Last year I read an article on MindBodyGreen that would change my life. The article was about someone’s experience interning at Bodhi Surf School in Uvita, Costa Rica. Reading that article made me want to be intern at Bodhi as well, and seeing as I was going to have a couple of months free from courses at the Delft University of Technology, this was the perfect way to fill in that time. I emailed Bodhi to inquire if they needed an intern and we started emailing back and forth to discuss what I could do during my internship. We soon came to the conclusion that my skills were better suited to intern with Geoporter, an American NGO that operates in Uvita and works closely with Bodhi. So I started emailing with Amy from Geoporter and in March I left to go to Costa Rica for three months.
Interning in Bahia Ballena
When I got off the plane I was super excited and super nervous — this was the first time I was all alone in a country I hadn’t visited before. The nerves quickly went away when I arrived in Uvita and was welcomed by other Bodhi interns and Amy. The day after I arrived it was Surf and Service Saturday, a great initiative from Geoporter and Bodhi Surf School in which they teach children how to surf in return for a couple of hours of cleaning up the beach. This was a great opportunity to get to know some community members and the surf instructors from Bodhi, however it wasn’t time for me to learn to surf yet. That time came a couple of weeks later when I joined two other surf newbies in a week-long surf camp. This was one of the hardest weeks of my time in Costa Rica, not because of the physical aspect of surfing but because of the mental struggle I had with it. I’ve always enjoyed water sports and I am not afraid of the ocean, but surfing was a bigger challenge that I had anticipated.
The struggle for control
I am a control freak, there I said it. Ever since I left my home country of Suriname to go to the Netherlands for further studies I’ve been turning into a total control freak. I had a five year plan for my life and when that wasn’t going as I planned I got super frustrated with myself. It got so bad that my self-confidence was starting to crumble and I tried harder and harder to fight to get the control back. But let’s be honest, when has that ever worked for anyone?
Surfing was the perfect metaphor for my life: I was getting super frustrated with myself that I wasn’t doing as well as the others in the class or even as well as I had expected from myself. By class three I was so frustrated that I tried to fight every wave that came my way and that just made me very exhausted and mad at myself. Travis, our surf instructor that week, was really nice about it and kept motivating me and assuring me that I was doing fine. He also told me to relax when a big wave hit me, that fighting the wave was only going to make it worse.
As I contemplated this advice and my own experience those first four days I realized that those waves were like the challenges life throws at you. Some of them are small enough that you can plank through them, others are too big and the best way to handle those is to dive right before it hits you and then to relax as it washes over you. And most importantly, when it feels like you’re absolutely out of control do not panic. When you do that and you keep paddling then eventually you’ll paddle all the way out. Out there it’s a whole different world, it’s calm and it’s peaceful. You can just sit on your board, bobbing up and down on the ocean and enjoy the view while waiting for the perfect wave to surf. And guess what? That last part is exactly what I did on the fifth and final day of the surf camp.
Written by Stephanie Tjin