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Posted by Rick Civelli | 07.14.2014 | Costa Rica Surf Camp

It Means "Pure Life"

Pura Vida!

Before leaving for this surf adventure, I had heard about the “Pura Vida” culture of Costa Rica.  I had done a little research and knew that this trip was going to be unforgettable, and that the Pura Vida mindset was a both a personal goal and also one that I had for all our campers.  The literal meaning of Pura Vida is “pure life”, but the words mean so much more here.  We had already been in Costa Rica for just over a week, and I had seen our campers immerse themselves in all that this amazing culture has to offer.


My favorite moments on the trip were our many surf sessions, but in particular the ones that last into and through the most colorful, painted sky sunsets I have ever seen.  The waves our campers have been surfing on and the stoked looks on their faces tell me that they are embracing the Pura Vida push of the ocean.  They look one way and see their new-found family paddling into waves as they cheer them on.  They look the other way and see the sun setting amidst a canvas of turquoise, orange, red, and yellow billows of clouds.  The tropical environment of this camp adventure is every surfer’s dream, and these teenagers are pumped every day to paddle out and return later to trade big-wave stories over dinner.

The campers’ understanding of the Pura Vida culture has extended well beyond their time in the water.  The Costa Rican people shine with great national pride and we have been privileged in so many ways to experience it with them.  From our second day here, the campers were so excited that they would be able to see Costa Rica play in the World Cup soccer games on TV and join in with the incredibly enthusiastic cheers of the locals.  To say that the Costa Ricans are excited about their team playing is quite possibly the greatest understatement imaginable.  Their celebrations were so loud, we could hear cheers while we were in the water surfing.  It was as if the coastline had exploded with yells of joy! For Costa Rica’s final game of the tournament, we found time to sit down at a local restaurant surrounded by a few hundred soccer fans dressed in a sea of blue, white, and red.  Their energy was contagious and the campers joined in with the Pura Vida excitement that continued all the way through two over-times and into the final shoot out.  I was most impressed by how the crowd reacted as their team fell just short of a win.  There was the initial groan that would be expected during a loss at a sporting event, but then the crowd turned it around almost immediately to a standing ovation of respect and pride for their team that had fought so hard.

Another stand-out moment of the Pura Vida culture we got to be a part of was our time at the Leatherback Turtle Conservancy.  Our host and instructor, Christian, gave us a detailed explanation of how the leatherback turtles nest on the shores of Playa Grande where we are staying.  A very disheartening fact he shared with us: over the past twenty-five years, the number of adult turtle nest sightings has gone from nearly 1500 down to only 25 this past year.  His passion for the turtles and other wildlife was plain to see.  The campers got a first-hand account of the conservancy’s attempts to maintain the natural nesting grounds of the turtles.  Christian’s Pura Vida drive to ensure the future of the turtles reminded us of why our beach cleanups are so important, and that being mindful of our habits along the coast is so crucial.  We were reminded of this again a few days later when we had a green sea turtle sighting during a SUP session.


When we had just a few days left in our Costa Rica surf adventure,  I was so stoked to see how the campers were grasping for every last opportunity to embrace the Pura Vida culture.  Every wave they paddled for, every chance to practice their spanish, every visit to the beach, every smile in the water reminded me of why I love this job.  Costa Rica has refreshed my mind, body, and soul…. I did not want to leave!  PURA VIDA!!

Matt Zeboor

WB Surf Camp

Surf Instructor