“Tierza Eichner, the founder and owner of Pura Vida Adventures, built the business after realizing that her passion for surfing was more than just a travel hobby. For a woman to have the confidence to be an entrepreneur, in a male dominated sport, and in a Latin American country, you would think the achievement came as a natural progression in her life. Perhaps, you would think at first, like I did, that ‘…she must have grown up in Costa Rica, surfing as a local girl with her brothers.’ However, Tierza didn’t learn to surf until she was 32 years old, and that was in Northern California. This is the story on how she found Pura Vida Adventures and how the company really found her.”
~ Elizabeth McKay
The Story of Pura Vida Adventures
by Tierza Eichner
I actually first attempted to surf when I was around 20 years old in Southern California; but my third day trying, I got pummeled by a wave and the board hit me and tore up all my thigh muscles. I became absolutely afraid of the surfboard and swore off the sport entirely, or so I thought. Years later I moved to San Francisco and took up boogie boarding, because even though I feared surfing, I never lost my passion and love for the ocean. It wasn’t until I was 32 years old that I was finally convinced to try surfing again, and this was only after I received surf lessons as a gift. I took my first lesson in Santa Cruz, California and it changed my life. I was hooked the moment I stood up on my first wave.
That same year I was laid off from my dot.com job and was left to ponder my next move in San Francisco’s very dismal job market. I decided that until the economy turned around I was going to really focus on surfing and took regular surf trips to Santa Cruz. I was completely addicted to surfing and loved the buzz, presence and the freedom it gave me when I rode the waves.
After Santa Cruz, I formulated a plan to go to Costa Rica, but decided to first make a stop on the North Shore of Oahu to witness the Triple Crown of Surfing, one of the biggest surf contests in the world. I stayed in a hostel near the beach and oddly enough, I was the only girl out of about 20 women staying there that was really into surfing and would go out every day, usually by myself.
On one of these days I experienced a moment out in the ocean that inspires me every day. During a lull between sets one of the most beautiful, brilliant rainbows appeared…and this next part I still can’t believe, there was a dolphin doing flips underneath the center of the rainbow. One of the long boarders yelled out, “There is a God!” Just then a perfect right came straight to me; I took it and felt the breeze on my face as I flew down the line. This is the very reason I LOVE SURFING. Magical moments like these.
During this trip, I met a woman named Arzum that was staying at the same hostel and winding down her year-and-a-half trip around the world. I persuaded her to come with me to Costa Rica, which wasn’t that hard of a sell. I think it went something like this, “I will teach you how to surf. We will have so much fun meeting hot surfer boys. Costa Rica, I heard, was beautiful, and it will be the time of your life.” Little did I know it would soon become the best eight months of my life.
Our quest in Costa Rica was finding a beach town with endless waves. When we arrived in Malpais, I thought that I found a little piece of heaven and realized I had never felt so alive and present in my entire life. My type “A” personality stood no chance in Malpais where I learned to slow down and enjoy every moment of life. I also learned so much from the local Costa Rican people. They taught me to appreciate exactly who I am, and focus on the positive aspects of my life instead of what I perceived as faults.
After two months in Malpais we decided to explore more of Costa Rica, visiting dozens of other beach towns. In my heart I knew that Malpais was where I really found myself and when I left, I cried because I felt like I was leaving part of myself behind. I knew I wanted to return to this idyllic location and it was at this moment that I started formulating the idea for Pura Vida Adventures.
After four months in Costa Rica, we spent four more months traveling through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. After almost a year abroad, I returned to San Francisco a completely changed person. I was so determined to start a surf camp in Malpais and adopt the lifestyle I had been shown, that I started working on it the day I arrived back in the States.
At this point I was quickly becoming broke. Thankfully I have great family and friends, like my cousin Randy that let me stay in his San Francisco apartment for only $250 a month (a complete steal) and my friend Suzanne that employed me part-time at her Casting Agency. I had no desire to return to corporate America and every move I made towards establishing Pura Vida Adventures brought me one step closer to realizing my newfound dream. There were countless moments that I felt overcome with fear, but when things are meant to be they are pretty seamless. The main thing that kept me going was the thought of being able to surf every day in Costa Rica and introducing this amazing feeling, culture and people to others.
I chose the name Pura Vida Adventures, because it really encapsulates surfing and Costa Rica. Pura Vida is a common phrase in Costa Rica. When you ask someone, “como estas?” They answer “pura vida” which means, ‘life is good’ and translated means, ‘pure life.’ I thought this was a perfect name for a surf camp in Costa Rica.
I had no prior skills just my passion. Building this business has been magical and frightening at the same time. I was a single woman, opening up a business in a Latin American country, and figuring things out as I went along. It was pretty scary at some moments, like making contracts with hotels, buying a surf van (being a woman buying a van in another country is not fun), learning the laws, etc.
After working on the business for a year and a half, I held my first camp in January 2004. Well, our first camp took off like a rocket. I could relive this week over and over again. I couldn’t believe our success. People were crying when they left saying Pura Vida Adventures was the best vacation they ever had. I knew at this moment that this was my calling. I had finally found my path. I’m so darn thankful for my staff, my husband Scott, and my mom Kathy. They are the reason the business is so amazing and successful. They bring just as much as I do to each camp – their passion, personalities, insight and love. This has been an amazing road and I have SURFING to THANK for it.