Ask anyone who’s tried to make it down here and you’ll hear stories about how hard it can be once you’ve arrived. The opposite was true for me. It was the trip here that almost ended it all before we even landed and got trippy on the way to the beach.

From the first time I ever saw pictures of Costa Rica, I knew I wanted to live in Puravidaville. I had met a Tico friend, Tavo, on my surf team in Florida. Every time the waves went flat or were weak, Tavo would say, “Vamos ya a mi país, huevón. Hay olas cada día, mae!” I wasn’t sure of the exact English translation, but considering the surfer magazine pics he was busting out, I knew this loosely translated to, “The east coast blows. Let’s go surf some real barrels.”

So I did what any red-blooded Rhode Island surfer wanting to get barreled would do — I called his bluff! I said let’s do it and we ¨dropped out¨ the next semester and planned to go get pitted!

Next thing you know, I had a ticket to Costa Rica for Sept. 8, 1993. I put a Rhody crew together and we planned our great escape. The funniest thing was getting passports, as our photos told all you need to know. Of course, we had to have a theme song: “We’re going to Costa Rica” repeated incessantly until we got on the plane. That was where things got weird in a hurry.

The first leg to Miami went off without a hitch, but like any red-blooded surfers, we decided to have a puff before our international departure. Being the geniuses that young surf punks are, we went to the other wing of the airport, downstairs at the last gate and into the no-man’s land baño. It was all fun and games flushing the smoke down the loo until the janitor walked in. My “boyz” cut and ran while I was flushing the remnants.

Mr. Janitor caught the whiff, but before he could react, I flushed and took off running for my life to gate C420. There we all huddled and waited with nail-biting trepidation, newspapers covering our faces, until they called flight 420 to Costa Rica. With one eye spying and waiting until the last call, we scurried down the jetway to the freedom of international airspace.

Figuring we’d escaped our major pitfall and were now in the clear on board, it was time for cocktails and phone calls rubbing it in to the boys! That was our first time using the phone in the back of the seat, and it was all good until the bill came next month. Twelve minutes cost $220 — quite a dent on a college surfer’s credit line! After a few hours of flying, we were really stoked to touch down and hit the west coast surf. It was all fine and dandy until the pilot’s loud speaker announcement: “Fasten your seat belts, boys and girls … we’re headed for a bumpy landing.”

I learned three things on that descent to the runway: 1) How much lightning is capable of hitting a plane before it goes down. 2) How much grown boys are capable of crying when they know how close they were to fulfilling a west coast surf dream. 3) How cool flight attendants can be with free booze bottles when everyone has survived an emergency landing.

Needless to say, things only got weirder once we landed … but that’s for part 2 in next month’s installment of Dos Locos – TTZ.

Pura vida, mae!