Support the Nosara Wildlife Refuge and “Stop the shocks… after all, it’s a jungle out there.”

Wildlife Refuge - Safari Surf School

The Nosara Wildlife Refuge is a worthy cause! They are not a zoo or a wild animal park. Visitors are welcome only with advance appointments and not in large masses. It is a place for rehabilitation; filled with hope that injured animals will one day be free again.
Brenda BombardI admire Brenda Bombard, the creator of the refuge, immensely for what she does. She has built a rescue program that is well known throughout the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica and beyond. She cares tirelessly for these animals, donating her time, resources and energies to repairing some of the damages that the impact of society has created. As a consequence of her work, she also has to face despairing situations on a regular basis. It takes great courage to deal with the grim and oftentimes fatal injuries that these animals have incurred.
The day that we visited the refuge, Brenda greeted us and walked us out to the broad area on her property where she has constructed giant containment areas for the animals. Many of the monkeys were running, swinging, and jumping around together to the delight of my kids. The Capuchin monkeys were the funniest. They would swing through the cage, land right next to us and make faces. It seemed as though everything they did was to entertain. In the trees above the property, an entire troop of Howler monkeys was playing in the wild. We were surrounded!
Nosara Wildlife Refuge - Howler MonkeyBefore we were introduced to the individual rescue animals, Brenda gave us a short bit of history on the reasons they usually end up there. The most prolific reason is shock by the uncovered electrical wires and transformers. The refuge is working constantly with ICE, the Costa Rica electrical company to have these wires safe guarded. They have made steady progress, but there is such a long way to go and the expenses for this are, unfortunately, not being covered by ICE in most cases. At one point, Brenda brought out a Howler who had been blinded by electrocution. My oldest daughter was allowed to hold the monkey in its baby blanket and we were all able to give it a little love. This monkey, unfortunately, cannot rejoin the wild, so, it will remain at the refuge.
Other animals were at the refuge due to misguided people taking them in as pets. In one case, Brenda was called to remove a Capuchin monkey from a house that it had basically taken over. The owners of the home had found the monkey as a baby and decided to keep it. They raised it in their home as you would a dog or cat, only to discover that the “wild” was not out of the monkey. When it got older and reached adolescence it became destructive, mischievous and, at times, violent. By the time Brenda was called, the monkey was inside the house while the owners were outside, too afraid to enter. There are television shows and reports that have depicted these monkeys as well as other types to be villains because of their attacks on humans, but, how can we expect docile domestic behavior from animals that are wild? It is no different than expecting a Grizzly bear to cuddle in bed with your child at night rather than a teddy bear.
Then, of course, there are the dogs. Anyone who has visited Costa Rica knows that there is a problem with domestic animals being allowed to roam freely. The dogs have an innate desire to catch the monkeys and when they do, it is not a fair fight. If a young monkey falls from a tree and becomes prey to a large dog, its chances of survival are grim. Luckily, the refuge has managed to save a few of these monkeys which they will likely be able to return to the wild. At the same time, they work with the local vets to spay and neuter stray animals and encourage leashes.
Nosara Wildlife Refuge
These are just a few of the reasons for animals finding themselves in the safe haven of Nosara Wildlife Refuge. Due to its incredible reputation, the refuge finds itself with more and more animals every day. This, despite their ongoing efforts to educate the community.
Nosara Wildlife Refuge - Isomil Baby Howler MonkeyCurrently, Brenda is caring for many babies which increases the difficulty of the job tenfold. The babies need Isomil baby formula, dried goat’s milk, and constant care. They do the best that they can but without help from outside donations, they could not possibly afford to treat these animals.
If you have visited Nosara, you have undoubtedly spent some time admiring the Howler’s in the trees. If you have not visited Nosara, it will definitely be something you will want to see and that you won’t forget. It is much better to see them in the trees than in a recovery unit. My children learned that from our visit to the refuge and we all gained an impactful education that will stay with us forever.
Please consider making a contribution to the Refuge. Anything that any of us can do to help, no matter how small, is a benefit to this deserving facility. They have a website with a means for monetary donations and a wish list. If you are traveling to Nosara in the near future, Safari Surf will be happy to make arrangements for you to visit Nosara Wildlife Refuge in person and deliver any items that you have to donate. We will also arrange for items to be sent to Nosara if you would like to mail them to our US address.
Support the Nosara Wildlife Refuge
Donations will help the refuge acquire an ultrasound machine as well as a temperature control infant incubator, which will help with the many burned monkeys they receive.

Safari Surf Delivers Toothbrushes and Toothpaste to Local Schools


We want to give a HUGE thank you shaka to Safari Surf guest Kris Maichle, who brought down toothbrushes & toothpaste for local Nosara schoolchildren as part of our Pack for a Purpose program. Check out some pictures of Kris and Safari Surf staff members, including owner Tyler Marsh handing out Kris’ donation at a local school!
Pura Vida!

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Olas Verdes Press Release


Safari Surf School’s new headquarters to be developed using sustainable design practices.


Contact: Carl Kish at 866-433-3355 or

NOSARA, COSTA RICA – Safari Surf School, Costa Rica’s premier surf school and surf camp, will begin construction of its new headquarters — Olas Verdes — in November of this year.

The beachfront property is located on the edge of a 200 meter setback from Playa Guiones in adherence with the protection of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. Local architecture firm, Prendas Loria, in collaboration with Safari Surf’s Sustainability Director, Carl Kish, will ensure Olas Verdes complies with internationally recognized sustainable design and tourism standards.

Safari Surf’s longtime base of operations,the Hotel Casa Tucan, and the surrounding property was purchased by the owners of the The Harmony Hotel, a local sustainable resort. While Safari Surf School’s owners, Tim and Tyler Marsh, are saddened to part with the hotel that has been their headquarters for over a decade, they are eager to push the envelope for sustainable tourism with Olas Verdes.

“What excites us the most is this entire project will be built with sustainability in mind. From the architecture, to the water reclamation, to solar, grey water systems etc. Our facility will be built with Sustainable Certification as a top priority from the country’s highest standard (CST), as well as certification from the Center for Surf Research.” — Tim Marsh, Co-Owner/CEO.

Hotel Casa Tucan has long been a central part of the growing surf community of Playa Guiones as well as Nosara, and has been a “second home” to thousands of Safari Surf School students who have come to Costa Rica to learn to surf and experience the Costa Rican “pura vida” firsthand.

Tim Marsh’s full story on the Casa Tucan and more details about Olas Verdes are available here:

About Safari Surf School

Founded by brothers Tim and Tyler Marsh in 1999, Safari Surf School is an official Billabong Camp and is Costa Rica’s premier surf school. In addition to surf lessons from ISA certified instructors, Safari offers complete vacation packages including a range of accommodations, dining, transportation and numerous other activities. The school is located at Playa Guiones near Nosara on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Business and administrative operations are based in San Diego, CA, U.S.A. Specific businesses include Safari Surf School, Safari Surf Adventures, Safari Surf Vacations, and Women’s Surf Adventures. For more information about Safari Surf School, go to


Ciao to the Casa Tucan


Safari Surf & Hotel Casa Tucan – “The Story”

by Tim Marsh, Co-Owner/CEO.
I can remember my first time at the Hotel Casa Tucan in 1995…driving through Nosara on a mission to find surf, sun, and fun on my first visit to the “rich coast”, I stopped in to have a beer and ask directions. Little did I know at that time that I would come back years later and run a business out of this location.
Safari Surf School officially opened its “doors” in 1999 and from 1999 to 2005 the Hotel Casa Tucan was home to our surf program and the base of Safari’s operations. We were a small start up surf school, one of the first in all of Costa Rica at the time, and using this facility as our base of operations. We did not own the hotel but we had forged a good relationship with the manager and owner and promised her we could fill the place with traveling surfers and tourists.
From 1999 to 2005, Safari Surf steadily grew and had a solid “fan base”…word was getting out about this cool surf location, cool and unique surf program, and the unbelievable local townspeople, vibe, and just amazing aura that was Nosara, Playa Guiones. Hotel Casa Tucan along with its charm and mystique steadily became a meeting spot, a hub if you will, for traveling surfers and tourists alike. The rustic charm, the relaxed pura vida vibe of the staff was unmatched. It was so authentic you could taste it. People who could afford to stay at much more expensive lodging preferred to stay at the Casa Tucan due to its charm, its allure of pura vida, its relaxed vibe…it was perfect in so many ways.
In 2005, the hotel became available for purchase. We (Tim & Tyler) quickly knew something had to be done to make sure they could keep this little slice of nirvana. We reached out to a few previous surf school guests about the prospect of going in with them and purchasing the hotel, bar & restaurant. Within a few short weeks the funds were realized and the hotel & bar were now firmly rooted in Safari Surf Schools’ name and future plans.
From 2005 to 2010, Safari Surf school steadily rose to prominence within its industry…building relationships with guests one by one that will last a lifetime. Families, new found friends, continue to return year in and year out to visit Playa Guiones, Safari Surf, and Hotel Casa Tucan. So many faces have come in and out of Casa Tucan over the years and many to this day continue to come and enjoy the charm and serenity they have become accustomed too at their home away from home…Hotel Casa Tucan.
We have watched many of the families children grow over the years and every time they return it is like a long lost family reunion…something that cannot be forged, a real bond with people and place.
In 2010, the “other” investors preferred not to be involved in the hotel and bar side of the business so Tyler and I decided to lease the entire hotel to keep secure the environment we had created over all those previous years. To keep intact the vibe and aura that had become so renown to all its guests.
In March of this year (2013) we were approached by an investor who was eager to buy our property. So much so, that this investor offered top dollar for our entire property. Tyler and I being 1/3 partners were unfortunately not in the majority and a decision was made to sell the Hotel Casa Tucan. 30 days later and the hotel was sold. The new owners were nice enough to allow Safari Surf to finish out its current lease that runs through August of 2013. At that time the Hotel Casa Tucan, the memories, will unfortunately be no more.
This was obviously an incredibly difficult time for Tyler and me in many respects…but mainly, what were we going to do for our business, how were we going to move forward? Things transpired in lightening speed and the reality that Safari Surf did not have a home after Aug. was to say the least, a bit stressful for us.
It’s interesting how life moves…moves in ways we cannot predict. I believe things happen for a reason and that fate does play a role in our lives more than we recognize.
Not more than 2 or 3 days had passed once we had realized we were not going to be able to save the Hotel Casa Tucan than an aberration appeared before us…my wife Marsi and I had reached out to many of the local real estate and rental agents in and around Nosara inquiring about locations or homes we could use to set up our base of operations for our surf program, when we received a phone call from one of the agents informing me that there was an amazing property that had just become available and it was not currently on the market so no one knew of its availability.
This property is right on the 200 meter line or as most in Nosara know…beachfront as you can get in Playa Guiones. There were 8 lots with one of the lots having a gorgeous 4 BR 3 bath home on it. This was the ideal location for an amazing surf school retreat.
I had to work extremely fast as time was not on my side. Once word got out to the other local RE agents that this property was for sale and it would have gone in a second. There has been a large influx of money coming back into Nosara and the fact that this was available would have been swallowed up by an investor quite quickly. You just don’t see this size of a property, with its location (and potential) available any more in Playa Guiones.
I quickly sprang into action and put together an investment opportunity and sent this proposal out to a few select people I thought might be interested. The long and short of it was I was right…there were interested parties and when it all came down to it the property was purchased and a new partnership came to life.
The plans for this new location are to build an office for Safari Surf School, a club house, kitchen / food service area, pool, commons area with BBQ along with 8 to 12 (2) BR units for rent.
What excites us the most is this entire project will be built with sustainability in mind. From the architecture, to the water reclamation, to solar, grey water systems etc. Our facility will be built with Sustainable Certification as top priority from the country’s highest standard ICT as well as certification from Center for Surf Research and other entities.
The name of our new location will be “Ola Verde” or Green Wave.
We have begun the architectural design phase and anticipate breaking ground this coming November 2013. Safari Surf will be putting together a blog to follow the progress of this amazing project from start to finish.
The one and most important thing we want to transfer from the Casa Tucan to Ola Verde is that amazing vibe, that relaxed surf theme. What made the Casa Tucan so amazing was ultimately the staff…and we will be bringing the majority of our staff with us…keeping intact the “real” pura vida vibe that made Casa Tucan and will make Ola Verde the place to be!

First drawings of the new Safari Surf Clubhouse at Ola Verde.

Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 4


My last week in Nosara with the Innovative Biodiesel Project was hectic – running all over town trying to tie loose ends and finish as many “innovative” pieces of the puzzle as possible before I left so Ryan wouldn’t have too much to tackle on his own. Read on to see what worked and most importantly – what didn’t!
Monday was the beginning of a long week with numerous setbacks in the “greasercycle” design. Also, the gale-force winds I described in the last post prevented us from working on-site Monday and Tuesday mornings:

Unfortunately, our test with the smaller, cheaper and easier to use drill bit pump that would replace the traditional 1.5 horsepower electric water pump for the “greasercycle,” failed… Harbor Freight says its “chemical resistant,” but we’re not too sure about that because once our methoxide mix was pumped into the water heater tank to react with the WVO – it stopped instantly. “Oh well, that’s science!” – Ryan.

So we resorted to the traditional method of converting an old water pump into the “greasercycle” pump. We went to “Trino’s Reycling Center” in town and found an older water pump for cheap. [Ryan beginning to take it apart.]

While Ryan broke into the pump, I took a crack at removing the steel capsule in this old water heater for our ethanol still, which will be used for purification of our homemade ethanol.
Voila, we washed out the steel tank which would have been way easier if one of the plastic pipes hadn’t shattered into a million tiny pieces, but after a few hours of cleaning she was as good as new.

This little guy appreciates our greywater filtration system.

Since the pump was no longer working, we had about 30 gallons of biodiesel sitting in our water heater unmixed, but we took 5 gallons out for a test batch to mix by hand for the week until we resolved our bike-pump issue. [Ryan making the methoxide mix].
We cleaned up the project site Tuesday after the winds died down (gathered a lot of dead twigs and leaves for biochar production) and prepared for our “field trip.”
We are conducting a test to see how long it takes for the ethanol fermentation process to happen naturally without adding store-bought yeast (yeast occurs naturally in the fruit scraps). [Bucket to the left has added yeast, one to the right doesn’t]. We sealed them up and we’ll compare them in two weeks.
The 7th graders from the Del Mar Academy in Nosara had a “field trip” to the Innovative Biodiesel Project (thanks for setting that up Jess!). [Ryan explaining the “Greasercycle.”]

Me explaining the wash tank as the students (plus surf instructor, Nico) look at the sprinkler/bubbler system.

Peering into the algae collection jug as Ryan explains the significance of our homemade ethanol. After the field trip, the teacher asked if Ryan would come to the school next week to give a presentation on the carbon cycle and how it relates to our project…Ryan is stoked.

Wednesday through Friday was a blur – going all over town for meetings with leaders in the community to facilitate my other projects as Sustainability Director for Safari Surf…along with trying to find remedies for our aforementioned issues with the system:

Cut an old tin sheet into 3 pieces and used JB Weld to seal them together for our hot plate, which is the first piece of our heat transfer system.
The hot plate will have a copper pipe on top in a zig-zag fashion to collect heat generated from the biochar stove…

…and then extend out into the trench through steel pipe into the WVO tank until the cooking oil reaches 130 F (high heat = low viscosity, which is necessary for processing). The steel piping for the heat transfer is really expensive here and we’ve been told of a few people that sometimes have these materials in used condition (cheaper), but no one has any in stock so we’re playing the waiting game. During the hottest part of the day, we’ve consistently seen the grease at 110 F just from sitting in the sun so we won’t need much additional heat, but this system will benefit those in colder climates immensely. The ethanol still (blue steel tank) will sit above the stove to heat our homemade ethanol and purify it for use in processing.

We finished cleaning out the old water pump and connecting it to the water heater so it will pump in WVO and methoxide into the tank for mixing. Then we started testing designs for the greasercycle. We initially tried having the inner tube (shown above) directly on the pump, which provided great torque, but made it difficult to keep the tube on the rim. This design is also less convenient (can’t take the bike on and off).

I met with Sergio, the new Sustainability Coordinator for the Harmony Hotel (lobby above), to see if we could trade biodiesel for their grease considering they currently pay to ship their grease 250km to a biodiesel plant near San Jose. Sergio agreed that their current trade for biodiesel is counterproductive and is going to partner with us instead.

Went to 4 different carpenters in town to find the best artist for the plaque. The last one we met, Joule, was the best – really professional and talented (this is a door he’s working on). After we told him what the project was about, he was stoked to help us out – the plaque will be finished in 3 weeks!

I met with Christophe, a Swiss ex-pat forestry engineer, at the construction site of the new recycling center. We talked about what volunteer opportunities are available for clients who book the Sustainable Surfer Package I created. We also discussed more of the logistics for how the recycling center will function, and how the town is tackling other issues such as water supply (they’re in a 3 year drought). They milled all the Pachote here in the hills of Nosara and are selling the extra wood to generate revenue for finishing the recycling center – we are going to purchase their wood for our plaque, while also supporting their cause!

The Costas Verdes Barri-Guiones reforestation project is another volunteer opportunity I organized for our guests so I went with Dave, Tara and Megan to see the project at the new surf school, Agua Tibia.

Gerardo, the director of the Barri-Guiones project, taught us how to transplant the native barriguione trees into bigger pots so they’ll be ready to plant at the beginning of the rainy season. The project started two years ago to reintroduce the native tree species on the shores of Playa Guiones, which was originally clearcut for cattle farmers decades ago, but then protected as a wildlife refuge by the government when tourism developers tried to build a golf course.

Tara and Megan doing their part.

We tested our small batch of biodiesel on Saturday that we made by hand (due to the broken pump) to see how much more processing it needed before it would be ready.
We conducted the “27/3” test to see if our biodiesel was up to ASTM Spec, which if it passes means it meets commercial biodiesel production standards. We knew we were testing it too early, but Ryan wanted to show me what a fail looks like. You add 3ml of your biodiesel to 27ml of methanol (hence “27/3”) and stir – if the biodiesel is completely absorbed by the methanol in a minute and you don’t see any oily globs settle at the bottom, then you’ve passed the test. Our small batch needed to be reprocessed which required adding a minuscule amount of methoxide mix back into the biodiesel, shaking by hand, and then letting it sit overnight.

This is our new convenient design for the “greasercycle.” We took an old rubber chain from the dump, cut it in half and JB welded it to the metal cylinder on the water pump so the tire will have traction (and the bike can be taken off easily).

After Ryan and I tried to MacGyver a few contraptions for stabilizing the bike while you pedal, we decided to call a local welder to make a proper bike stand that is simple and easy to use. [Louise the welder taking measurements.]

We continued processing our small batch of handmade biodiesel while we waited for the welder to finish the bike stand on Sunday.
Our algae collection jug above the ethanol fermentation tank has grown exponentially – so green!

Ryan showed me how good biodiesel will quickly separate when mixed with water and how the water removes all the soap (extra chemicals) out of the biodiesel (a glimpse into what will happen in our large wash tank).

We washed our biodiesel a few times and siphoned the water out each time…getting closer and closer to pure biodiesel.

We needed to heat our batch of biodiesel just a little bit more so we took a portion of the 5 gallon batch and placed it on the hot plate while making biochar (cave man heat transfer system).

I tried to finish as much as possible Monday morning before my flight at 10am. Jazz (Casa Tucan) and I met Milton from the Gilded Iguana on Saturday to make a deal with him and his 3 colleagues who are getting paid by a biodiesel plant near San Jose to collect and send grease from Nosara. After explaining to him how keeping the grease in Nosara is better for the community and that we will trade biodiesel for grease instead of paying him in cash, he said yes! However, he still needed to talk to his 3 amigos and see if they could meet with me Monday morning before I left…unfortunately that didn’t happen, but Ryan and Jazz will still meet with them this week. Once we have a formal agreement, we’ll be collecting all the WVO in Nosara, providing jobs, and cranking out as much biodiesel as possible while reducing emissions throughout the whole town!
Paid Joule (the plaque artist) first thing Monday morning, and took him to the recycling center so he could personally choose the wood for the plaque. [A family of howler monkeys were playing above us as we went over the plaque design one last time – sorry I didn’t get a pic of the baby.]

Louise the welder dropped off the bike stand, which we will hammer into the dirt at the right angle/height for securing the rear tire of the greasercycle.

Bubbles are the last step to purifying the biodiesel believe it or not. Here we have an air bubbler connected to a hose that is pushing air through the biodiesel, evaporating any remaining water so the finished product is completely dry. We will have a small solar panel connected to the air bubbler for the wash/dry tank. Unfortunately the drying phase was not finished that morning…I really wanted to pour our small batch of biodiesel into the Safari Surf van for the first time and drive to the airport on biodiesel.

Flying out of Nosara (looking over Playa Guiones) on the world’s first carbon neutral airline – Nature Air.

It was tough to leave the project with the greasercycle so close to completion as well as not having the biochar heat transfer system in place, but I know that Ryan will get the job done (I’ll be helping as much as I can through Skype and email). Ryan being bedridden the first week, “Tico Time,” faulty equipment from the hardware store, and limited access to basic supplies/tools (we’re in a small town in a developing country) definitely caused some setbacks, but we still accomplished a great deal and we’re not giving up, we are just taking a little longer than expected to have the “innovative” system up and running. The community is behind us, we have our staff, and now we have all the supplies – its all coming together! Keep following us for updates from Ryan here on the Safari Surf blog. Stay Greasy!

Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 3


We have a roof over our heads and we’re ready to make biodiesel! Read on to see what the IBP team accomplished this past week in paradise.
Previous posts: Week 1 & Week 2

We collected grease from the Casa Tucan and Beach Dog Cafe… bringing our total to 22 gallons on Monday.

Rigo putting the finishing touches to the frame before laying our tin roof.

Leveled the space where our door will be.

Ryan prepping our beach cruiser for the grease pump.

We collected some ash from a fire pit, which we will purify with boiling water and our homemade ethanol to make lye so we won’t have to buy “potasa” (potassium/lye) from the store.

Rigo starting the roof.

One side done.

We were able to start the other side, but we didn’t finish it before our meeting that afternoon.

Nosara Sostenible Presentation at Giardino Tropicale (thanks for hosting us Marcel!).

We presented our project to Nosara Sostenible – a committee of like minded individuals (business owners, teachers, etc) in the community who are dedicated to making Nosara a model for sustainable development for the rest of Costa Rica. A couple more restaurants are interested in joining the program and Jessica (teacher from the Del Mar Academy) will include our project in her talks to the community about the new recycling center and to include their used cooking grease when collecting/sorting their waste! Tuesday was hectic at the Casa Tucan. Channel 7 News, one of Costa Rica’s national tv channels, filmed their latest story about the thievery issue in Playa Pelada (Nosara) at the Tucan and tons of people from the community came to be interviewed. There was also a major plumbing issue at the hotel so Rigo and Ivan couldn’t help with the construction of the shelter. Ryan and I went to the hardware store and purchased two clear 50 gallon drums (one for ethanol storage, one for biodiesel storage) and a 120 gallon wash tank (the last step in filtering the biodiesel by washing the remaining particulates out of the fuel).
Channel 7 News

They were selling baby chickens outside the hardware store… couldn’t think of a way to justify buying one for our project, but we really wanted one.

Wednesday was a productive day: we finished the roof; started the ethanol fermentation; collected more grease; received our biochar stove; and made the greywater filtration system.
The last piece and…

…the techo is finished!

Ethanol tank was 1/2 full with fruit so we added water and yeast and sealed her up – we’ll have homemade ethanol in 2 weeks!

Ryan put a braided hose into a water jug to collect the CO2 produced from the fermentation process to make algae (green color at the bottom), which we can use in our greywater filtration system and to produce more biodiesel.

Ryan, fitted for greasin’.
We use an old surfboard leash to tie down all the WVO we collect.

Ryan found the cleanest grease we’ve collected so far just sitting at a dump near the town center. We are working to spread the message to all the restaurants in town that they don’t need to throw away their grease… we can use it for fuel!

Me adding the last bit of grease we picked up, bringing our total to 37 gallons of WVO.

I made our greywater filtration system, which is fairly easy. This is where the water from the wash tank will be deposited after its been used to filter out the last of the particulates in the biodiesel:

Dug a trench and used two pieces of pipe that were just laying around Tyler’s property.
Drilled small holes throughout the pipe and placed rocks underneath (Tyler had a pile of rocks on his property as well).
Put the two pieces of pipe together and filled the rest of the trench with rocks…
…filled it with dirt and its good to go.
Our biochar stove arrived from Art Donnelly at SeaChange here in Costa Rica so we tested it out. Click here for Art’s photo gallery of how he makes his stoves.
Our first batch of biochar…we’ll set up the heat transfer system to the WVO tank next week.

Tyler flew to San Jose to have surgery on his knee Thursday so we watched his house for a few days.

Not too shabby.

Rigo and Ivan worked on the garden at the Tucan so Ryan and I made a trip to the hardware store to buy copper tubing for the biochar heat transfer system and the bubble coil in the wash tank. I began permanently securing all the pieces of the system into the ground with rebar and cinder blocks (we only had to buy a few more cinder blocks, the rest were old ones we collected from the Tucan and on Tyler’s property). Friday, we finished stabilizing all the parts of the system with rebar and cinder blocks while Ryan continued to work on the pump with the water heater, the methoxide tank, and the WVO tank.
Securing the wash tank and six other tanks/drums.

Rigo built a desk and a shelf with all the scrap wood lying around Tyler’s property and what was leftover from the construction of the shelter.


We used biodiesel from our “Fanta” test batch to treat the wood and stain it – looks better doesn’t it?

Our recycled side table, which will hold the ethoxide (ethanol and sodium hydroxide) tank.

We dug the trench for the underground copper tube that will transfer heat from the biochar stove to the WVO tank through a coil system. innovative-biodiesel-project-week-3-(31) On Saturday, Ryan said he a needed a day to himself without any distractions (construction, hardware store visits, miscellaneous hotel issues) to finish testing and making the first batch of biodiesel the old fashioned way before we start to add the “innovative” parts to the system. Ryan tested the water heater and the pump with a 5 gallon pechinga of WVO and wrote 5, 10, 15…30 gallon marks on the tube that feeds into the water heater tank so we know how much WVO is being mixed with the ethoxide before we start pedaling the greasercycle.
We went to the rodeo that night in Garza (one beach town south of Playa Guiones) to experience the local cowboy culture and have a break from work. Check out Safari Surf’s new blog series “Inside the Peak” for more photos and stories from the past week thanks to our new social media man behind the scenes, Nick.
View from atop the fence around the ring…had a few close calls with the bulls – yeeew!

We woke up to destruction Sunday morning as unprecedented gale-force winds had ripped through Nosara. The Casa Tucan had a few fallen trees and the power was out so I walked down to the beach to see what the offshore winds were doing to the waves.
This tree was completely uprooted and in the Casa Tucan pool, but it was cleaned up a couple hours later no problem.

All the sand was being stripped off the beach and engraved in my calves. Waves looked good, but impossible to ride…until later that afternoon when it glassed off and the water temp dropped down to 68 degrees (brrr).

This green sea turtle laid her eggs and was struggling to get back to the water with the windblown sand in her face…one guy eventually picked her up and brought her to the shore.

Salvation… it was a relief for all of us watching.

That afternoon, the wind died down a little bit and two clients that had booked the voluntourism package I created for Safari Surf, called the Sustainable Surfer Package, wanted to see the “Innovative Biodiesel Project” and Ryan and I wanted to make sure it was still there! innovative-biodiesel-project-week-3-(42) Megan and Lauren were impressed and Ryan and I were relieved to see that everything was still in tact – it was just covered in branches and leaves thankfully. If our shelter and biodiesel system can withstand the strongest winds to ever hit Nosara, then we are in good shape. However, the news says this wind storm will be here for two more days and we have a lot to get done so hopefully it doesn’t slow us down too much. Ryan’s batch of biodiesel that he started to make Saturday has been pushed back another day due to the harsh winds on Sunday and the Harbor Freight drill pump failing to pump the methoxide into the water heater (even though the pump is supposed to be resistant to chemicals, it seized up so we’ll have to use the red hand pump). Come back next week to see the “Innovative Biodiesel Project” complete! Rigo’s friend who is a welder is helping us put together the greasercycle system. We have 7th graders from the Del Mar Academy coming on Tuesday to learn about the whole process. We will finish enclosing the shelter with a fence and a door and the appropriate safety signs and we are tossing around ideas for the plaque so we’ll have that up this week as well. (People expecting post cards as a “perk” for donating – you should have them in the next week or so!)
Jump to “Week 4.”

Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 2


Our second week was extremely productive! Ryan started to feel a lot better on Monday thanks to the antibiotics and we organized a work schedule with Tyler’s gardeners, Rigo and Ivan. From Tuesday to Friday, we would start working at 7am and finish at 5 or 5:30pm. Ryan and I have been able to surf at sunset everyday, which is perfect for washing off all the dirt and grime. See our progress throughout this past week by scrolling through the photos. In case you missed the update from Week 1, click here. We picked up more construction materials on Monday and laid out our plans for the week. This is what the project site looked like before we began construction: innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(1) On Tuesday, we measured the size of the shelter and began digging the 2 foot deep post holes.

Me playing in the dirt.

Ryan cleaning and repurposing the old water heater. We flushed it with water and small amounts of muriatic acid, then we used some of the biodiesel from out little Fanta bottle to finish the job.

Tyler’s guard dog and our construction site companion, Fiddie.

We have been collecting fruit scraps from the Casa Tucan and Kaya Sol daily for ethanol fermentation.

Wednesday, Rigo brought all the teak we needed for the shelter, which is sustainably harvested from a local plantation in Nosara (apparently teak grows like a weed here – 2 out of the 3 species of teak are endangered, but not the one we are using). First we had to de-bark all the teak, which is no joke – you smack the bark until it becomes loose and then pull it off. My hands were done at the end of the day:



Smack, smack, smack.
We will let all the bark dry completely and then use it for biochar.



IMAG0105 After placing the six teak posts in the ground and securing them by compressing dirt and rocks in each hole, Ryan and I went to Kaya Sol to collect 15 gallons of used cooking grease! Thanks Jorge and everyone at Kaya Sol!

Ryan using a Harbor Freight hand-pump to pump the grease out of Kaya Sol’s 50 gallon drum into a 5 gallon “pechinga.” The restaurants receive their fry oil in these pechingas and we reuse them for WVO collection.

Pouring WVO through the metal screen filter into our 450 liter collection tank to catch all the crud we don’t want.

The aftermath… these scraps are used in our compost pile.

innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(26) Our little bottle of “Fanta” biodiesel from last week is now completely settled and crystal clear with the glycerine byproduct settled at the bottom (click here or on the image to read Ryan’s DIY instructions for making biodiesel at home). Glycerine has been on my mind a lot lately… let me explain. Seeing local schoolchildren and families smothered by dust when cars zoom by bothers me immensely, and after talking to some of the surf instructors and other locals, I’m not the only one who feels this way. I was reminded of this problem Thursday morning when I saw molasses being poured all over the road (see image below), which is how the town currently keeps the dust to a minimum. However, this process is expensive, smelly and sticky (pieces of it are launched from car tires that drive by – my legs were covered). We want to use glycerine instead because it is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. When mixed with water, we can spray it on the roads to keep the dust down without leaving pungent odors and gooey textures. Since glycerine is a natural byproduct of producing biodiesel, its significantly cheaper than molasses. We know this solution is not available right now, but in the near future we want to collect glycerine in mass amounts and use it to solve this health issue for the community.
Molasses… not for long!

Thursday, we began building the framework for the roof of the shelter and Ryan continued to prepare the water heater for the “greasercycle” pump.
Securing the tin sheets for our roof to Rigo’s truck.

We were hoping to use the old tin sheets that make up the fence separating the Casa Tucan from this hideous apartment complex that has been sitting unfinished for six years, but the tin is rusty and littered with holes. The group who purchased the Casa Tucan also purchased this space and is tearing down the complex completely (see image below): innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(23)
The beginnings of the roof.

We finished the structure for the roof on Friday and we will install the tin sheets on Monday. innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(27)

Rigo securing the lateral posts with metal wire… he’s 50 and killing it.
Without him and Ivan, the shelter would have taken another week.

Ivan will most likely be our trainee for producing biodiesel.

Almost there…

Ryan decided that the “Apple Turnover” design would be most appropriate for our water heater because there is too much space between the valve and the bottom of the tank – some of the biodiesel would be stuck at the bottom. Its basically just an inverted Appleseed system. Click here to learn more about the benefits of this system.

Additionally, we are testing a smaller, cheaper and easier to use pump (see image below) than the traditional 1.5 horsepower electric water pump ($90) that you connect to a bicycle to mix the chemicals and grease to make biodiesel. Ryan installed a drill chuck on to a heavy duty drill bit pump (Harbor Freight – $15) that we can hook up to Tyler’s beach cruiser (we’ll test our new design Monday or Tuesday).
New pump with drill chuck attached.

See what other cool things people are doing with bicycle pumps all over the world (click closed captioning “CC” for subtitles):

I had sent out an email earlier in the week to all the restaurants in Nosara explaining our project and that we would like to start collecting their grease and fruit scraps. Beach Dog Cafe and Cafe de Paris have joined the program and it looks like we’ll have Rancho Tico as well. On Saturday, I went to collect grease and fruit from Beach Dog Cafe and the owner, Mike, was really helpful. Fabian from Cafe de Paris, will notify us when he has more grease because he currently has less than a liter. Thanks for the support! The methanol and lye arrived on Saturday as well. After collecting all the fruit from the past week, we will be ready to start ethanol fermentation on Monday. Once the 120 gallon drum is half full with fruit, we fill it with water to 3/4 full and add yeast – let it sit for two weeks and then we’ll have ethanol! We should have the roof finished tomorrow as well as the other parts to the biodiesel system… we will be ready for production by mid-week! Ryan and I are presenting at Nosara Sostenible’s weekly meeting tomorrow to talk about our project and hopefully rally more support from the local businesses who are passionate about sustainability. See you next week!
Jump to “Week 3.”

Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 1

The “Innovative Biodiesel Project” has begun!

Welcome, I am Safari Surf’s Sustainability Director, Carl Kish, and together with biodiesel expert, Ryan King, we will be posting updates on our progress every week during the 4 weeks that we are here in beautiful Nosara, Costa Rica. Follow our progress as we create the world’s first small-scale biodiesel production system that is closed-loop (zero waste), energy independent (off-grid), and carbon negative. Our project was successfully funded on Feb 6th on the crowdfunding website, Indiegogo – view our campaign page for more information:
We are eternally grateful to the following people (and to those who wish to remain anonymous) who made this possible:

Maegan Badham
Tim Marsh
Alexander Vinson
Stephen Kish
Jayne Kerry- Chandler
David Thibeault
Steve Scagliotti
John Anderson
Carl Graziani
Janet Davidson
Dominic Graziani
David Mahony
Peter McConnell
Marian Lim
Linus Eriksson
Hilda Hardy
Keith Mello
Courtney Keller
Sam Evans
John Dobleman
Andrius- Kavaliunas
Andrew Oliveira
Bob Balch
Prudence and Marianne Carter
Debra Takami
Jess Ponting
Alfred Padula
Marcy Siskind
Rosie Roberts
Harry Luce
Deborah Dobbins
Cara Hoffman
Sarah Lowry
Aaron Wong
Sarah Bexell
Rhett Butler
Kevin Mello
Jenny Mei
James Hake
Nick Glasco
Leah Bremer
Justine Schmidt
Vernon Badham
Hector Bertrand
Joyce McAfee
Dylan Fish
David Perault
Jennifer Willcott
Olivier Lejade
Diane Tran
Travis Heacock
Rebecca Needens
Dawn Kinney
Vincent Graham
James Ebrahimi
Matt Carlucci
Kevin Davidson
John Bowling
Jennifer- Stojanovich
Joseph Walsh
Kathleen Kish
Sherry Smith-Witcraft
Amelia Scott
Megan Brown
Jenna Black
Tobias Haller

Week 1

Ryan and I landed in San Jose Tuesday morning, and our driver Miguel was there to shuttle us 250 km back to Nosara.

My new Tico name.

Costa Rican Countryside

We stopped at a few places in Nicoya to pick up materials and get prices for the larger pieces of our system so we could budget our funds accordingly. Six hours later, we arrived at the Hotel Casa Tucan in Playa Guiones at four in the afternoon, hungry and jetlagged.

Gnarliest bull in Nosara – apparently its killed two matador’s already.
I missed this… nachos con pollo y Segua (Costa Rica Craft Brewing Co)

Exhausted from all the travelling, we dropped off our bags, and then went to relax on the beach. We walked to the north end of Guiones to see the defunct palace that has been empty for years… still a cool place with a nice view:


“Mis Amores” Horseback Tours

That night we calculated our expenses and laid out the entire project budget for the next four weeks… then we passed out.
Next day (Wednesday), Ryan woke up with some sort of bug and he still hasn’t shaken it off (its now Sunday). He’s been a trooper though – still working all day with a few breaks here and there, but hopefully he fully recovers before we begin construction tomorrow.
We placed an order for methanol and lye with Arvi Chemicals in Cartago, which was more difficult than I had expected because we needed to find our own transportation to bring it to Nosara (driving with flammable chemicals… most of our contacts weren’t willing), but we eventually found someone and they will be here Wednesday. Now some of you may be thinking “Wait, I thought you guys were using homemade ethanol instead of methanol?!” Well unfortunately, we have to use some methanol for the first batch of biodiesel because it is the control variable against which we test all other variables. This includes testing the purity of our homemade ethanol. Therefore, if we encounter any problems as we add our unique aspects to the traditional Appleseed Biodiesel System, we will be able to identify which variable caused the issue and fix it. Once all the testing is done, we will use our homemade ethanol for biodiesel production instead of methanol.
We are collecting fruit scraps from the Casa Tucan kitchen as well as a local restaurant/hotel, Kaya Sol, who have been generous enough to provide us with their fruit scraps daily! The sugar from the fruit, mixed with yeast and water, will produce ethanol in 2 to 3 weeks. We have a small test batch of ethanol in a 5 gallon bucket while Ryan and I are here, but we are collecting fruit scraps to fill our 120 gallon tank so that by the time we leave, we can begin the fermentation process on a larger scale.  It is ideal to produce as much ethanol as possible because by the time we collect enough waste oil to make a batch of biodiesel, the ethanol fermentation tank will be full and will last for several batches (giving us enough time to fill the 120 gallon drum with fruit again). Just to give you an idea – the amount of ethanol used in each batch of biodiesel averages to about 30% of the volume of waste oil.


Ryan and I went to the landfill on Thursday to see if we could repurpose any of the trash, luckily we were able to find one plastic jug that was still clean and wasn’t cracked. This will be our methoxide tank (methanol and potassium hydroxide), which we mix with the grease to make biodiesel. We also were very lucky to find an old 50 gallon water heater behind the Hotel Casa Tucan, which is in working order (we just need to clean it up a bit). That will save us about $500!
I really wanted to see the new Recycling Center the town is building, which is part of the landfill. I have been following their progress on this blog: and I was stoked to see in person how large it is and how far they have come – its truly impressive:


Now, there has been a sudden development, and the Hotel Casa Tucan has been purchased. While unfortunate, this does not affect our program, it actually enhances it because we are designing the system to be portable – all the parts can be disassembled and reassembled at their new location. Just because the location changed, does not mean our goal is any different – we are still creating a sustainable method for small-scale fuel production and sharing the designs online for free. This was just a minor setback and Safari Surf School will be moving out of the Hotel Casa Tucan this September when their lease is up. As a result, Tyler Marsh (co-owner of Safari Surf), has been so kind as to let us build the system on his property temporarily, until we are ready to transfer the system to Safari Surf’s new headquarters (yet to be determined). We surveyed Tyler’s property on Friday and picked a perfect location for the time being. Tyler’s gardener is also going to help us construct the shelter, which is a huge bonus. We are going to the Ferreteria in Nosara (hardware store) Monday morning to purchase all the necessary supplies.

New Project Site

One of Safari Surf’s surf instructors, Enrique, had 5 gallons of methanol left over from when Ryan was in Nosara three years ago! Ryan tested the methanol to make sure it was still in tact – we bought some cooking oil from the market and made a small test batch of biodiesel in a Fanta bottle so I could be more familiar with the whole process (its really easy!):
Fanta’s new flavor. [Orange stuff settled at the bottom is glycerine, which we use to make soap]
Tomorrow is a big day – we will purchase all the construction materials for the shelter and then we will break ground. Tonight is Karaoke night at the Casa Tucan, should be fun! Thanks for reading! Pura vida!
Jump to “Week 2.”

Innovative Biodiesel Project

I launched our fundraising campaign for the Innovative Biodiesel Project on IndieGogo last week and we have already raised 56% of our $5,000 goal!
Please watch the video below and if you believe in the project, surf over to our campaign page to make a pledge and share it with your friends, family and coworkers using the sharing tools right below the video:

Continue reading

Business in “Pura Vida-Ville”: Destiny?

Cultural Design

One afternoon I got up from my desk to take a stroll over to the local “food court” to get some lunch as I always did every day…day in and day out. As I walked across the street passing by the local gas station en route to shove food down my face, I heard a loud booming voice from the gas station, “HEY TIM…HEY TIMMY!” I looked over to see a long time friend, Pat Weber, whom I had known from days in Ventura, CA. I hadn’t seen him in years. He was gassing up a van with about 10 surfboards on top of the van and another 10 inside. I got over there and gave him the “what’s what and what” about all the boards. He proceeded to tell me that he had started up a surfing school and was just killing it! He told me that he was so stoked; he was doing what he loved (surfing), meeting cool new people, and making good money on top of it! Wow I thought to myself, how cool! Of course I had to tell him I was doing great and making money hand over fist etc. just to save a little face, but inside I was jealous immediately. Not really jealous of him personally, but just jealous of his new “lifestyle.” Pat told me to keep in touch and threw me a t-shirt with his company logo and jumped in the van and took off.
I walked over to assume my position at the “food court,” stunned by what just transpired. Having replayed all the things Pat told me over and over in my mind, my lunch didn’t taste very good.
Now for people that are close to me and know me well, I’m sure they could attest to the fact that I am a pretty jovial person all the time. Always laughing, joking, and having fun. I can tell you I do not suffer from depression and really do not have any understanding of how a depressed person must feel. However, I can say with some certainty that after that “chance” meeting with Pat, I slipped into a funk – a depressed state – I was not the same person for the next 2 weeks or so. I began to “hate” my job, hate my work surroundings, and hate everything about the mortgage business. I was having trouble smiling and for me that just isn’t right. I had officially become depressed about what I was doing with my life – sitting in this cubicle, talking to people thousands of miles away that I didn’t even know or really care about. Everything sucked it seemed like, except my gorgeous family. My wife and kid definitely helped make things easier to swallow in those trying times for me.
One day sitting at my desk staring at the phone waiting for it to ring, I was in one of my daydream states again, thinking about Costa Rica and all the things I missed so much about it. Thinking about traveling and surfing exotic lands…when all of the sudden it hit me, like a ton of bricks, like the biggest head rush ever. What took me so damn long to figure this out?!!! “WHY NOT DO A SURF SCHOOL IN COSTA RICA!” Genius!!!
I had all the connections I had made in my time living there. My brother Tyler was still there and struggling to make a living. He had all kinds of contacts…damn, it made so much sense it hurt! You ever just have a light bulb go on and you know whatever it is, it’s right as rain? I had that moment that day in my cubicle.
It was game on. I had the idea, but there was A LOT of work to do to even think about getting this thing off the ground. First and most importantly, I had to see what my brother thought about the idea. I called Tyler and gave him my “pitch” and before I had all the details out of my mouth, he was all over it,”Yeah it sounds unreal!”
The idea was born…now how the hell am I going to put this together???

Business in “Pura Vida-Ville”: Reality Check

Coming back to the US and the fast paced lifestyle was certainly a shock to both Marsi and I. We had really become accustomed to the “pura vida” vibe so the transition back into reality was anything but smooth at first…sounds weird to say but we were going through a “culture shock!”
Now to understand my current work situation (or lack thereof), I guess you should understand a bit of my work “background.” I did a couple years of college taking courses that I was into, but college just didn’t ring my bell. I had visions of being a Real Estate mogul. I have always been quick with the tongue and a pretty extroverted sort so I had been mainly in some form of “sales” for the majority of my young adult life. When I moved to Ventura, California in the early 80’s I found work as a painter’s apprentice (house painter). I moved to San Diego in the late 80’s where I began my own paint company called “Paint By Design”. I also met my future wife Marsi in SD as well. I went from door to door with flyer’s to ten years later having a successful paint contracting business with eight employees and commercial and residential contracts. I was an excellent painter, but what set my company apart from others was my professional approach that focused on customer service (more on that trait later!).
Having been self employed most of my young adult life afforded me time to travel and surf the corners of the globe. But also, having been a painter for so long I also contracted “work related” asthma. So it was not difficult for me to hang up the painting career and sell everything I had to move to Costa Rica at all. In fact, it was a life choice…meaning I chose to live a long life instead of breathing in crap paint fumes!
Bringing this all together, upon my return from Costa Rica I was forced to jump back into the painting industry and got a job as a lead painter. I did it because we (Marsi, I, and the baby) needed to. But I quickly became sick of the painting routine and Marsi and I sat down one night and decided to write down a few things that I might be interested in doing as a “career.” I narrowed it down to 3 things: 1 – a Real Estage Agent; 2 – a stock broker; 3 – a loan officer (mortgages). I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to work on the weekends so RE was out. I sure as hell wasn’t going to be up at 3 am looking up a freakin’ ticker tape so Stock Broker was out…it looked like the mortgage biz had my name on it.
My sister was a loan processor for a company and had good relations with the owner. She got me an interview and of course I BS’d my way through that, telling the person I had experience and was a great asset to their company blah blah blah. I was hired and started doing second mortgage loans. This was back when people were doing mortgages for 125% of the value of homes! It’s no wonder we all took a dump there a few years ago.
Anyway, within a couple of months Marsi and I had gotten our own apartment and within a year we had bought a house and were driving a range rover (la dee dah). In short, I was making more money than I ever had in my life. Selling loans was my thing. Helping people with their finances was my calling. I was good at it and the paychecks certainly reflected that. I bounced around to a couple different mortgage companies over the next 18 months or so. I seemed to be looking for the “perfect” situation which for me was less time in the office and more time in the ocean while still trying to make my sales “quota.”
It was early 1999 and I had everything I thought I needed…a gorgeous wife and new kiddo, a nice car and a nice house…I had it all right? Well all that was going to change.
I must admit I was certainly restless in my new profession, having been a self employed soul for so long, it was like caging up a cougar…keeping me in a cubicle with my desk, my phone and not letting me be free! I was deep inside, feeling like I should be elsewhere. My day dreaming became ever present again just like in the classroom when I was in grade school.

Business in “Pura Vida-Ville”: Laying the Foundation

Don’t ever let anyone tell you moving to a foreign country is easy…its not! All of our cargo was held up in customs for ten days, every box gone through, and god knows how many things went missing. Once it was all said and done, we got to our destination and our dream home – a 650 square foot box that was a mere 100 feet from the beach in Garza. With the lease paid three months in advance, brooms and paint brushes in hand, we were ready to make the market/deli our own.
Richard had closed the market for some six months or so prior, so once we arrived there were cob webs and a pungent moldy odor. A friendly bat who would not vacate, bugs, and things I’m not sure what the hell they were…littered the place. A huge undertaking in retrospect, but we were “living the dream” so the countless hours of cleaning, scrubbing, painting, building, and fixing were okay as we were preparing for the new “high season.” We had visions of customers coming through town in droves just to buy our custom made sandwiches and goodies.
To give you an idea of how far off of the “grid” we were at that time, the town of Garza had no telephone lines except for one at the main “soda” (Tico word for local restaurant), which typically had a line that would last for hours. There were no computers, WiFi, cable TV, doctors, banks, or ATM’s…I think you get the picture. We were on our own and off the beaten path for sure. Plus, we were so blond we stood out like a sore thumb in that town. We were like the side show attraction to all the locals…literally!
We certainly had the right idea for our market/deli. We had found an amazing butcher/cheese vendor in San Jose with prime meats that were not available in Garza or anywhere in that vicinity. You have to understand that some of the basic foods we take for granted like Lay’s Potato Chips, Snickers, real butter etc…were not only unavailable in our town, but not available anywhere in Costa Rica except select places in San Jose (5 hours inland). Marsi and I would go to San Jose and buy $1500 to $3000 or more worth of “food” and pack our little cracker jack truck we bought for a song and a dance and head on to Garza like traveling hillbillies.
We were the talk of the town…from the local people who were stupefied we would live in that market, to the ex-pats and people who were wanted on Interpol (at least it felt that way!) that lived in the surrounding areas. People would come in just to buy a Snickers bar and just a Snickers bar only. Most all of the ex-pats were on Social Security and had just enough money to buy a Snickers or a bag of REAL potato chips. It was kind of comical and sad all at the same time.
High season came and it was like someone turned on a light switch…we were kicking some butt. We had business rolling in and we were on top of the world. At this time, I contacted my brother Tyler who lived back home in Hawaii and told him to come check out Costa Rica and see what we were doing…surfing everyday and living a simple relaxed life. Tyler was there within a couple of weeks, surfboard in hand and a smile on his face.
Tyler quickly fell in love with the people, the country, the good surf, and most of all, the pura vida spirit, just as I had. He was sold that this was the place for him to be. Amazingly so that he went back to Hawaii, gathered all his stuff together, and moved back within a month! He had found some work with a gringo who had a HUGE farm a few miles south who needed a farm hand/gardener to help keep the over 500 acres in check. Just as a side note, this property is now owned by Mel Gibson.
Things were good, Tyler was working and our mini market/deli was doing okay…sustaining life for us there. Then, like a light switch can be turned on, it can also be turned off…the high season of tourists had just dried up as quickly as they had came. Marsi and I were NOT prepared for that nor had we been enlightened by Richard in advance that the slow season comes quickly and brutally. Perhaps that is why he and his wife wanted out, there were 4 months of “glory” and then nada…zip…zilch.
As the days turned into weeks of no business other than selling the basic staples of rice, beans, manteca, and Guaro to the local people, which of course we didn’t mark up as we thought that was not the right thing to do and certainly not a gesture of good will for letting us chill in their town. Marsi and I found ourselves eating our food, drinking our liquor to the point where we basically had nothing left accept each other and the grim reality that we had lost EVERYTHING in less than a year.
The only option we had was to go “home” to California and try to re-start our lives again. I didn’t want this to be my reality and I can tell you that Marsi and I drank ourselves into a stupor numerous times trying to drown out the sorrow (and embarrassment too) of having to go home like dogs with their tails between their legs. We had failed. I must say that we had so many unbelievable life experiences during that year that certainly will never be forgotten. Those experiences and memories I knew could never be taken away from us.
Once reality set in and there was nothing we could do about it, a small sense of peace came to me knowing that my brother Tyler was there and no way shape or form moving back to the states. He was there come hell or high water. There was a sense of purpose I felt, even though it wasn’t my purpose, I still felt like “well cool, at least I introduced this to my bro and he will keep the dream alive.” It was the best (and only) consolation prize I had. Little did I know that it was going to play a HUGE part later in my life.
Packed with what little we had left, sitting in the airport staring at my immediate future of having to live at my father in laws house (don’t get me wrong he is a super cool cat!) with no job, no money, and no spine…well let’s just say I’ve had better thoughts pore through my mind. My wife turns to me (and I will NEVER forget the look on her face – “should I tell him?” Yes…no…yes…) and then she tells me “baby, I’m pregnant.” My immediate reaction, “F me! Can it get any worse? Is this a sick joke?” This was all in my head of course as I smiled with great joy and wonder giving Marsi a bear hug of congratulatory size.
Wow talk about lighting a fire under my ass! Needless to say the plane ride home was a blur as my head spun from all that had just transpired within weeks. My life, my dream…turned upside down by the powers that be. Sick twisted humor.

Business in “Pura Vida-Ville”: The Beginning (Pre-Costa Rica)

People always tell me I have a “dream job” and ask how I made it all happen? How did I get to where I am today? I can assure you it was NOT planned!
Join me on my blogging journey as I chronicle the story of Safari Surf School and the trials and tribulations of running a small business in a foreign country (a.k.a. paradise)! This series will give you an insight into how we ended up starting a surf school in Nosara, Costa Rica, and all of the awesome experiences we’ve had along the way.
I love telling the Safari Surf “story,” since it reminds me of the amazing journey this has been so far, and I think it is unique and inspiring for others. Grab a cup of coffee or a beer and chillax with me while I take you back to the “early” days, just prior to the founding of Safari Surf School and beyond.
In my “youth” (late 20’s), I did quite a bit of traveling around the world chasing my dream of perfect surf, exotic places and cultures, and really in an odd way…looking for a place I could move to and live. Living a simple life with great surf always appealed to me. I didn’t have an idea of what I’d do for a living, and in retrospect I was quite delusional, but we daydreamers usually are. I only knew I wanted a simple, tropical life, close enough to the great surf where I could experience the healing power of the ocean on a daily basis. Growing up in Hawaii, people always asked me “why would you ever leave Hawaii?” Honestly, being a white kid on an island where the natives had their land stolen from them by white people…I didn’t blend in well. I’m sure my pale skin and my stark white blond hair didn’t help either.
I was looking for another place where the “aloha” spirit was alive and well, because at times it was hard to find in Hawaii. I traveled to places like Australia, Jamaica, Fiji, and Tahiti…where I found what I thought was THE perfect place for me to live. It was so close to Hawaii in so many ways and the “aloha” spirit was definitely strong. Then reality hit once I learned you had to marry a native in order to own land there. That kind of blew the whole deal out of the water, along with the fact that the cost of living was (is) ridiculous since almost every product there is imported!
Upon my return from Tahiti, I had a discussion with a good friend about my trip and told him how I loved it there, and would move there in a second if not for the aforementioned issues. He told me that I should check out Costa Rica, the new, cool place to go. Great surf. Cool vibe. I was sold.
I traveled to Costa Rica in 1995 with a couple of friends. We had 3 weeks to cruise up and down the coast and check out the entire Pacific side on the country. My girl Marsi would be joining us mid-trip.
My first “feeling” about the country was uncertain…through no fault but my own. Unfortunately, the boys and I had been drinking on the plane ride over and continued drinking on the taxi ride from San Jose to a surf town called Jaco. I do recall our driver being one of the coolest cats as he kept stopping to get us more beer, took us to a couple of cool spots to eat, and of course the numerous pee stops along the road. It was all in good fun and the driver was super friendly. It was a good omen of things to come.
After a couple of weeks in the country, I truly began to fall in love with the people and the vibe they had. They called it “pura vida,” or pure life. Everyone greeted you with “pura vida,” and said goodbye with “pura vida.” It was growing on me. In 1995, there weren’t as many traveling surfers as there are today, which made some of the outlying areas we visited REALLY special. I can remember as we would pass through local villages, little kids would come running out of their houses screaming and waving to us and we would stop and give them candy and stickers (my friend gave me the heads up that stickers were like gold in Costa Rica, candy was always a good thing to have, and if you wanted to barter with something bring some extra pairs of jeans…people just LOVED jeans!).
I remember stopping in front of houses that were basically a shack with dirt floors and ripped tin roof to say hi and meet the people who lived there. You could tell they had nothing but the essentials, yet they always greeted us with that “pura vida” friendliness. Their front yards were always well manicured (dudes used machetes to “mow” the lawn!) and there was no trash littered around, which is pretty prevalent in most poor countries. There was a real sense of pride in the families we met in Costa Rica. The kids were all just full of smiles and giggles, and you could tell they had no clue they were poor, it was just how they lived and they were happy. It really affected me in such a positive way that one could live in such a simple environment with minimal amenities and possessions and be so damn happy and care free.
It was somewhere on that trek along the Pacific coast that I knew I would love to live in Costa Rica. I also found that you could actually buy land and own it outright with no lease involved, and you didn’t have to marry a local!! Things were certainly looking promising!
My girlfriend at the time (Marsi), arrived in San Jose where we met her upon her exit at customs…I couldn’t keep my giddiness in check. I had to tell her that this place was amazing and that we could live here and be happy forever!! It was everything I had always thought I wanted for a place to live.
We took off to a town called Tamarindo, which quickly killed my buzz – concrete everywhere, tourists everywhere, crowds in the water…ugh!!! We got out of there quickly the following day and headed south down the coast to explore. We were there in the summer (rainy season), so we definitely encountered some rain here and there during our trip. It’s funny how when you’re driving along and looking for surf and checking out cool towns that you tend to lose track of time. Losing track of time as the day is winding down when you have no lodging set up can be a bit stressful to say the least.
Darkness was a mere hour away and it was now pissing down buckets of rain so hard that the windshield wipers had no chance of catching up. I thought I had seen rain living in Hawaii, but no…this rain was by far the most intense amount of water I’d seen in such a short period of time. I had never experienced a “flash flood,” but it was happening before our eyes and small rivers that looked passable were quickly turning into whitewater rapids!
By the grace of God, and I say this whole heartedly, the next turn we took in that rain soaked storm in our “dingy” of a rental car changed my life and my girlfriend Marsi’s life forever.
We spotted a small “convenience” store that was open. Now when I say convenience, I mean it was a hole in the wall mini market that actually had lights on and an English sign in front of it. Help was our “mantra” at that point. “Must…find…shelter…help…us…please.” To our delight, we found an American ex-pat standing there with a smile. Bonus!!! In a situation like that, speaking English was quite a luxury. We told the gentleman that we were a wee bit lost, wet, hungry and had no place to sleep, and if he could please point us to the closest hotel or hostel. Chuckling (and I can still hear his laugh of disbelief), he said “there is no way on god’s green earth you can to make it to any hotels. All the rivers are over-flowing and impassable.” I guess looking like defeated drowned rats, he took pity on us and invited us to stay at his humble abode, which was a mere 100 yards away (and did I mention right on the beach!).
“Richard” took us in to his gorgeous, open-air home, which had beautiful hard wood floors, walls, and ceilings. He styled us with some amazing food and we drank with him into the evening…warm and toasty. I was very inquisitive and pressed Richard on how he ended up in this tiny fishing village (Garza)? How was he able to make the transition from living in the US to living in Costa Rica? I was mesmerized and taken in by his “spell” and had so many other questions. I wanted his life (or so I thought). I wanted the simple life. The “pura vida” life.
The next morning the sun shone through and Richard took us surfing to a secret spot where we surfed great, empty waves; came back, and had an amazing breakfast and as we sat there, Richard (sensing my “want” to live a life of leisure – which was exuding from every freakin’ pore of my body!), mentioned that he and his wife were “tired” of running the mini market and had been having thoughts of either selling it or leasing it out. BOOM!!!!! I quickly jumped in and said “WOW…hey Marsi …baby, honey, sugar, sweetie (you get the picture), we could lease the place, huh?”
Richard, Marsi and I hatched an informal plan, and we all agreed that once Marsi and I got back to the U.S. we would chat some more, formalize a plan, and then get back to Richard to confirm if we were all in! Some time passed and Marsi and I got married, but we kept in touch with Richard. I worked as a paint contractor running my own business and stashing away as much cash as possible for my future life. Marsi got her teaching credentials as we were on way to putting some bucks away and our plan was to be in Costa Rica at the end of ’96 or early ’97.
In the meantime, each of our families obviously had some “concerns” about our plans to move to another country far far away from them. We got questions like “how far away is that island?” (kid you not!), and “Isn’t that country between Panama and Nicaragua….uh don’t those people not like us?” So it certainly got the families attention what we were planning to do, but in the end to both our families credit, they wished us well and gave us their blessings (begrudgingly of course!).
Marsi and I sold EVERYTHING we had and I mean EVERYTHING, we packed up all of our belongings in boxes along with our two pug dogs and headed for Miami in a U-Haul truck. We figured it was easier and less expensive to send cargo and our precious pups from Miami than California, so a nice road trip ensued, actually crazy road trip, but I won’t bore you with the details (massive hangovers in New Orleans etc., etc.!). Shit…we were on our way to our (my) dream!!!!!