Costa Rica Surf Retreat

Silhouette of Nicole and I running in the water's edge holding boogie boards above our heads

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica for a surf and yoga retreat with a bunch of other rowdy women.  Surfing isn’t really something I ever thought I would want to try, but my friend Nicole DeBoom is really good at talking me into things…

Going to the beach and the ocean is one of the rare times in life when I find my prosthesis annoying.  My leg gets wet and is soggy all day, my foot shell fills with water and sand that has to be cleaned out every single time I step foot on the beach, and I end up constantly worrying about my foot getting filled with sand and getting damaged before I’m able to clean it out.  In all my adult life, as enjoyable as it looked, I had never just strolled along the edge of the beach enjoying the waves rolling in over my feet as I walked because I was constantly trying to keep it from getting filled with water and sand.

For this trip, however, Zach made me a special water/surfing leg that would only be used for my time on the beach.  Unlike my walking foot, it did not have a footshell on it, so I didn’t have to worry about it getting filled with water and sand.  It also allowed me to keep my walking leg dry so that after my time on the beach I could just hose the water/surfing leg down, leave it out to dry, and put on my clean, dry walking leg and go about my day as usual.  It was a game changer.  For the first time in my life, I strolled on the beach stress free!!!  This may not sound like that big of a big deal, but after years of envying the people who looked so peaceful strolling along the water’s edge, I finally got to be one of those people!  There are very few things that I feel I miss out on in life because of my leg, but this was definitely one of those things until I went on this trip with my new leg.

Standing, stress-free, at the water's edge with Jen & Jen in Costa Rica

I realize I am extremely fortunate to be able to have multiple legs, and I hope my story shows the importance of having access to various prosthetic limbs.  No one prosthetic leg is capable of fulfilling all of the roles of one biological leg, and insurance companies need to start realizing this and paying for specializing limbs.  Giving us the ability to be active and healthy now will save money in the long-run, so please invest in our health, not our later ailments.  *Steps off soap box.*

In addition to this amazing experience of stress-free walking along the beach, I also learned a few life lessons from surfing that I wanted to share:

(1) Every Wave is a New Opportunity – I did stand up on the board, but I also fell… a lot. However, with each new wave that came in, I had another opportunity to adjust my “pop up” and stand up once again.  It was important to just focus on the current wave, not the last wave when you fell, otherwise you’d just fall again.  It was really a great lesson about living in the moment.

me standing on the surfboard with friend Pia in the background and instructor Nego watching

(2) Solutions ˃ Excuses – When I first started out, my prosthetic foot was “sticking” to the foam-top surfboard, so I wasn’t able to make any adjustments to my foot placement once I put it down on the board during my “pop up.” I was getting frustrated, but instead of letting it beat me, I decided to try putting duct tape on the bottom of my foot to see if that would give me the ability to move the foot a little more without being too slippery.  To my great delight, it worked!  The first day I tried it I just put two strips of tape on the bottom of my foot so I could easily remove it if it didn’t work.  Shortly before it was time for the end of our lesson, I was doing very poorly again, and then I realized the ocean had taken my duct tape.  I called it for the day and taped the foot much more securely with duct tape for the following day.  It worked like a charm and I had a couple pretty awesome days of popping up on the board and riding the fluff to the shore after that.

Sitting on the beach with my duct taped foot

(3) It’s Okay to Quit While You’re Ahead – On the last day, I was having a great day on the surfboard, but I could tell I was getting tired. Rather than risking things taking a different turn, I quit after a great ride to the shore even though we had 20-30 minutes left that we could have surfed.  Maybe I could have gotten in a few more awesome rides, but I listened to my body and called it quits to end on a positive note.  I’m glad I did this because now I’m looking forward to surfing again in Hawaii when we go there for our vacation to celebrate Bob & Karen’s 50th wedding anniversary this summer!  Had I ended on a bad note, I’m not sure I would be quite as excited about that.

3 thoughts on “Costa Rica Surf Retreat

  1. Fantastic..I was wondering if Zack ever made a surfing leg before? Seems like you are expanding his techniques honey! Im wondering if the bottoms of your prosthetics can be, or already are, interchangeable..You know, like have a walking botton, a running bottom, a biking bottom ect..and just leave the top part that fits on your residual limb the same?


    1. Hi Kathy! Yes, the foot can be changed out using the same socket for many amputees, but my residual limb is too long to have the type of running foot that would make that sort of system work, so that’s why we’ve just done different legs. Also, my water/surf leg was a completely different socket system with a BOA dial that would allow a panel to be tightened and loosened – this ensured it was super tight and wouldn’t get pulled off my residual limb by the ocean. 🙂


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