Life is great. Today I took my boys to my hideaway reef. They boogie boarded the shorebreak and wore goggles, looking for fish in the super clear water. Waves were decent, not epic. Then I got back to Tamarindo and the surf was going off. As it was the case, we had a Witch’s Rock manager meeting that lasted three hours from 12-3. It was a great meeting, lots of good stuff, but I’m not going to talk about that. Just rest assured that things are kicking ass and we have a lot to be stoked about. 2012 is going to be unreal. But I’m thinking about the second session I scored out front after the meeting, from 330pm to sunset. Right tubes, long screaming waves, tons of bottom turn – top turn hacks. So sick. Thats all I can think about for the last two hours. Even though I got dropped in on a couple of times, and the crowd was heavy, it doesn’t matter. The waves were insane. I’m grinning. Life is great. Time to go home and chill with the wife and boys.
Blazing hot sun and fierce wind howling offshore all day long today. The swell had been dropping the last couple of days, so Phil, the good doctor Andrew Illig, and myself all headed south to my favorite little reef hidden away in a tiny beautiful little cove that has no name. The waves there were a bit bigger and pretty fun, you just needed to remain mindful of the rocks. The water was super clear and turtles were swimming everywhere around us. Nice rights peeling across a rocky shelf, rippable. As the tide dropped it got a little sketchy, with sections of reef coming closer and closer to the surface. We surfed for over three hours until the tide was too low, but even still there were waves coming through. I am totally fried, but of course very stoked!
Today was day #2 of looking for a boa constrictor. I took Holly, Otis, Happy, Maria, Pira, and Eddie, all in my Dodge, all of us cruising along the back road from Portegolpe to Hatillo, for over two hours hoping that one would cross the road, or that we could find one near the roots of the mango trees or down by one of the creeks. But no such luck. My boys sure seemed to enjoy sitting in the bed of the truck, though, and I’m sure they’ll remember the evening as the day daddy took them snake hunting. And I enjoyed it too, except that my truck is making an awful sound from the brakes or the suspension somewhere, I think… just a reminder that the roads down here are awful. I was also reminded that, when you’re deep in Ticoville, the liquor stores rarely sell Bamboos but they always seem to have Rock Ice.
Just now I got off of the phone with Evan Luck, the DJ from 99.5 Radio 2. I always laugh when I talk to Evan, because I’m talking to the same voice that has brought us so many classic 80s hits I’ve heard on the radio for so many years now… Evan is a good guy, and he wants to host a monthly show live from Witch’s Rock Surf Camp starting next month. There are still a lot of details to work out, but they are getting worked out. Hopefully soon I’ll have something concrete to announce, in the meantime I’m still doing the WRSC surf reports every Monday/Wednesday/Friday on Radio 2 at about 6:50pm.
So its a new year. 2011 was pretty significant, now that I think about it. Otis and Happy are no longer babies. I started making surfboards with Robert August. My company opened a microbrewery in Lake Arenal. I spent six months not surfing because I tore my MCL. Lots of other shit happened, both good and bad, but in the end all good because it helped form a better me. And as I reflect on it all, I want to make sure that in the future I take the time to write down the micro details. So, in 2012 I’m going to do my best to keep this blog going strong by writing a blog every single day.
I woke up with a New Year’s hangover and found myself yelling at Otis for stealing my pillow and hitting me in the head with it while I was still not quite awake (not the best way to start the new year), but I got over it and tried my best to recalibrate the day in the ocean, healing things with some micro rights in the rivermouth on the longboard. The wind was howling hard offshore, sand was flying everywhere. The wind got too strong mid-day. I took Otis and Happy surfing after the tide dropped out, they both impress me with their comfort level in the surf. They inspire me to continue my passionate love affair with the ocean, as I see myself in the things they do. Life is very good when your life is spent on the beach surrounded by those you love.
Besides surfing, I took a drive with Pira south of town looking for a boa constrictor. People look at you funny when you ask them if they know where you can find a boa, like you’re crazy or maybe they heard you wrong. But then we tell them that we need a snake to help remove any rodents or skunks or other animals that find their way off from the beach. Its mother nature’s way of taking care of things. Over the years we always had a boa cruising around in the rafters above the bar, but I took the last one out when Happy was an infant because I was worried that the snake was too big and Happy was too small (and we had a lot of holes in the floor). But now Happy is big, and I’ve got a family of skunks that are living under the deck outside of my office, and thats not OK. A snake should take care of things, as soon as I can find one. If you’re reading this and you live nearby and you have a decent sized boa that needs a good home, let me know!
It had been a long time since I’d ridden a longboard much. When I was younger I rode a longboard all of the time, but in recent years I progressed to a shorter board and forgotten the log. At times I would ride the pink Walden 9’0, sitting in the rental cage, repaired 101 times, with a glassed on (at an angle) fin, somehow riding better than most any other board in the WRSC quiver… it wasn’t until RA made me a new 9’0 longboard three weeks ago that my surfing world evolved to include the longboard as a go-to board in my own quiver.
Let me pontificate about this board. It has a scooped out nose, super wide and full, fully able to keep me hanging toes over the nose for what seems like forever. Although the board is quite thick, with full rails until they sharpen along the tail, it forces me to take an old-school approach to my surfing. Long, drawn out bottom turns. Sweeping cutbacks from the shoulder into the foam and back out again. Stability while puling into the lucky tube section. I appreciate all of that. I have experienced rides in recent days that are etched in my memory, making me smile. This is what surfing is all about.
No matter how busy life becomes, no matter what giant obstacles stand in the way, a day I can share waves with my family is a day well spent. Today, even though I was so incredibly overwhelmed with trying to upgrade to our new admin office, staff the brewery, expand the WRSC classroom, prepare for high season, taxes, the holidays, etc, etc, even still, I took a break to push little Happy into some waves on his surfboard and went swimming with Otis out past where we couldn’t touch, just treading water and talking about life and being so incredibly content doing just that. That short break to spend some quality time with my family, doing what we love, made all of the stress and everything else (almost) disappear.
Guess what? These last few months, where I haven’t been blogging and you’ve been wondering why I’ve slacking so much… well, I was actually really fucking busy. We all were. And we still are! Why? Because tomorrow, on 11/11/11, the folks at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp are proud to announce the grand opening of Volcano Brewing Company.
Perched on a hill overlooking Lake Arenal, rimmed by multiple volcanos and lush green vegetation, Volcano Brewing Company is proud to be Costa Rica’s only microbrewery + brewpub. We will have a soft opening on 11/11/11 (just the bar), with the tavern opening mid-November. Besides brewing Witch’s Rock Pale Ale, Volcano Brewing has a microfarm with cows providing milk, cream, cheese and beef, chicken, pigs, tilapia, and 2 large gardens. Volcano Brewing will provide a farm-to-table dining experience within a rustic wooden tavern, overlooking Lake Arenal, Volcan Tenorio, and Volcan Miravalles.
This new resort is located just outside of Tilaran, Guanacaste. Unlike going to the far side of Lake Arenal, it only takes about 2 hours 15 minutes to drive there from Tamarindo, and only about 1 hour 15 minutes from the Liberia Airport. It is a great destination if you’re looking to spend a few days in the mountains away from normal day-to-day life. There are tons of things to do such as hiking volcanos, swimming in waterfalls, visiting hot springs, kite surfing, skating and mountain biking to name a few. Volcano Brewing is a great place to go when the waves are flat or when you want a healthy change of pace (it happens!)
This project would not have happened if it wasn’t for the serious hard work and dedication of my right hand, Yana Farrally-Plourde. Yana is an amazing designer and visionary himself, he and I can get into serious trouble when working on projects together! This is by far the biggest we have gone since launching Witch’s Rock Surf Camp 11 years ago. We had previously named this project “Zephyr Eco Project”, which was it’s working title for many years. But now that we have finished construction and are opening our doors, tomorrow, Friday November 11th, at 5:00PM, maybe I’ll see you at the new Volcano Brewing Company bar for a sunset pale ale.
Tons of photos, lots more blogs, plenty of information coming your way. Pura vida and thank you to everyone at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp for helping to make this giant leap of opening a microbrewery and eco lodge. we’ve only been talking about it for the last 6 years!
VOLCANO BREWING COMPANY
Website – www.volcanobrewingcompany.com
Restaurant/Hotel phone – (506) 2695-5050
International Reservations phone - 1-888-318-7873, (506) 2653-1262
Finally, almost six months later, I am back to surfing and feeling human again. Not just on a longboard, but on my blue 5’10 that I shaped right before I blew out my MCL. At first I was falling on every wave, but now its starting to come together again and I’m remembering how to carve those cutbacks and do some big whacks off of the top. Fucking finally. And the Tamarindo Rivermouth has had some bombs these last few days which has been nice, overhead to a few feet overhead on the sets. I’m always happy when there are waves!
With half a year to burn, I’ve definitely kept busy. I started examining various areas of my company, looking for how I could tweak things to make it better (I guess I enjoy and always tend to do that, but without spending multiple hours/day surfing I had more time for it). I saw areas where I needed professional help, so I found and hired a few great people. Robert August and I started teaching a History of Surfing class which has been really cool. I became a certified CPR Instructor for the American Heart Association. I received some awesome donations and bought training and emergency response equipment, then had it shipped to Tamarindo. By mid-September WRSC will be offering CPR classes for the community. The local municipality still hasn’t gotten their act together, nobody is surprised I guess, as a result we stand by waiting “to be given permission” to staff the beach with trained lifeguards.
After I could walk well enough I took Otis and Happy to San Diego for a week, just the three of us staying at my parent’s house. Holly flew up the second week and we went to Disneyland for 3 days with my mom and dad.
Daddy scored big points with the 3 and 5 year old. Although we had a great time, 3 days in a row is exhausting and I have no plans to visit Disneyland for quite a while.
Since I was stuck on the sidelines for so long, I got bored and started thinking about things way too much. Was I getting old? Am I ever going to surf again? Of course I would. I know these are silly questions, and I got over them and stopped feeling sorry for myself. But I couldn’t stop thinking about my non-surfing goals in life. For more than 5 years I had fantasized about Zephyr, an eco resort where I envisioned one could relax, learn, and grow. An eco resort focused on sustainability, from food production to renewable energy to building to social responsibility. With time to think, I realized that now is the time. I would no longer allow for “other things” to get in the way. Yes, my world and everyone else’s world around me would have to change to allow for this to happen.
So, let me make the official announcement: starting yesterday, September 1st, I took over the infamous Hotel Tilawa and will be opening up the Zephyr Eco Resort in Lake Arenal, Costa Rica starting this November. I am excited to share the hotel, organic farm and brewery that exist there. Yes, this is a down economy. Yes, I can’t be in both places at the same time. Yes, its a big risk. But I have a good feeling, and I’m up to the challenge.
Find me tomorrow surfing all day in the rivermouth, or at sunset I’ll be at WRSC drinking some of the new Witch’s Rock Pale Ale and Zephyr Wheat that we’re brewing up in Arenal. Its my 34th birthday and I couldn’t be bothered to plan anything else, I hope to see you there. Then on Sunday its back up to Arenal, then next week to Florida for a 36 hour Surf Expo strike, then a quick trip to NYC for the ASP contest.
more to come, and soon…
Tamarindo has no lifeguards. Why?
- The Costa Rican government doesn’t provide them.
- Most people tend to do nothing except complain about how the Costa Rican government doesn’t provide them.
- Whenever a local resident, business, or organization has tried to manage a lifeguard program in the past, it ends up being too difficult trying to get other residents and businesses to contribute to a lifeguard fund (especially in the low season when nobody has money). Dealing with IOU’s when there are real bills to pay is difficult, especially when you’re a volunteer is trying to manage a community program.
It took a surfing injury to keep me out of the water for what has to be almost three months now. I tried surfing last week, which didn’t work out too well. I feel like I could still be a month out of the water. Hard to stay out of the surf for that long, but it has been good in that it has allowed me to progress tons on my various “joe walsh projects”. I am a better man for having torn my MCL. My swiss ball and mountain bike have become my new best friends, trying to replace my surfboards. They know its only temporary, and that soon we must have an open relationship, one that includes daily surfing. I cannot fucking wait to pull into some pits in the Tamarindo Rivermouth.
Farmer Joe’s Chickens: the chicken farming has gone better than expected. On our farm, we have slaughtered 200 of the 400 initial chicks I purchased from the veterinarian in Santa Cruz these past few months. All of this chicken was served in our Tamarindo restaurant Eat @ Joe’s (located within Witch’s Rock Surf Camp). We sold a few to friends and neighbors. The chicken has been better than any chicken we have purchased from the grocery stores. It was thick and tasty, easy to remove from the bone. It was the perfect chicken, really it was. We have now personally gone through the process of raising chickens and bringing them from our local farm to the restaurant table, without using any hormones or antibiotics. If anyone has any questions about raising chickens let me know, its pretty awesome to have some chicken farming skills, I’d love to help you out. Power to the chicken farmers!
Making Surfboards with Robert August: talk about WOW. I mean, honestly, to be able to hang with a guy like Robert who has shaped over 32,000 surfboards and watch him shape a surfboard, and learn the little things that would have taken me years to figure out on my own… its epic. And its right here in my back yard. I’m super lucky to have this opportunity to learn more of this craft, and from a true legend like Robert August. From a guy who at the age of 18 jumped on an airplane and traveled around the world surfing places like the central coast of Africa. Robert August, in his follow-up Endless Summer II, inspired me to drive a school bus to Costa Rica to start Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, and now here I am starting to make surfboards with the guy. How did this happen?
A movie screening of the Endless Summer, narrated by Robert August, at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, Tamarindo, Costa Rica – 6/9/11
Helping A Friend So A Friend Can Help Me: my buddy JP has been running the Hotel Tilawa for the past 20 years, a 23 room resort overlooking Lake Arenal, a place that could use a little love and hospitality efforts. He wants to get out of the hotel running game so he can focus on “his projects”. And let me tell you, his projects are pretty damn awesome. He builds eco-homes, holds patents on various fixtures and building processes, brews amazing beer, and is also involved in some cool farming projects, just to name a few. He and I share a similar vision for how a business can promote social responsibility and are in the process of trying to figure out how we can structure a partnership. I want to make beer and raise chicken with JP, but in order to do this I must help him organize and manage his hotel. Its a pretty funny scenario, but its crazy enough it just might work! WRSC past-intern Bruce and his girlfriend Marjorie are back in town. They visited the hotel with Holly and I and our boys this past weekend and have volunteered to oversee running operations there. The place is perfect for Zephyr headquarters, which would mean that Zephyr would be opening an eco adventure resort and learning center in the near future.
Even the consideration of doing something like this has forced me to review what I am doing at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. No matter what, I cannot do anything that would take anything away from WRSC. But this would add to it. I have no interest in opening another surf camp, but I have a lot of interest in helping to open a resort that gives people a completely different yet amazing experience, one that arms people with learning and experiences that they can take home and apply back where they live. An opportunity like this would allow us to start workshops teaching classes in sustainability, something I have always wanted to be able to do. And talk about an awesome location on the lake in Arenal, the energy center of Costa Rica: wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, its all here. We get to take over a brewery, which is currently brewing a great wheat and pale ale beer. I mean seriously, for how many years have I been talking about wanting to brew beer??? (search my last 5 years of blogs and you’ll see) And we get to bring this beer back to Eat @ Joe’s and El Vaquero (which, as of 8pm tonight, was finally granted it’s own liquor license by the muni and will be opening tomorrow or Thursday latest). Hoo Rah! Lets not forget about the chickens, and the fact that if I move them to this farm there is a built-in commercial kitchen, which will make things like selling chicken to other restaurants and grocery stores a reality. And JP is all part of the show, giving tours and leading the way. The guy is brilliant, he’s a mad scientist, he’s the kind of guy guys like me get along quite well with.
Growing the Team: Only by finding the right people can anything happen. Lately I have reached out to my friends and their friends, and online in blogs, and on facebook, trying to find people to help me out. And you know what? It works! People really do want to help! I have since hired an awesome programmer named Matt Criticos, who is from the UK but lives in France. I’ve never met Matt in person but I work with him than most anyone else the last few weeks. I’ve started working with blogger and surfer Shaun Johnson, who just went under the knife to repair his ACL this morning (we have lots in common). Shaun is a friend of a couple of friends of mine, and once we started talking, it was obvious that he was just as if not more interested in social media and connecting with people than I am. He is working freelance from Utah as of now, with the idea that he moves down here to Tamarindo in the near future. I’ve started working with blogger and surf traveler Srini Rao, author of the blog the Skool Of Life. He’s helping me get off of my ass and do some things I’ve been meaning to do but needed motivation and clarity and other peers to accomplish. All of these guys have been a great help. I’m also getting help from Joe Miller, a PhD MBA genius from Atlanta who is doing some business scenario studies regarding the chicken and beer endeavors, and Stew Meyer, an expert in sustainability who worked for California governor Jerry Brown and has volunteered his help on the Zephyr project. And its because Stew is a friend of a friend, a return guest, an awesome guy named Gary Schneiderman. And then of course I’ve got my boy Bruce, who seems to show up in my life wherever I go and is always helping me out so much its not even funny.
The crazy thing about all of this is that I couldn’t do anything if I didn’t surround myself with experts. Literally each of these people is much better than me at different things. Its about recognizing these skills, as well as your own skills, and building a power team around you that kicks major ass. Ooops, I almost forgot that I reconnected with insane artist Jon Arvizu of Trapdoor Studio (responsible for earlier WRSC t-shirt designs, Witch’s Rock surfboard logos, more) who is now designing some awesome shit that you’ll see soon enough. And there are a couple more, but I don’t want to ramble. All I can say is that its awesome and imperative to have a good team, no matter what size, that you can rely on to help carry out your crazy missions.
Witch’s Rock Surf Camp has a fan page: make sure to visit the new WRSC facebook fan page and LIKE it, so you’re plugged in to WRSC’s ongoing feed of fresh updates: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Witchs-Rock-Surf-Camp/77957741443
1) We will be shutting down our profile page, which has maxed out of friends
2) We put everything on facebook first, then the newsletter twice/month because we don’t want to spam you, then a wrsc blog later on
3) because you’re on facebook all day long anyways, and at least this way you can check in on what the waves are doing, and who knows, you might realize that we’re posting some cool shit to help you break up your day and avoid those TPS reports
So, thats the general update on a few major things going on down here. As you can see, my knee injury and inability to surf has given me free time to grow an army and do some cool shit. I’d love to hear any suggestions or ideas you might have. We are a tribe of people interested in the same things, obviously we must be if you’re reading this blog, so throw it out there. pura vida. Joe Walsh- Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Sometimes I wish I wasn’t self-motivated. Seriously, I could slack much better if I just cared a little less. I don’t have a boss, so I could totally fuck off and tell everyone around me that I was working really hard on stuff. But I don’t. Probably because I’m injured and not surfing. I end up going into the matrix to a point where I should take a break every once in a while. No matter how much weed I smoke I can’t seem to lose the ambition to move things forward. I could hang at the bar and get crunk but I don’t because there’s too much going on. We’ve got big plans, and I need to know that WRSC can hum 365/24/7 if we’re ever going to do achieve them (impossible by the way). I also have this torn MCL so I can’t surf, and since I’m stuck at home and I just don’t know what to do with myself I’m going to get a lot of work done until I can surf again.
My dog Sammy is half alive, half dead, currently living at the vet with a giant gash in his neck. It is so gnarly its not funny. Last week Otis and I took Sammy to the beach for a walk during sunset, out of nowhere he was attacked by a giant frothing pit bull that latched onto his neck and tried to kill him. It was shocking and awful. Next thing you know I’m on the ground, punching this giant dog in the face about 15 times, then I grabbed a giant log and was whacking it in the ribs, for like a minute until it finally released. The owner, a local Italian guy named Miguel that I know from surfing, was trying to pull it away by the collar and received a giant slice down his wrist and arm. His wife was all cut up too. Somehow, as I swung blows at this dog, in an attempt to do nothing but save my dog’s life, I didn’t get more than a few scratches, a tweaked knee, and a sore hand. I literally hit this dog as hard as I could in the face more times than I could count, in the same way I would hit someone in a fist fight, as hard as I could. I couldn’t believe how tough that dog was. In the end everyone was bloody, it was a total beach brawl if there ever was one. I’m happy that my dog is alive. I’m also very pissed off. Why do people keep pit bulls as pets? That dog could have attacked my son instead of my dog. And if I wasn’t there, my dog would be dead. And forget about trying to explain to my kids why I was in a brawl with a dog punching it in the face and why they should never ever do what daddy did.
You probably want to know why the El Vaquero is closed right now. No, its not because its started to rain and May is a slow month. Its because Costa Rica changed their liquor license laws. Supposedly now, because there is more money to be made by companies trying to run more than one bar on their property, we must have 2 separate liquor licenses instead of just one. OK, thats fine, I can understand. What I can’t understand is why the government waits until the Friday of Semana Santa to send the police to my bar to shut it down. I mean seriously, no heads up?? Why couldn’t you just tell me that I needed a second liquor license when you were changing the law? No, that would have been too simple. Better to shut us down during the busiest week of the year, while at the same time letting the illegal restaurant/bar set up in the beach parking lot across from Aqua, while at the same time letting randoms sell beers from coolers along the beach all day long. Do any of these folks have a liquor license? No. Do they even pay taxes, or social security, or employ 65 local residents, or spend thousands of dollars advertising to tourists to visit our town? Nope. Does the municipality have any sense as to who is working for the community and who isn’t? Obviously not. Whatever. I never thought for a second that it made sense anyways. We now have our 2nd liquor license. We now have every possible inspection you need. We should have El Vaquero open in the next few days. Am I pissed about all of this? No. I’d be out of a business if El Vaquero was all we had going on, but it isn’t. I expect ridiculousness from the Costa Rican government. If you can’t stand it, you shouldn’t try to do business down here. If Costa Rica was completely user-friendly the waves would be more crowded. Its all a trade-off.
Guess what? Its time to kill chickens, thats what! Our first 100 chickens have matured and are ready to eat. I would have never thought that we’d end up farming chickens but we have, and its actually really cool. Can you believe that the chickens are only 8 weeks old, they are HUGE, and we haven’t given them any hormones? We’ve already slaughtered 2 of them so we could weigh the meat and figure out what we’re dealing with. The chicken legs are so giant that they don’t work for any of the restaurant meals, so we’re going to have to make a special just to offer the locally grown, organic chicken. We are selling fresh chicken to our friends in town, if you want some let me know.
Killing chickens, punching dogs, and bitching about the government, but for the record, I’m not complaining about not being able to surf because that’d be way too predictable.