Pura Vida’s Origin

Surf, Love, and a Lifelong Passion

Tierza Eichner, the founder and owner of Pura Vida Adventures, started the business in 2003 after a life-changing surf trip to Costa Rica. As a confident female entrepreneur in a male-dominated sport in a Latin American country, you might think that Tierza grew up in the surf industry. But believe it or not, this bad-ass surfer was once MAJORLY freaked out by the sport. No joke! Tierza first attempted to surf in Southern California at age 20, but got so pummeled by the waves that she swore off the sport entirely.

Obviously, this story has a happy ending. At age 32 Tierza tried surfing again with her first lesson in Santa Cruz, California, and instantly was hooked. And when the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, Tierza left her high-pressure job in Northern California to travel the world, looking for peace of mind and a piece of heaven…and, of course, endless waves! She found all of these things in Costa Rica, where she fell in love with the warm people, the vibrant culture, the beautiful surf, and especially the ocean-side village of Santa Teresa.

tierza headshot

Combining her passion for adventure with her business dreams, Tierza decided to start Pura Vida Adventures—an all-women’s surf camp and yoga retreat that allows her to share the special paradise of Santa Teresa and her love of surfing with the world.

Now more than a decade later, she has personally gone through many evolutions, and so has the business! She is now married with twin girls, Makayla and Zayda, and her passion for Pura Vida Adventures has only grown stronger.

The Inspiration of Pura Vida Adventures 

by Tierza Eichner

When I was 32, 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. I was completely addicted to surfing and loved the buzz, presence and the freedom it gave me when I rode the waves.

That same year, 2001, 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 began to formulate a plan to go on a surf trip. After glowing recommendations from fellow surfers who told me that Costa Rica had fun, gentle waves and is a great place to travel solo, I decided that this is where I needed to go.


My quest in Costa Rica was finding a beach town with endless waves. When I arrived in the Malpais/Santa Teresa area, 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 these beach towns. The tropical vibe taught me to slow down and enjoy every moment of life. I also learned so much from the local Costa Rican people, who taught me to appreciate exactly who I am, and focus on the positive aspects of my life instead of the negative.


After two months in Malpais I 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. 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 traveling for months in Central America, I returned to San Francisco a completely changed person. I was so determined to start a surf camp in Malpais and adopt the Costa Rican lifestyle, that I began working on Pura Vida Adventures the day I arrived back.


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.


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 foreign country is not fun!), learning the laws, etc. The main reason I kept going was the thought of being able to surf every day and the excitement of introducing surfing and the amazing Costa Rican beauty and culture to others.


I chose the name Pura Vida Adventures, because it really encapsulates surfing and the Costa Rican vibe. “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 my surf camp.

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 and COSTA RICA to THANK for it.

Meet Our Team

Helen

Lead Surf Instructor


As head surf instructor, Helen is the fun and fearless leader who guides the PVA team with her expert surf know-how, incredible biceps, and very British humor. Growing up in the UK, this blonde amazon learned to “rip” in the freezing, mostly flat waters of England. After ditching her stressed-out job at the BBC, Helen landed in the paradise of Costa Rica and has won over students and locals alike with her always-sunny spirit and her sometimes awful knock-knock jokes. Helen is a woman of many talents and enjoys geeking out on surf technique with her mega video analysis skills, spiralizing zucchini, making desserts out of avocado, and writing for her very-cheeky female surf and lifestyle blog, “Kook Bitches.”

Sara

Camp Hostess


Our amazing hostess always has a smile on her lips and a shake in her hips. Sara (called “Sarita” by the locals) is proof that soul surfers are made and not born. In 2010, she left a publishing career in Chicago, dumped all her belongings in her Kansas childhood home, and bought a one-way ticket to paradise. Now she shreds her heart out on the tropical waves of her new hometown, Santa Teresa. With a can-do attitude, heaps of Midwestern kindness, and plenty of spice on the dance floor, Sara is like a camp mom and BFF combined…who’ll make sure everything is “perfecto” for your Costa Rican surf retreat. You can find Sara chillin’ on the beach every sunset with her sweet dog, Ruca.

Lucie

Lead Surf Instructor


A true ocean baby, Lucie was raised on the Channel Islands, started surfing at age 10 and fell deeply in love with the peace, strength, and other-wordly magic of the sea. She started competing in her teens, began teaching at 16, and has spent the past 18 years instructing students all over the world! From her very first trip to Costa Rica with five surfer amigas, Lucie was touched by the perfect warm waves and sunny days, and knew she had to make this magical paradise her home. She is thrilled to bring her joy for surfing, years of experience, love of adventure, and infectious spirit to Pura Vida Adventures. When not surfing at Playa Carmen Lucie loves hatha yoga (she completed a hridaya teacher training in Mexico and a hatha training Nepal!), meditation, dancing around and being in nature.

Cristina Kalyani

Yoga Guru


Cris has been the yoga guru for Pura Vida Adventures for over a decade. Born in Brazil, this globetrotting goddess fell in love with yoga at a very young age, becoming a devout practitioner of Hatha and Bhakti yoga at only 18. She studied full time at the Swasthya Yoga School in Brazil and attended a variety of workshops there that deepened her passion for yoga. Now with decades of experience, Cris has taught, practiced, and studied yoga all over the world (from Chile to India to England to Guatemala). But it is the beauty and peace of Costa Rica that makes her call Santa Teresa home. When she’s not leading us all into restorative or rejuvenating poses, Cris loves spending time with her daughter Jaya, designing yoga-inspired jewelry and surfing the serene waves of Santa Teresa.

Ale

Surf Instructor


With a kind heart, a quirky sense of humor, and just the right amount of sassy spirit, Ale has the perfect blend of compassion and no-nonsense know-how to get you riding ANY wave that comes your way– the literal AND the emotional ones! (There’s a reason she’s dubbed “The Surf Whisperer!”) With a Costa Rican father and an El Salvadorian mother, Ale is a Central American goddess who started surfing before there were many women in the water. Before joining Pura Vida Adventures, Ale worked for many surf camps worldwide, but now calls Santa Teresa home, where the ocean is her office. Ale is also a certified yoga instructor and CrossFit trainer who loves watching movies in bed, eating cookies, and getting crumbs all over the sheets.

Michelle

Surf Instructor


Born just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica, Michelle is a rica tica chica (a beautiful Costa Rican woman) through and through. She’s a surfer who always has a smile on her face, a massive cheerleader to everyone in the waves, and a dedicated volunteer for the local Asociacion de Surf, which organizes the town’s surf contests and provides lessons for local kids. Michelle also runs her own ocean-inspired clothing company for women who like the sea and like to be seen. Michelle loves EVERYTHING surf related, dancing like the goddess she is, making gluten-free cakes, and tooling around the town on her ATV with her two dogs, Blackie and Sparky, riding in the front basket.

Kathy Aka Mama Kitty

Reservations Specialist


“Wind Beneath My Wings” is about Mama Kitty. No joke! When the camp staff is enjoying themselves with the clients, Kathy is behind the scenes coordinating all of the booking, administration, and customer service care for PVA. Mama Kitty is Tierza’s mom, and loves working closely with her daughter. After owning a successful horse show business, she decided to help her daughter with her business. Occasionally she can be spotted lazing around the pool, or kicking up her heels to a favorite tune. Mama Kitty loves helping people fulfill their dreams and enjoys hearing the reasons why they want to go on a surf and yoga retreat.

Russell

Surf Instructor


Russell caught the bug for the beach life at age 13, when he first started surfing in the frigid waters of England. By 16 he was an instructor and lifeguard at his home break, and at 21 completed a university degree in Surf Science and Technology (It’s a real thing!) Armed with his education and ready to hunt for warm water and perfect waves, Russell headed to Costa Rica and was drawn in by the beautiful beaches and relaxed tropical living. Since 2006 Russell has called Santa Teresa home, pursuing his love of teaching surfing and becoming a private chef. When he’s not whipping up delicious vegan tiramisu or cheering on surfers in the lineup, Russell loves studying ancient history and esoteric philosophy, keeping up his yoga practice, and sweating it out on the dance floor.

Annie

Surf Instruction/Copywriter


A PVA veteran, guest-instructor, and social media maven, Annie came to Santa Teresa ten years ago after a Google search for “Surf Schools, Costa Rica” brought up the Pura Vida Adventures website…and the rest is history. After falling in love with the warm tropical waves, the mid-May mangoes, and the awesome PVA community, Annie decided to split her time between Santa Teresa and the States, where she pursued her career as a singer/songwriter. This surfing songstress loves to share her tunes with PVA students and has played with Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Nickel Creek, and members of Wilco. When she’s not teaching at PVA, Annie can be found writing sassy-slash-emotional stories and living a weird digital nomad life as a copywriter and editor.

Scott

Jack of all Trades


A contractor by trade and a mixologist by night, Scott is Tierza’s husband and the jack-of-all-trades who helps out with the ongoings of the business. He has been camp host, marketing guru, mechanic, tour guide, etc. Everyone needs a jack of all trades and a right hand man, and that is Scott. Thankfully Tierza found herself a husband who would follow her to Costa Rica (who wouldn’t) and help her run PVA. You’ll find yourself surfing next to Scott while he cheers you on, chatting with you at sunset with a Pina Colada in hand, or giving you advice on your next kitchen remodel.