IRIGARAY, Costa Rica — Eladio Castro is an ecotourism guide in the extreme.
Whether bouncing down a washed-out road through the forest in a four-wheel-drive or standing chest deep in surging Pacific waves teaching students how to surf, Eladio’s enthusiasm seems inexhaustible.
“Pura vida,” he shouts with frequency. The term, translated literally as “Pure life,” is commonly expressed by Costa Ricans. It means “cool,” or “excellent” or “all good.”
A relentlessly positive attitude, broad smile, sturdy stance, strong handshake, and powerful voice — these are Eladio’s signature characteristics. Everywhere he goes people seem to know him. An instant friend.
With gusto, he taught the students to surf. But the way he carries himself also reminded them to take time to be happy and thankful, to go with the flow, and to have just plain clean fun.
Eladio’s passions are nature, surfing and Peña Bruja (Witch’s Rock). The water around this huge rock just off Playa Naranjo (Naranjo Beach) in Santa Rosa National Park is his favorite place to surf. Commercial photographers and filmmakers have recorded his exploits there. He talks of Peña Bruja frequently, and if you mention the rock to him at any other time, his eyes suddenly light up with fire and glee.
“Tuanis,” he said to us yesterday, with a playful laugh, as he bid us goodbye. This was a new word for us, and we had to look it up later. Pronounced TWAN-EES, the word is the Costa Rican slang equivalent of “cool.” Thus, it’s also a synonym for “Pura vida.”
When I shook Eladio’s hand, I called him “El Rey de Peña Bruja” (The King of Witch’s Rock). He laughed so hard the earth shook. He repeated it in Spanish, said it in English, then laughed again.
Anyone who meets him will find it difficult not to be captured by his spirit, and propelled by it.
— Bill Allen