The world as we know it has certainly shrunk a great deal due to the interconnectivity of the internet, and especially social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. When the number one music video rocketing around the world is from South Korea (“Gangnam Style”), and kids in places like Costa Rica have memorized the dance steps, you know the world is smaller. International travel is relatively commonplace for families, and it’s not unusual for kids and teens to already have several stamps in their passports. Still, sending your teen off to another country on their own is a big deal for most parents.
I remember the first time I traveled outside the United States on my own. A few weeks after graduating from high school, I flew to England with my tennis team to see Wimbledon and for some friendly matches with other tennis clubs. I had already traveled internationally once before with my family (to Ireland when I was 12) but this time I was on my own – with my fellow teammates and a cadre of chaperones. The experience was unforgettable, and who knows, perhaps put me on the path for an international life that I’ve enjoyed for 21 years and counting.
“It’s important to expand a teen’s world view with travel,” remarks Nancy Black, writer and mother of two teen boys from Santa Barbara, California. “This broader perspective provides a huge amount of empathy, and the understanding that not all people live the same way, and that there are many ways. Experiencing cultural differences opens new possibilities. It also fosters a kind of gratitude for things taken for granted in the U.S., where hot showers are standard, if you travel somewhere without them for example.”
Costa Rica’s Del Mar Surfing Academy offers teens (ages 13-19) the life-changing opportunity to travel to another country, be immersed in Spanish language and Central American culture, and learn the fun sport of surfing on one and two-week camps. Run by two mothers, Bettina del Rio and Maria del Mar, they both well know the big decisions involved for parents and teens to choose an international learning program.
“Surrounded by culture, traditions and language in an experiential camp with others will be sure to change their lives forever,” explains Del Mar Surfing Academy Director Bettina del Rio. “We are aware of the big responsibility and have the passion to share all of the activities that our kids are able to experience in Costa Rica with your kids. We are really lucky to live in a place like Costa Rica, and think that it is very important that teens have these types of experiences at a young age. This trip will mark their lives in a positive way. We can’t wait to have the chance to show you how wonderful the experience is.”
Del Mar Surfing Academy is one of the top surf schools in Costa Rica for teens. Based in surfing hotspot Costa Rica, at Hermosa Beach on the Central Pacific Coast, it is sister company to Del Mar Surf Camp that runs surf vacations, yoga-surf retreats, and day surf lessons for adults, women only and families. While the core element of Del Mar Surfing Academy’s camps is surfing, the program also focuses on Spanish and cultural immersion to create a well-rounded vacation-style camp.
“Teens not only learn a sport, but they also gain confidence and learn a new culture,” said del Rio. “We teach them about nature and to respect nature. We show them a different culture so they can appreciate all that they have.”
Del Mar Surfing Academy offers 7-night and 14-night surf camps perfect for beginners up to advanced surfers. On Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, Del Mar Surfing Academy holds programs based at the small and lovely beachfront Monterey del Mar Hotel in Playa Esterillos Este. The quiet, mostly residential beach is perfect for surf programs with its moderate waves, yet only 10 minutes away from more challenging surf at Playa Hermosa. Del Mar’s second location is award-winning Playa Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula, where groups stay at a very large private residence on the beach. Both locations are two of the prettiest tropical beaches in Costa Rica with warm water, playful waves and a friendly, fun and safe atmosphere.
Instructors are native Costa Rican, with a few from Spain, and all hold International Surfing Association level 1 or 2 training as surf instructors, plus water rescue and first aid certification
“Learning how to surf can be a challenging experience. It can also be one of the best memories of your life, given the right coaching and guidance along the way,” explains del Rio. “Before getting into the water to surf, students will learn the basics of surfing, water safety tips, paddling techniques, standing up on a board and riding waves. We never have more than two students with one instructor, so that the instructor can really focus on the students.”
Del Mar Surfing Academy’s trips include all meals, all transportation inside Costa Rica (from and return to San Jose), full-time chaperones, all surf lessons and activities. Immediately starting from the San Jose international airport, through the entire camp program and back to the airport, Del Mar Surfing Academy provides “door-to-door” service taking care of students every step of the way. Adult chaperones are 24 hours, explains del Rio. “Our chaperones are great and really take care of the students,” she said.
The company is registered and certified with the Costa Rican Tourism Board CANATUR, is part of the Jaco Chamber of Commerce, and is insured with the national insurance company INS. Del Rio mentioned that they also recommend students have their own traveler’s medical insurance. Local medical care is available in every location where Del Mar Surfing Academy operates, and the locations also have landing areas for helicopter transport in case of emergency.
More than learning surfing and Spanish language, teens have the opportunity to live immersed in another culture and make friends with people from all over the world. They’ll eat typical Costa Rican cuisine of fresh tropical fruit, rice, beans, vegetables and fresh fish or meat. They’ll enjoy cultural activities like visiting a local farm, and hiking a beautiful private mountain to an old Costa Rican town run by the same family for many generations.
“This is the biggest asset we can offer to the students – our ties and relationships with local Costa Rican life,” said del Rio.
Not to be excluded at all, del Rio said parents are more than welcome to join their teens and enjoy the tropical beauty and delightful warm seas of Costa Rica. Parallel surf vacation programs for adults are offered via Del Mar Surf Camp, or parents can just take down time on a beach holiday and see their teens in the evenings.
By Shannon Farley