Tsunami Surfing – Not!

Ballroom Dance in Charlotte, NC

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami; Chilean Earthquake; Surfing in Nosara, Costa Rica; and Ballroom Dancing.  What do any of these have in common with the other!?

Most people I meet think of me as that guy who loves to dance.  Many know that I am madly in love with my wife, Monette. Some know that I have a couple of college age kids that I am trying to launch.  But there is at least another side to me that isn’t often exposed.  I enjoy surfing!

Yep, I surf the big waves of the Pacific Ocean every year just when The Heritage Classic Dancesport Championship occurs in Asheville, North Carolina.  I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and somehow manage to get to Heritage to compete, or to cheer on friends and competitors, and then I jet off to Costa Rica to jump in the ocean.  Maybe that sounds like a lot of trouble, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Now how does all this tie together, you ask?  Well first, the Pacific side of Costa Rica is part of the seismic “ring-of-fire” that causes these horrible earthquakes.  This last year, we were asked to stay on high ground on March 11 due to the Japan earthquake and the risk of a “100 foot Tsunami” heading across the Pacific and possibly striking Costa Rica. Thankfully this did not happen.

The previous year, also on March 11, I was in Costa Rica when a similar event occurred. Monette had just landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina when the pilots told her that a very significant earthquake had struck Chile early that morning and possibly threatened the western coastline of South and Central America with a Tsunami.  Thankfully, this too never materialized, but not before we were pulled out of the surf to wait on high ground.

And two years before that a small earthquake hit Costa Rica just as our light plane left the runway.  The pilot circled the coastline to give authorities a visual inspection of bridges and buildings for damage before we headed to Liberia.  All of these are very dangerous situations.  So is surfing, but that I will save for my Facebook page and not this post.

OK, so what about the Ballroom Dancing? Sure, there is the challenge of trying to do Heritage and go surfing in the same week, but the real story is this:  The men with whom I surf do not dance. While they now respect my passion for dancing since we started Metropolitan Ballroom, they typically couldn’t see the benefits of dancing around the room with a bunch of girls (or wives)! That is until I taught the hotel owner in Costa Rica a small wedding dance.

It was not long after the movies “Step Into Liquid” and “Riding Giants” were released in 2007 that I received my worst chiding from these guys.  I had missed “boys’ night out” to watch one of these films in order to compete at the North Carolina Classic, and their teasing was merciless!  You cannot imagine the chidings I got.  Only my best friend defended me, reminding the others that balance and agility come into play in dancing just as importantly as in surfing, and may even be good training.  But the guys just weren’t impressed and weren’t buying it.  My very manliness was being questioned it seemed!

But then a minor miracle happened.  John, the owner of the hotel where we stay every year, announced to us that he was getting married soon.  It was going to be something of a significant social event for the small coastal town of Nosara, and he proudly wanted to share a “first dance” with his lovely new bride at their reception. Without hesitation my clever best friend immediately offered John a solution – “Jim will teach you!”

So every evening after surfing all day and just after dinner, I would march John around his restaurant doing the basic Waltz steps in order to get him ready enough to waltz his bride around the room. Then I would teach his fiancée. Then I would put them together.  Over and over we would go until he could lead her and she could follow him.  Picture this too: John also owns a ranch and would often arrive in blue jeans and muddy boots with a pistol on his belt, looking a bit like Indiana Jones.  And I was half the time worried that if I did the wrong thing he’d shoot me! And his bride-to-be was sweet but spoke only Spanish. What a challenge to get these two together!  And don’t you think my friends thought the whole spectacle was funny – but they would never laugh at John; only tease me.

Well, most of us had to leave on Saturday and John was married the following weekend.  A couple of our friends stayed the extra week for more surfing and were invited to attend the wedding. They reported that John’s “first dance” was a smash hit with the couple and their guests; and there is even a video commemorating it. Ah, sweet exoneration!

Thanks to John, my surfing buddies don’t tease me any more about my dancing, and they are now clamoring for us to come to Raleigh to teach them and their wives how to dance.  Seems that their eyes were opened a bit that when the bad-est rancher in the valley decided to take dance lessons it made it an OK thing to do.  Forget that the Latin culture usually encourages its men to dance a part of their rite of manhood, this was a one tough guy sweeping his lady around the floor (he wore a suit instead of his boots and pistol though).   http://www.missskycanopytour.com/

So they don’t tease me any more about dancing (just my surfing), and we still go to the same beach and stay at the same hotel with John.  And next year, we will probably have another earthquake.  But the thing that is different is that their attitudes have changed about dancing.  This past year we all went to the Tropicana to Salsa with the local Ticas and to the Banana Bar to technodance with the surfers and yoga adherents.  Quite a change from where we were before John’s “first dance” and our starting Metropolitan Ballroom in Charlotte. So if you guys are reluctant, find courage!  The payoff can be incredible!

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