With over 1,290 km (802 miles) of coastline you’d be right in thinking that there are lots of places to surf in Costa Rica. Just doing a simple Google search will show you not only a slew of surf breaks on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides, but also any number of surf schools and camps located nearby them to accommodate your need to ride the waves, like Tamarindo, located on the Pacific Northwest side of the Costa Rica.

Here beginners can enjoy lessons in the enclosed Tamarindo bay, where the waves are gentle and there is plenty of easy-to-surf whitewater to get started.

One of the popular surf schools in Tamarindo is Salty Sols, founded by Eric Atkinson and located at the Best Western Tamarindo Vista Villas hotel just right across the street from the beach. Every morning you’ll find him (or one of his instructors) gathering the eager new surfers together for their first instruction. Salty Sols is also known for its work with intermediate and advanced surfers looking to hone their skills, or check out some of the other nearby surf breaks like Langosta, Avellanas, Negra or Grande.

“We offer good quality surf lessons by focusing attention on beginners, those that have been surfing for years, and everyone in between like people who in their regular life don’t get to surf every day and need help maximizing the waves they get while here in Tamarindo beach,” explains Eric. As to his stock and trade novices, he adds: “I want people to have an experience and not just a surf lesson. There’s no 1, 2, 3 popup. I want the experience to be highly awesome and personalized. To get them stoked on surfing so they continue doing it. I want my clients to feel that they made a friend with Salty Sols Surf School.”

Eric is a unique instructor among the many in town as he hails from the landlocked state of Missouri, the least likely place to find a surfer. Yet, he says that makes him uniquely qualified to deal with and relate to first-time surfers as well as those who don’t get to the ocean as often as they’d like because of living far from it. He himself got the surfing bug while living in Hawaii 12 years ago. Not only did he get the stoke right off the bat from his first ride at Tonggs, but he lived with some oceanographers—also surfers—who were eager to share the mechanics of the ocean with him.

As a matter of fact, it was the advice of these oceanographers that brought Eric to Costa Rica after one of them took a map of the country and pointed out the best surf breaks. Seven years ago, he was here in Tamarindo, surfing those well known spots, as well as teaching students how to ride for their first time. At 36, he can’t imagine not teaching, guiding and surfing every day.

“I have a passion for passing on this sport that I am passionate about,” Eric says. “ I grew up playing baseball, and as I progressed through high school and college playing it, I thought I would end up being a coach. I always liked working with people and I myself had great coaches and teachers in my life and I took a lot of knowledge from them that I know use in giving surf lessons.”

Those lessons include ocean theory, water safety and actual practice in the water. On the beach, Eric makes sure that he gives lots of necessary information so that after the lesson, his clients are able to surf on their own.

As all surfers know, surfing is all about having fun, being relaxed in the water and putting aside all your stress.

“It’s also about comradery, hanging out with your buddies, hooting and hollering,” exclaims Eric. “Think about this: it’s the end of the day, being out in the water with a group of friends for a couple of hours getting waves. There’s something so cool about that. And it’s right here in Tamarindo, at our fingertips. “