Matt And Natasha Craig – Pursuing Passions
Sometimes the stuff you are passionate about can make you do crazy things. Like packing up your house and young family and moving to the jungles of Costa Rica.
Natasha Craig and her Kiwi husband Matt did just that in 2008, just before the Global Financial Crisis hit. They swapped their office clothes for board shorts and bikinis, quitting their day jobs in the U.S.A. to become surf instructors in the middle of nowhere.
“I said to Matt: Let’s do something different,” says Natasha. “Matt was a sailmaker by trade and I knew he yearned to return to the ocean. He replied: Okay!”
Six weeks after making the decision to move, the couple were running Point Break Surf School in Playa Grande, Costa Rica. For the next five years they followed their passions: living by the ocean, spending more time with their kids, even learning a little Spanish.
“It was everything we dreamed of and more,” says Natasha. “We love adventure and that is exactly what we got.”
Matt recalls how they would “hand-cut a path through the jungle down to the beach, so we could drive (customers) the last kilometre or so through this trail in the bush,” says Matt. “We would come out on a secluded beach with no one else around, and they’d be like Whoa!”
However, following your dreams isn’t always easy. Natasha was born profoundly deaf, and the doctors told her mother to send her away to an Institution for the deaf.
“Luckily, my mom refused and found a program in New York where they were putting hearing aids on deaf babies and teaching them to speak,” recalls Natasha. “For the first five years of my life, my mom sat with me every day and taught me.”
She says that school was easy compared to finding a job, due to her disability.
“My education was in marketing and business, and it was difficult to convince employers to hire me over someone who could talk on the phone,” she says. “I knew I had to create my own line of work. After getting my Masters in Business Administration from the University of Oregon, a friend of mine and I started an online portal for watersports.”
“An essential part of being human is communication. Prior to the advent of email and the internet, being deaf could be isolating and challenging because of communication difficulties. Little things like not being able to make phone calls or watch movies became big things. That’s why I turned to running and adventure.”
After their five years in Costa Rica the adventure drifted towards another paradise: New Zealand. “Our kids were getting older and had interests outside of the beach. We wanted to move to a place where we could become an integral part of the community. Matakana ended up being the perfect place for us,” says Natasha.
They started Matakana Beach Outfitters in 2013, selling wetsuits, stand-up paddleboards and surf boards, and inspiring budding paddlers and surfers through their lessons. In 2016, they moved up the road and expanded their product range to become Summer Sessions.
They are involved with fundraising and junior lifesaving at the Omaha Surf Club. “This summer, we staged a beach triathlon to help raise money and it was really well received.” Both Matt and Natasha are eager to compete when they get the chance and recently Matt came back from the Surf Life Saving Nationals in Gisborne, where he earned silver in the beach flags and bronze in the board, for Masters in 40-44 range. He also medaled in several relays with the Omaha Surf Club. “Finally, last year he competed in the World Masters Games for Surf Life Saving and did really well, where he won several medals, including a gold in the 2km beach sprint and silver in the board race in the masters division.” says Natasha.
“Our focus is to help people in our community stay connected to the water by whatever means,” says Natasha. “Time in the water is a balm to the soul – an invitation to be in the moment.” So now that Matt and Natasha have us all hooked on stand up paddleboarding, what’s the next craze? “We’re looking at foilboarding,” she says. “We had a go on a foil last week and loved it.…so stay tuned.”
44 Matakana Valley Road, Matakana