The Inside Peak – “Back in Business” Weekly Wrap Up 03.29.13

Posted by & filed under Business In "Pura Vida-Ville", Surfing, The Inside Peak, Uncategorized.

Hola Inside Peakers

Apologies for the break between my last blog post and now – some technical difficulties involving a missing passport, travel arrangements and computer access on my end have kept me away from the keyboard. I know the Safari family – and the surf industry at large – had been missing their bi-weekly hits of The Inside Peak. In fact, just yesterday I was talking to Hollywood star Ethan Hawke* at the Harmony Juice Bar, and he was saying how ticked off he and the rest of the A-listers currently visiting Guiones are for missing out on featuring in my posts.**

But fear not, I have returned. And I am sure you have all been missing me as much as Ethan has, right?


Moving on, you will be happy to know that life has continued on at its glorious place here in Guiones. We have had non-stop surf for the past two weeks, with dozens of happy Safari campers scoring the waves of their lives.  Check out some of the action in the video below:

The weather has been warm (surprise!) and the town is close to jam-packed with Spring Break and Semana Santa revelers. Casa Tucan is still pumping out good food and great vibes, our sustainability initiatives are still redefining the sustainable tourism industry (more on that soon), and our surf instructors are still the best in Costa Rica.

In short,  visiting Playa Guiones is still like visiting paradise, and as always we have the VIP seats.

Be sure to keep a lookout on the Safari Surf School Facebook and Instagram accounts for daily updates, and if all goes to plan I should have my regular weekly wrap up ready for viewing sometime on Monday morning.



*I did see Ethan Hawke, but we did not actually talk.
**However I am sure this statement is still true. FYI, other famous types spotted around town in the last week include Julianne Moore, Gislle Bundchen and Tom Brady, Leonoardo  DiCaprio, and, most excitingly, 1980s Hawaiian amateur surfing pro, Tyler Marsh!

Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 4

Posted by & filed under Innovative Biodiesel Project, Sustainability, The Sustainable Swell.

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!

The Inside Peak – Weekly Wrap Up 03.10.13

Posted by & filed under Community, Surfing, Sustainability, The Inside Peak.

It’s been another week of good waves here in Guiones. Picking up from the tail end of last weekend’s solid swell, we saw some great chest to head high conditions throughout all of this week for the Inside Peak. The strong offshore winds have also stuck around, often blowing throughout the day. They have made for some excellent surf conditions, but have also resulted in the upwelling of some “colder” water to the surface.

However, it is important to remember that “colder” in Costa Rica means ‘refreshingly cool’ as opposed to ‘tropical bath’. Most guests actually quite enjoy the milder water temps, but I know a few of our more dramatic instructors were imagining they had just been surfing in 5mm wetsuits off the side of an iceberg.

How the instructors described the water this week...

How the instructors described the water this week… opposed to how the students described the water this week.

…as opposed to how the students described the water this week.

On that note, the students were firing on all cylinders this week. Shout out to student Megan for scoring the bomb of the week:

"This is going straight to Facebooooook!"

“This is going straight to Facebooooook!”

The waves were so fun, Tyler even unchained me from my desk for half an hour so I could catch my yearly wave.

The waves were so fun, Tyler even unchained me from my desk for half an hour so I could catch my yearly wave.

Owen giving out some tips: "When the wave breaks here, don't be there, or ya gonna get drillled"

Owen giving out some tips: “When the wave breaks here, don’t be there, or ya gonna get drillled”

And with plenty more swell – and a record amount of new students – due this week, there are sure to be a whole bunch of “bomb of the week” photos on their way!

As always with Safari Surf School, the action wasn’t just on the waves. Our Sustainability Director, Carl Kish, and biodiesel expert, Ryan King, have been working their hides off on our Innovative Biodiesel Project. The project is very close to completion, and is an absolutely outstanding initiative. You can read more about it in Carl’s blog here.

Always committed to sharing the good word of science and sustainability, Carl and Ryan took some time out of their busy schedule this week to show some grade 7 students from Nosara’s Del Mar Academy around the biodiesel project. The students were able to see the production process first hand, and with Ryan promising to follow up their visit with a classroom presentation in the near future, it won’t be long before we have a new generation of sustainability experts ready to follow in Ryan and Carl’s footsteps.

Interested students peer intently at the biodiesel producer, while Instructor Nico presumably attempts to smell it.

Interested students peer intently at the biodiesel producer, while Instructor Nico presumably attempts to smell it.

Also this week, Safari Surf School guests Megan, Tara and Dave took advantage of our Sustainable Surfer Package to check out the Barra Guiones Reforestation Project, a sustainability project created and managed by Costas Verdes. Through this project, land around Playa Guiones is being gradually reforested, after being cleared for cattle use decades ago. The Safari Surf School team is so stoked to be able to support initiatives that will have such a positive impact on the local ecosystem – and just as stoked to see guests like Megan, Tara and Dave that take such an active interest in these important issues!


Gerardo Bolinas of Costas Verdes showing SSS guests Dave, Tara and Megan the reforestation project.

To cap off the week, Casa Tucan played host last night to the HSBAcademy Nosara kid’s movie night. This is a little gig we throw every few months to raise money for the Academy. Families come along to watch some great movies on a big projector out on the lawn, and we organise the pizza, popcorn and soda – with all money raised goeing directly back to the Academy. Last night was another success, with a bunch of happy families enjoying the beautiful weather and a great movie. I had taken what I thought were some nice photos on the night, only to upload them this morning and realise that I needed a lot more flash in the dark settings! But needless to say – or display – an excellent evening was had by all, and we can’t wait until the next event. We will keep you posted for details!

That’s a wrap for this week. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for our daily Facebook and Instagram posts, and I will see you all back here in the near future for some more word on the Guiones streets.

The Inside Peak – What Makes Guiones Tick?

Posted by & filed under Surfing, The Inside Peak, Uncategorized.

It’s a blustery afternoon here in Guiones. After some excellent waves this morning we are all waiting for the wind to fade and the tide to rise so that we can head back out for the afternoon wave feast.

With waves on my mind, I think this is as good an opportunity as any to take some time to investigate the surf break that is Playa Guiones in this mini Inside Peak.  In case you hadn’t realised, the stretch of beach on which we run our lessons produces some of the most consistent, best quality conditions a surfer could dream of. It works when the waves are big or small; messy or clean; high tide or low.Yep, Playa Guiones is about as reliable a wave you can get – if you had the time, you could be pretty much guaranteed to get a surfable wave here 365 days a year.

But the greatest thing about this beach is that it caters for everybody, from the first time surfer to the life time pro. Why is this so? What makes the waves of Guiones stand out from the rest? Let’s take a look.

No, I’m not talking about the local pooches down at the beach chasing after sticks. In surfing, fetch refers to the amount of swell (i.e. surf) that a coastline is exposed to. Good swells are produced by winds blowing across long, unbroken stretches of water – the longer they can blow uninterrupted, the better the swell. Surf spots along the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, have minimal fetch due to small, enclosed nature of the body of water on which they reside. Hence their (generally) crappy waves. However, take out a map and look at the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and you will see that there is pretty much no land between it and the Philippines, thousands of miles across the other side of the ocean. Combine it with the fact that it receives swells from both the North and South Pacific, depending on the season, and you end up with a hell of a lot of fetch – which equals a hell of a lot of waves.

A swell window open to both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres equals waves all year long.

A swell window open to both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres equals waves all year long.

This is an Australian term (guilty as charged) which refers to outlying crops of rocks or reef that lie just beyond the breakers. These ‘bombies’ play a number of roles: they provide a nice home for fish, serpents and mermaids; a hazard for passing pirates / Spanish galleons; and a buena vista for daring divers. But, most importantly for us, the shallow water surrounding the bombies helps to prematurely refract and mould incoming swell. Stand on the beach on a big day at Guiones and look out towards the horizon, and you are sure to see peaking (or almost breaking) swells way, way out the back. This is the bombies weaving their magic, ensuring that by the time the waves reach us surfers they have been broken up into nice clean peaks which provide both left and right hand rides. If it weren’t for the bombies these swells would more likely arrive in one big long wall and close out the beach all at once. And there’s nothing surfers hate more than a close out.

Swell refraction in action.

Swell refraction in action.

Ocean Floor
The contours of the sea bed immediately below the impact zone of a wave plays the most important role in a wave’s final form. Sudden, shallow platforms of sand or reef rising rapidly from deep water will cause intense, powerful waves which can be incredibly dangerous: think Pipeline in Hawaii or Teahupoo in Tahiti.

This is not Guiones, thankfully.

This is not Guiones, thankfully.

Conversely, if there is no real rise at all most swells will simply lap or crash directly onto the shore, providing no chance to be ridden.

What we get at Guiones, however, is a perfect combination of elements. Beginning half a mile or so out to sea (right out near the bombies, as you can see in the earlier photo showing the swell refraction) the ocean floor rises in a gentle, even gradient as it approaches the shore line. This allows the incoming swells plenty of time to build, slowing down their speed while increasing their size as the water grows shallower beneath them. By the time they reach the first line of surfers, they have developed into the quintessential Guiones peaks, offering a great rippable wall – and even the odd barrel – for the more advanced surfers, while still breaking easily enough for beginners and intermediates to hone their skills on the open face. And once they’ve finally broken, the waves then transform into a broken wall of foam, rolling in for 40 yards or more before they reach the shore. It’s on these ‘foamies’ that countless individuals, ever since Tim and Tyler guided the first Safari Surf School student to their feet back in 1999, have taken the first steps of their surfing lives.

Of course, these aren’t the ONLY factors that make Guiones so great. The waves are still fun in pretty much any wind conditions, there are no big riptides or sweeps to wash you out to sea (however that’s not to say it can’t be dangerous – the ocean should ALWAYS be treated with caution and respect) and the water is as  warm as you could want it. And of course, you get to share this all with the most outgoing and friendliest people in the world (this is an actual scientific fact) who will go out of their way to ensure get the true Pura Vida experience.

All in all, you would be pretty hard stretched to find a more agreeable piece of coastline in the world for our surfing purposes.And it’s this simple fact that will keep us coming back to Playa Guiones, time and time again.

PS Oh yeah, and we forgot to mention the sunsets.

Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 3

Posted by & filed under Sustainability, The Sustainable Swell.

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.”

The Inside Peak – Weekly Wrap Up 03.03.13

Posted by & filed under Community, Events, Surfing, The Inside Peak, Travel.

Flying bulls, flying trees and flying surfers? No, it’s not the plot for a 1970s acid movie, but instead just some of the highlights from another wild and wonderful week at Safari Surf School in this week’s Inside Peak. There has been no shortage of excitement here in the last few days – which is exactly how we like it!

So, where to begin?

The last week of Tico Summer* saw some promising signs on the surfing front. A steadily building swell peaked on Friday with some solid overhead sets. Lessons ran non stop throughout the week, with our current team of students making some great progress on their skills.

Nick catches a nice one as instructor Nico looks on jealously.

Nick catches a nice one as instructor Nico looks on jealously.

Megan showing some style.

Megan showing some style.

While the swell has eased off somewhat, we are expecting a new south swell to hit early next week and then stick around for a few days at least.

Some big developments were also made on our biodiesel project, thanks to Carl, Ryan and their team. Look out for a more detailed blog post on that tomorrow.

While Safari Surf School students and instructors cruised through the mid-week waves, Saturday and Sunday saw a real kick-up in pace.  First off, a big group of new guests arrived at the Tucan on Saturday, instantly enhancing the already vibing atmosphere with their obvious stoke on arriving in Paradise.

After being greeted by the ever-smiling Peter and Jasmin in the Tucan office, many of the newcomers headed down to the beach to check out the action at the Nosara Triple Crown of Surfing. This three-stage team event was in its final leg at Guiones and the host beach did not disappoint, churning out quality waves all day long. The usual onshore wind that hits during the day at this time of year did not eventuate, ensuring that the competitors had excellent conditions over the whole period. The level of surfing was outstanding, as you can see in the following shots:

A massive air in the freesurfing section.
A high-pressure floater.
A tweaked-out air reverse.

Once the competition finished up, attention turned to the nearby town of Garza which was hosting the local fiesta / rodeo. These events are held once every few months during the dry season and are attended by, well, just about everybody. Never ones to miss out on the action, the Safari crew (piloted by SSS instructor Alonso) took a busload of Tucan guests to the rodeo to sample this entertaining slice of local culture. The action in the ring was intense, and thankfully the only injuries sustained on our team were some bruised egos (PS I swear I’ll get in the ring next time, I just didn’t have my lucky red shirt last night).

"This wasn't worth the free bottle of Cacique!"
No bull.

And finally, as if we hadn’t had enough action for the weekend, early Sunday morning Guiones was hit by gale-force winds that upended a tree straight into the Casa Tucan pool. A free six pack to the first guest to get out there and clear it.**

Crazy winds!

Crazy winds!

*Costa Ricans refer to the dry season, December through February, as their Summer.
**Just kidding, we had the tree cleared and the pool and surrounding area cleaned immediately.




The Inside Peak – Weekly Wrap Up 02.27.13

Posted by & filed under Community, Surfing, The Inside Peak, Travel.

You will usually find me around the Tucan pool and bar of a morning, post-surf. It's a pretty tough office to work from but hopefully I will get by. If you do see me around, hola.

You will usually find me around the Tucan pool and bar of a morning, post-surf. It’s a pretty tough office to work from but hopefully I will get by. If you do see me around, hola.

Buenos dias Safari Surf crew, and welcome to the Inside Peak, our brand-new Safari Surf School blog.

My name is Nick Kachel and I am SSS’s social media / PR / communications / board waxer / pool cleaner guy. Starting from today I’ll be providing regular updates via this blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on all the latest happenings in the Safari Surf School world.

As the “man on the ground” in Guiones I want to provide a real insight into what being a guest of Safari is all about. I’ll be blogging about anything and everything to do with the triple S, from important surf tips to guest profiles to lesson updates. If one of our students catches the wave of the week, you’re going to see it here. If one of our instructors gets a crazy new haircut, you’ll have a photo within the hour. We want to make this blog so close to the real thing that you’ll need to be wearing sun block to read it.*

I’m really looking forward to giving you all the insider’s view of our beautiful little world – and I hope to see you down here in person soon!



*Not to be taken literally. Sun block can harm your keyboard, kids!

Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 2

Posted by & filed under Sustainability, The Sustainable Swell.

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: Ryan’s DIY Kit

Posted by & filed under Sustainability, The Sustainable Swell.

If you’re interested in learning how to make your own biodiesel the first steps are simple and easy; don’t jump right into building a processor, titrating waste oil, processing big batches, and risking producing poor quality biodiesel. Start out with a 1 liter “test batch” using new vegetable oil to learn the basic chemistry – there’s little risk and you’re almost certain to end up with good results! Familiarize yourself with this tutorial so when we publish our designs and instructions for the “Innovative Biodiesel Project,” you’ll be good to go! – Ryan King.

Safety first:

Your 2 primary reagents are lye and methanol – learn how to store, handle, and work with these chemicals in small amounts before moving on to large quantities.

KOH and NaOH (both referred to as lye) are caustic and must be handled with gloves. Breathing masks are recommended when handling large amounts of lye – if the dust is inhaled, it can burn the nasal passageway and respiratory system. Lye reacts with aluminum, tin and zinc. Use HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) or #2 plastic, glass, enamel or stainless steel containers for lye and methoxide. Lye is also hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. Care must be maintained during storage and weighing to avoid prolonged exposure to open air. Lye containers must be airtight, and weighing should be performed quickly in a dry, safe location.

Methanol is also hygroscopic and must be stored in air tight containers. Methanol has a high toxicity in humans. If as little as 10 mL of pure methanol is ingested it can break down into formic acid, which can cause permanent blindness. As little as 30 ml of ingested methanol is potentially fatal. The initial symptoms of methanol intoxication include: central nervous system depression, headache, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination, and confusion. Sufficiently large doses can cause unconsciousness and death. The initial symptoms of methanol exposure are usually less severe than the symptoms resulting from the ingestion of a similar quantity of ethanol. Once the initial symptoms have passed, a second set of symptoms arises, 10 to as many as 30 hours after the initial exposure to methanol, including blurring or complete loss of vision. Methanol ingestion, absorption through the skin or inhalation of fumes can be treated with ethanol, which acts as a competitive inhibitor of the hepatic enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, preventing methanol’s conversion to toxic by-products.

Getting started:

Buy about a liter of new vegetable oil (canola, soy, sunflower or corn oil) at the grocery store. New, unused oil will not need to be dewatered or filtered. Pick up a few hundred milliliters of 99% or higher purity methanol (most automotive stores sell HEET brand antifreeze – the yellow container is pure enough for biodiesel production), and pick up some lye from a grocery or hardware store (make sure to get pure lye without coloring or added drain cleaners).


New Vegetable Oil


Heet – methanol


Store bought lye

Making Biodiesel!


Finished product.

Start warming up your new vegetable oil on an electric stove or with passive solar (no open flames!) to a temperature of around 120-132 degrees Fahrenheit. If the oil is too hot, the methanol will start evaporating and the reaction won’t perform as well. The average amount of lye needed to fully convert 1 liter of new oil is about 3.5 grams of NaOH or about 4.9 grams of KOH. In a separate container, mix either 3.5 grams of NaOH or 4.9 grams of KOH into 200 ml of methanol until fully dissolved – use a safe container made of HDPE plastic. This is the methoxide mix – the combination of the reagent and catalyst that will break the triglycerides of the vegetable oil into individual fatty acid methyl esters (also known as “biodiesel) and a layer of settled out byproduct consisting mostly of glycerin (which you can use to make soap!). When the oil is up to temperature, carefully pour in the methoxide, close the container and shake vigorously for about 3-5 minutes. You will notice a color change, indicating the reaction is occurring. After shaking, allow the byproduct to settle out – it usually takes about 10 to 20 minutes to start noticing the separation, then a few hours for substantial byproduct to precipitate.


Here’s a short video that Make Magazine put together for a DIY biodiesel project:

Check out for more details on biodiesel test batches, and let us know if you have questions!

Innovative Biodiesel Project

Posted by & filed under Sustainability, The Sustainable Swell.

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: