By: Ellen Zoe Golden .Photo courtesy: Joe Walsh
When Joe Walsh opened Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in the little house on Tamarindo beach, he had no idea that it would explode into two hotels, three restaurants, a brewery, a surf shop, Robert August surfboard shaping operation, and, of course, popular surf lessons. Although he had an idea that if he just kept surfing, the rest would fall into place.
Today, the father of two boys, and an 8-month old baby girl with wife Holly, still finds time to surf every day, even with the business, and his work as a new Vocal with ADI. THE Tamarindo News chats with Walsh.
THE Tamarindo News: Why did you decide to move to Costa Rica?
Joe Walsh: I saw Robert August surfing at Witch’s Rock in “Endless Summer 2”when I was 18 in San Diego, California. The waves looked awesome, but it wasn’t until I was 20 that I came to Costa Rica for 7 weeks. I stayed at Cabinas Dolly and surfed Tamarindo, Langosta, Grande. I graduated college at 22, that Fall I took another month-long trip here. I realized that if I was going to live on the beach it was going to be a lot easier to do in Costa Rica than back in San Diego. I didn’t have any job prospects after college, I didn’t even want a real job. I wanted to start my own business, a surf camp, and just focus on things that I liked doing. I didn’t have much money so I bought a school bus and drove here in it with Holly, my dad, some other friends. We lived in the bus in the early days here. It was pretty rustic back when we first started out. And of course, I surfed Witch’s Rock on those early trips.
TNN: There are lot of surf towns in Costa Rica? Why Tamarindo?
JW: When we first moved down here we lived in Playa Coco, because I had bought a boat and was captaining trips to Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point, mainly so I could surf Witch’s Rock as much as possible. But I also found myself taking people to Tamarindo to give them surf lessons because there aren’t any beginner waves around Coco. I realized that I preferred working with learning surfers as much or more than advanced surfers, and there seemed to be more of a long-term future in teaching surfing, so Tamarindo seemed like the best place. I knew even back then that Tamarindo was a growing surf destination, and it really is a great town if you’re a surfer.
TNN: You have always been community minded. Why did you get involved with helping Tamarindo?
JW: That’s a funny question, because I don’t look at myself as helping Tamarindo as much as I see myself as contributing to a community that I live in and love. Tamarindo receives very little financial support from the Municipality of Santa Cruz, which is ironic since Tamarindo is responsible for such a large percentage of its tax dollars. I guess instead of complaining about what our government isn’t doing I’d rather focus on what we as residents can do.
TNN: You pay a lifeguard’s salary, run the ADI Lifeguard committee, that’s a lot right there. Why do you think people don’t get involved?
JW: I was actually elected onto the ADI board this past June, so now I also get to vote on all town issues, not just the lifeguards! As I became more and more involved with the Tamarindo Lifeguard program, I started to see how much work was being done by ADI volunteers on behalf of our entire community. It was inspiring. But then I also saw how little funding Tamarindo receives from the government and how few community members were contributing towards our town’s community association and I was sad. I wanted to help raise awareness for our community needs and raise more financial support for ADI. Our town needs help maintaining security, lifeguards, community parks, beach/street trash collection and more. Nobody else is going to do this for us. A lot of people like to complain about what isn’t working without doing anything to try to make things better, and many of those that do want to make things better only want to do things their own way. This way of thinking needs to change. We as a community can get so much more accomplished if we work together as a team. I think the biggest problem is that most people in our community are simply unaware of what our town needs or how they can help.
TNN: What is your vision for the business and your family?
JW: I never had the vision that Witch’s Rock Industries would grow into the 120 employee company that it is today. We just grew organically. I have always reinvested our profits and I try to give people more and more of what they want. I’ve definitely had a lot of fun making a career out of things I enjoy. I’ll probably continue down the same path; the idea of retiring sounds horrible. I am total family guy, so it’s great to always have my family so close by. My boys have started working in the surf shop and the coffee shop this past summer break so that has been a really cool experience for all of us. Maybe our kids will get more involved in the family business down the road, but that’s going to be their decision. We used to home school the boys, but now we have them at La Paz. I envision at some point in the future we’ll take them out of school again, buy another school bus, and this time take it on a big adventure around the world.