After a week-long surfing course I was not only a ‘Barney’ (a novice or someone with little skill) but, as this took place in Jaco, Costa Rica, I was also a ‘Benny’ (a non-local). I’m sure my instructor had many other names for me too when I failed to prevent a board collision that signalled the end of my surfing career.
Hospital x-rays proved my thumb wasn’t broken just badly sprained. Annoyingly though, it was my right hand, the one I use, and it made lugging the backpack on and off extremely difficult but, suffering in silence, I continued on my trip around the country, heading further north and west into Guanacaste.
I reached Playas del Coco and decided to stay a while. There was top class scuba diving to be had and it was great to go back in the water without fear of being attacked by my own surf board. So my days were spent swimming with huge schools of stingrays and in the evenings I hung out with the locals enjoying a cold beer.
One young guy I got chatting to, Sanchez, offered to take me on a visit to one of the country’s top surfing spots; Ollie’s Point out in the Santa Rosa National Park. Only accessible by boat, he said he often took tourists who were keen to experience the internationally-renowned breaks. It was off-season at this point so the water was likely to be a bit more suitable for a surfer of my calibre – more or less stagnant. I told him I’d meet him the following morning.
Later that evening an old war wound flared up. My left knee became inflamed and steadfastly refused to allow me to apply any weight when bending it. Crouching down on my haunches, for example to tie shoe laces, was impossible. The searing pain meant my leg would give way and I’d end up flat on my behind.
I went to bed hoping it would improve overnight.
It didn’t, but I figured it wouldn’t really hinder me spending a day of splashing about in the water and lying on the beach, so off I went to pick up my ride out to Ollie’s Point. Waiting with Sanchez were two of his friends who were delighted at the prospect of catching some proper waves. We headed off for the 40 minute boat trip and the three amigos very sweetly shared out some home-made snacks, with the promise of a delicious lunch later.
We arrived at Ollie’s Point and found we had it completely to ourselves. The beach was long, narrow and unspoilt by anything manmade – not much even in the way of nature, just blinding white sand as far as the eye could see.
We got straight into the water – the lads hitting the tubes, me playing it a bit more safe. Nevertheless, I still managed to take a board full in the face and decided to retreat to the beach and leave them to it, turning my attention instead to lunch.
The boys stayed in the water for ages, long enough for lunch to begin to take its toll on my innards. As soon as the gurgling started, I knew I had to get to a bush fast.
Dressed only in my one piece, I broke into a gallop to reach the shelter of some logs that I could see in the distance in an attempt to be out of sight from the boys. The logs provided little privacy and I would have to get extremely low to the ground to maintain any kind of dignity. I started to peel off my cossie and crouched as low as I could get; the release valves having well and truly opened.
When I achieved the hovering position used by women the world over, my bad knee gave way and I felt myself losing balance. Shrieking in agony I put out my arm to try and avoid landing in the tsunami of faeces I had just created. As my hand made contact , my defective thumb caved in, refusing to offer any stability and sending me crashing to the wet ground.
The sight that greeted the boys when they came rushing over to my aid was of me bare-arsed, prostrate in a pool of my own detritus with a face now red and swollen from the earlier board incident.
Not my finest hour.
Here’s a picture of a cute dog to help erase the image you’ve been left with.