wave that stood out today however, was a shoulder high backside wave that seemed as though it was set up specifically for me. My dad had just ridden a wave in and was paddling back out to the lineup. I always like catching waves when he’s on the inside so he can see me surf. Mostly because he taught me, and I like him to see what kind of monster he created. I paddled hard and felt the familiar moment I’d felt so many times before; when the wave picks you up and you are no longer the one doing the work. I stood up fast and at the last second heard my dad yell “Grab rail!” Now, let me remind you, this is a backside wave, but at that moment, barreling down the face, essentially straight at my father (don’t worry I can steer) I was sure I could do anything. I tucked in as tight as I could, reached down with my left hand, found the rail of my board, held tight and leaned into the wave. I could feel the water tickle my back as the wave stared to break and pulled in even harder sending me flying down the face. I righted myself and finished the wave till in closed out in front of me, but not before catching the break just right, sending me front flipping into the air over the back of the wave for a spectacular dismount. The actual event probably only lasted 20 seconds but I will remember that wave for a lifetime. There are no pictures to corroborate this story, but go into my head, they’re there, and will be always.

Cue mid day siesta in the hammock.

Teri woke me up from my mid day slumber to take a golf cart drive into Nosara to the supermercado. The roads here are so dusty you need to wear a bandana over your face just to breathe, leaving me looking like the palest bandito ever. I smile at people even though I’m wearing a bandana and hope they can read my eyes. It’s a 15 minute drive past colorful shack houses, the Nosara “airport” that consists of a runway, a bench, and cows. Ohhh cows. The cows here are cute, and look so soft so I make Teri promise I can try to pet them on the way back. I’m still a little kid when it comes to fuzzy things with four legs. The supermercado surprises me with a good selection of foods. Eggs are not refrigerated and literally are from the chickens out back. Papayas here are 500 colones which equal out to a dollar. A dollar! I consider eating an entire papaya a day at that point. We buy one, and are waiting for it to ripen, still.

On the way home we round a corner and see a herd of cows standing right at the fence. I insist we slow down so I can pet them and exit the golf cart while it’s still at a slow roll. I pull my bandana down so as not to scare the cow I’ve chosen as my buddy, but in retrospect, this doesn’t make any sense. He eyes me suspiciously as I approach slowly, but not too slowly because motos and cars are still flying down the dusty road making it impossible to see me crossing the street. He lets me touch his big wet nose and even gives me a little sniff but that’s as far as it goes before he decides he’s not interested. I’m content, for now.

I spend the evening taking a walk to the beach, enjoying the sunset and seeing my first scorpion. They are just as ugly and menacing in person as they seem in books. The night is spent at Honoli a local dance club, with my new friend and neighbor Jesse. Another surfer, horseback rider, girl who has moved to Costa Rica in search of paradise, or in avoidance of the “real world”. But honestly, what is the real world anyway? Funny how people come into your life right when you need them.

Another day in paradise, the best day ever. Pura Vida.

Running through the jungle.

Ah, another day in paradise. I’m honestly not sure where to start while describing the beauty here.

I woke up yesterday around 8 to a yet another perfect day. Sun blazing through my window and 80 degrees already. My first priority every morning is to surf. Well, first, it’s eat peanut butter on toast and drink a huge glass or fresh juice, then surf. My dad and I walk back and forth to the beach every day together, mostly in silence, but we don’t really need to talk much. It’s just understood we’re having a good time and there’s no place else we’d rather be. The surf is amazing, as usual. Come to think of it, I haven’t actually seen bad surf here, it’s just always firing. Waves are plentiful and I was told I caught the left of the day. It was a pretty perfect wave if I may brag a little, shoulder high and long as all get up, with plenty of opportunities to maneuver around. We walked back to the house hungry, tired, and happy for a mid-day siesta.

I decided then, I would take another walk to the beach and see what things I could photograph. Mostly huge trees and flowers, but no wildlife. Certainly not a wasted expedition by any means, beauty here is every where.

Soon after, I learned something about myself that I kind of already knew, but hadn’t really experienced yet. If you know me, you know my saying is “I don’t want to run unless something is chasing me.” Well, I learned today that I will also run if there are monkeys involved.

As I took my 3rd walk to the beach that day, half way there, I heard a commotion in the trees above my head. I looked up and squinted into the sun and would you believe a family of 10 Howler Monkeys were making their way from tree to roof to tree. I was stopped dead in my tracks and debated whether to just watch, or run back to the house for my camera. The debate probably only took 15 seconds but it seemed like a life time. I ditched my blanket and water bottle on the side of the path and started running through the jungle. Now, if you’ve ever run full throttle through the jungle, you know every branch and stick in there is just waiting to trip you! I could have sworn they were growing and shifting the faster I ran. The small path I was on lets out right in front of our house where my dad was on the porch reading his book. Imagine his surprise when he saw me pummeling out of the opening, breathing hard and barely able to get a word out due to excitement. His immediate reaction was “What’s wrong!?” And in broken English I try to explain about the monkeys, and how I need my camera, at this point I could have easily run right through the screen door I was going so fast.

I make it back to the monkeys just in time to see a mama with a baby on her back misjudge a leap and end up in a small palm tree right in front of me. I snap a few pictures and feel a little bummed that I’ve missed them. Except, I realize they couldn’t have gone that far, so I trespass up some stairs that lead me to a clearing with a swimming pool. The monkeys are in every tree, eating, playing and doing, what monkeys do I suppose. I don’t even know where to start at this point, there are monkeys in every direction, each cuter than the next. There is one particular monkey who has ventured close enough to the ground that I could have reached up and touched him. I considered it for a half a second till I saw his teeth, and then used my better judgement for once. He is patient with me and allows me to get very close without swinging away while I snap 64 pictures in a matter of minutes. They decide as a group to move on, and I bid farewell to my first Costa Rican wildlife experience. I’m astonished and it almost feels surreal. What a place.

In the evening we decide to visit Jesse at La Banana and listen to some Raggaeton while Dad and Abe play some very serious games of foozeball. This place is magical. Best day ever.

I Can Still Surf

Wait. Let me start from the beginning here.

So for as hysterical as the last flight was, the next, got even worse. Kidding. I felt compelled to start like that because I know the particular person I sat next to will read this at some point…

I take my seat and watch to see who is going to end up sitting next to me. Lady with a baby… Nope. Guy who’s already talking everyone’s ears off… Nope. How about the dude who looks my age with the incredible facial hair that resembles the Omega sign when he looks up…? You bet. Sweet. The first hour is spent on the tarmac/runway, but I don’t even realize it since I’ve dozed off and can feel my 8lb head lose its balance and swing in every direction. Apparently I have no neck muscles while sleeping.

When I finally come to, my neighbor and I start up a conversation and it turns out I’m sitting next to Denny Morrison, 3 time Olympic speed skater. No Kidding! We spend the rest of the flight chatting about our vacation plans, how speed skaters wear kevlar suits now to prevent being sliced to death, and how Boulder, CO rocks. Totally pleasant and no screaming babies. Minus the one he’d recorded on a previous flight, that he insisted on playing for me (yes, I think this is odd too). At this point I wanted to threaten his pretty, unbroken iPhone but I refrain.

I meet my parents and we spend the night at the Vida Tropical in Alajuela. Tomorrow Nosara.

It’s maybe 180 miles from San Jose to Guiones where we live, but the trip takes 6 hours (minus a 30 minute stop at the Maxi Bodega). Today I am reminded that third world travel is; cramped, hot, slow, painful, downright dangerous and worth EVERY second. The scene out my window is lush green and speckled with colorful buildings. The mountains rise on either side of the car and every where you turn there are new flowers, trees and streams to look at. We spend the ride talking up until the last 20 minutes, when the potholes turn so big we can only laugh we’re bouncing around so much. But with Dad at the helm we’re home safe.

First order of business is to go for a surf. I haven’t surfed in 3 years. I haven’t surfed with my dad in, I can’t even remember how long. We catch a break between sets and paddle out. By the time we’re in the line up my arms and shoulders are screaming at me. I am not in surfing shape, but I’ll be damned if I can’t keep up with my old man. Waves are bigger then I remember, but I start to paddle for one, I’m wimpier than I remember. I pull out and curse at myself for wasting a wave. I swear internally I will not do that again. The rest of session is spent remembering how to use my sea legs, and catching quite a few really nice waves. I’m pleased with myself and my ability to surf after so long and look around at where I am. I still can’t believe I’m here. There is beach as far as the eye can see with not a single house to interrupt the view. Huge cliffs to the north that, from this distance, look like the sea is holding them up. Someone has built a large sculpture in the sand with drift wood and I can watch the sun going down to the west and the moon coming up from the east.

I find myself alone in the line up and remember what it’s like to be with my thoughts, rocked gently by the rising and falling ocean. Yep. Best day ever.

So now, I’m sitting on my porch, listening to the infinite number of bugs and birds and watching the bats swoop in close for an evening snack.

Pura Vida.