Surfing, like many other sports, has long been dominated by men. In fact, as recently as the 1960s, articles were published with titles like “Big Waves Are Masculine, Women Feminine.” And while many strides have been made in the sport since then, there are still twice as many men than women invited to compete in the World Championship Tour each year. So, when I learned that two strong, independent women ran a surf school at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, where I stayed recently, I had to learn more (and try hitting the waves myself).
SurfX, dubbed a “luxury surf school,” was developed by Andrea Diaz Coto and Hanna Storrosten about two years ago. Originally from San Jose, Costa Rica, Diaz Coto traveled the world as a pro surfer. Now, as a mother of three, she wants to bring her passion for the sport to others. Meanwhile, Storrosten, who comes from Oslo, Norway, discovered surfing while studying marine biology at San Diego State and found it made her feel alive.
The SurfX luxury surf school is an ideal learning location for all ages and abilities throughout the year. A luxury surf experience is tailor-made, customized to suit each surfer/family, led by a highly dynamic, experienced and welcoming team taking care of all your surf needs. In other words, you have a team of Surf Butlers at your service!
“We encourage all our instructors not just to teach surfing techniques, but also share their backgrounds and stories with guests, as a way for them to connect to the authentic and strong surf culture found in Costa Rica,” says Storrosten. “We believe that the experience becomes much more profound when there is a story behind it, and so we encourage all our guides to be open and honest about every aspect of their lives and passions.”
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In particular, Diaz Coto and Storrosten wanted to encourage women to hit the waves. “Surfing builds such a strong sense of confidence because it's an extremely tricky sport to learn,” says Storrosten. “You learn to overcome fear, trust yourself and push yourself mentally and physically. The lifestyle/culture associated with the sport is also incredible; you just gain so much from it.”
When I paddled out with the SurfX instructor, I noticed this firsthand. While part of the time was spent going over practical techniques, most of it was spent out in the water chatting between waves. We discussed things like family, and I was encouraged to stop thinking (something hard for someone with an anxious brain) and instead just focus on the sensation of the waves.
“The ocean can tell when you’re anxious,” my instructor told me. So I listened and managed to catch several sets of waves, which was an exhilarating yet calming experience.
“I love the feeling of freedom and connection to the ocean, but most importantly, surfing is my therapy,” says Storrosten. “It's a massive stress release as well as a confidence builder. It’s really powerful.”
Since founding the program, Diaz Coto and Storrosten have been excited to see the tides changing regarding male dominance in the sport.
“It is becoming increasingly prevalent as more and more women enter the surfing world and fall in love with the sport and lifestyle,” adds Storrosten. “You can find many women’s surf communities globally pushing for a more inclusive environment. Not to mention, women’s professional surfing is skyrocketing in terms of progression. It makes me feel proud to be part of the evolution.”