Bodies in Motion

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CATCH A WAVE: Spend your vacation on the beach learning to surf—the perfect way to have fun and get some exercise (PhotoDisc)

Surfing may be the most spiritual of beach sports. The purity of the sport—just you, the board, and the waves—has a visceral appeal, especially for those of us who love the beach and ocean. And comfortingly, the passion is easy to pick up thanks to a few places with friendly waves and friendlier instructors.

What it takes: Surfing lessons usually start on the beach, where you'll learn the mechanics of surfing, then progress to "whitewater"—those mellow waves that break before forming an open face. Most people learn to stand up by the end of a 90-minute lesson, and with another lesson or two should be ready for small open-face waves. After that, it's just practice. In terms of gear, surfing is refreshingly simple, especially compared to scuba diving and kiteboarding. Surf boards can be rented anywhere lessons are offered. Be sure to always wear a T-shirt to avoid sunburn and prevent chaffing against the board—better yet, buy yourself a rash guard (a skin tight jersey made for the purpose) and or a wetsuit pack it on every trip.

Who can do it: Surfing is a demanding sport, and you should be a good swimmer and comfortable with the occasional wallop that comes with riding the waves. That said, the first lesson is always mellow and fun—any fit person can handle it—and a good way to decide if surfing is something you'd like to pursue further.

Where to go: Costa Rica is a popular surf destination for beginners and experts alike. In the town of Jacó, Vista Guapa Surf Camp ( is a live-in surf camp run by a seven-time Costa Rican national surf champ. It's a fun, friendly place, with top-notch instructors. Like most surf spots, the beach here isn't great—black sand, lots of rocks—though not without a stark beauty, especially at sunrise and sunset. Of course, there's also plenty of great hiking, biking, and other outings for which Costa Rica is equally famous.

Tip: The Pacific coast of Mexico also has excellent surfing, and better beaches. Look for surf schools in coastal destinations like Puerto Escondida (Oaxaca) and Sayulita (north of Puerto Vallarta).

Published: 17 Mar 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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