Skiers take on Costa Rica

The men’s alpine ski team hit up Costa Rica over spring break to take in new scenery and learn a thing or two about surfing.

The Castleton men’s Alpine Ski Team finished their season on an incredible high; dominating the winter sport across the east coast and nationally. 

Following such success called for a drastic shift in climate, activity and geography. Indeed, a surf adventure to Costa Rica was determined appropriate for two vacation groups amounting to 12 members of the men’s team. 

And spring break provided the ideal timeline to organize the trip, allowing the weather to slowly tan their skin before returning to their sun-deprived companions in Vermont.

But it wasn’t a flawless excursion. 

“The trip was stressful and very long,” explained senior Lorenzo Mencaccini, who returned to New England with 16 extra stitches along his heel. 

Both groups experienced the inconveniences of travel, exaggerated by international statuses. The larger of the two groups aimed to anticipate the hurdles of travel in the planning. 

“Organizing the trip was definitely a challenge. Good thing we started so early because then we had a meeting every two to three weeks,” Juan Alba Praska said. 

But upon arrival, the woes of travelling were overridden by the expanse of beaches, colors of sunsets, and mysticality of exotic fauna and flora. 

The two groups diverged regarding their approach to the animals inhabiting the country; while the smaller of the two groups encountered “parrots, tapirs, monkeys and iguanas” Mencaccini, in the larger group, noted “I must say that we limited ourselves to staying within the cities so as to not run into unpleasant surprises.” 

In contrast, the remaining group made a concentrated effort to seek out the peculiarities of Costa Rica in a guided rainforest tour, though Aksel Stroem-Hansen pointed out that they “ended up finding no one.” 

“We only saw a big rat and two birds but in our backyard of one Airbnb there were a couple of parrots,” he said. 

The lack of involuntary wildlife confrontation may have allowed the group to relax into the vacation, 

“We didn’t see any snakes, which Louis (Rives) was worried about,” Alba Praska said. 

Although, a possible crocodile sighting during a surf session was enough for Stroem-Hansen, Alba Praska and another Norwegian companion to “spook us to get screaming, and get out of the water!” he said. 

In terms of surfing, the ski team demonstrated the transferability of skills as they immersed themselves into the tranquility of waves. Mencaccini said surfing was “extremely fun, while I could.” 

“The freedom of being in the middle of the ocean and surfing the waves is something indescribable,” he said 

Mencaccini’s “while I could” clause harkens to the dangers of surfing, tying into Stroem-Hansen’s comment of Jaco’s larger waves, 

“I was pretty overwhelmed. It was a big struggle and the waves really, you really had to give them a lot of respect. A couple times I got wiped out and like sucked into the tumble-dryer and the wave just takes control of you and you don’t really know what’s up or down until you see some froth and swim to the surface,” he said. 

A similar scenario caused a brief medical emergency as Elliot Perretta’s board slammed into Mencaccini, the fin slicing his heel and leaving him with 16 stitches and an end to his Costa Rica surf career. 

“You know when you are an athlete, you always want to do something new and instead you are stuck with an injury, it hurts. But we had a lot of fun in every way and got to admire a part of the world unknown to us,” said Mencaccini optimistically. 

Nonetheless, both groups recounted a fabulous holiday, pointing to the final sunset as a worthy memory. 

“The last night we were out surfing in the sunset and all the boys were at the scene and we could just see people laying around waiting for waves, enjoying the sunset,” Stroem-Hansen said. 

Mencaccini also mentioned the prominent sunsets, noting they were “something magnificent. The sky was colored bright red and it is something I will carry in my heart for a long time.” 

Returning to Castleton proved challenging for both groups. Indeed, the international status of each vacationer is a tell-tale sign of extensive foreign entry lines, as Mencaccini recounted. 

“We managed to catch the second flight on the last available call. This was due to the big line at 5:30 a.m. at the checkpoints for foreign people. It made us lose a good two hours,” he said. 

Alba Praska recalled the return trip for his group included rental car drop-offs at 10 a.m., several hours waiting at the airport, a one-hour flight, a one-hour layover, another four-hour flight, arrival in New York City at 2 a.m., a five-hour bus wait, three-hour bus ride and the final car ride to Castleton from Albany. 

Upon returning to campus and into the lull of classes and assignments, Stroem-Hansen uses his experience to encourage large-group holidays. H said despite inevitable tensions and minor conflicts, a rhythm can be found. 

“I recommend to anyone going on a big trip just to emphasize that it’s okay to have differences and just embrace it. Really, there’s no need to force people to do stuff that they don’t want to do, and say okay, we are on vacation let’s do what we want to do the most.” 

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