Today we interview Isabelle Kossin, the first student certified by the method Oriented Consciousness Mastering in the Practice of Surfing.
As a fan of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB), Nature and the city of Rio de Janeiro, Isabelle shares with us some of her impressions, curiosities, difficulties, discoveries and joys while endeavoring into a long-term learning process with Prof. Bruno Castello da Costa, for what has represented an early experimental phase of his current Maritime Education & Surfing course.
We hope that you enjoy the story!
SurfingPedagogy.com: GOOD MORNING, ISABELLE. HOW ARE YOU? WOULD YOU PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THOSE FROM OUR AUDIENCE WHO STILL DON’T KNOW YOU? THANK YOU.
Isabelle: Hello, good morning. My name is Isabelle Kossin. I’m from Germany, and today I live in New York.
SurfingPedagogy.com: ISABELLE, WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION? AND DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES?
Isabelle: I’m a musician and a composer. I like photography and traveling; bicycling, and now I have a skateboard as well. I love the sea, and I enjoy Nature – even the mountains –, but what I like the most is the sea.
SurfingPedagogy.com: WHEN DID YOU LIVE IN RIO DE JANEIRO?
Isabelle: I lived in Rio between 2004 and 2013.
SurfingPedagogy.com: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE IN RIO?
Isabelle: I came on vacation, with a friend, before finishing high school. I was fascinated by the city, so I decided to attend college here afterwards. Then, in 2004 I was back as a college student.
SurfingPedagogy.com: HAVE YOU FINISHED COLLEGE? AND WHAT ELSE DID YOU ACCOMPLISH IN RIO DURING THE TIME YOU WERE HERE?
Isabelle: After concluding college, I took a master’s. Furthermore, I went to music school.
Not too long after my arrival, I began taking lessons with Prof. Bruno Castello da Costa.
I made many friends, learned about the Brazilian culture and improved my Portuguese. Rio is such a diverse city, and I got to live in many neighborhoods – to me, it seems as if I had had several lives within the same town: I first went to Copacabana, then Barra da Tijuca, Leme, Tijuca, Urca and, then, back to Copacabana.
SurfingPedagogy.com: HOW DID YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SEA – AND ALSO WITH PROF. BRUNO CASTELLO DA COSTA – BEGIN?
Isabelle: I’m used to going to the beach since my childhood. I would go on vacation with my family to other countries. On those occasions I even got to try Windsurfing and Diving, among other beach aquatic sports.
When I arrived here, I first entered the sea in Copacabana. I thought I was a decent swimmer by then, but totally unaware of the beach environment.
Because of a friend who invited me to become her roommate in Barra da Tijuca, I got to know a group of surfers who lived in the same house. They were part of CTSurf, a Surfing training center founded by Brazilian entrepreneur Bruno Moreira and former professional bodyboarder Marcello Pedro. It was then that I first met Prof. Bruno Castello; he was one of the CTSurf instructors.
Initially, our idea was that he was going to be my personal trainer. However, our training quickly seemed to switch focus, as the sea began to play a larger role in our lessons. And that’s how my sea studies began. Up to then, one can say I had an appreciation for the sea – and a certain intimacy, maybe –, but I lacked any kind of knowledge in that regard at the time, and that early contact here in Barra da Tijuca has enabled me to the initiation of that study.
SurfingPedagogy.com: AND HOW WAS IT THAT YOUR TRAINING – INITIALLY THOUGHT TO BE JUST PHYSICAL – ENDED UP AS A LEARNING COURSE ABOUT THE SEA AND THE WAVES?
Isabelle: As I said, we started as a basic personal training program on the beach, jogging on the sand, performing crunches, those kinds of things – and that was right during the initial stages of the development of Prof. Bruno Castello’s pedagogical theory with respect to the teaching of Surfing. As his research advanced, our lessons progressively seemed to change – which to me felt as a quite natural tendency.
I think it was some sort of symbiotic relation. My interest for studying the sea was growing higher, as to me Prof. Bruno Castello seemed to realize that Surfing schools did not provide the kind of knowledge that he wanted to communicate, and that in fact no written sources existed that could deliver what he considered important to be taught.
So my interest in learning such subject – and I’m not talking about Bodysurfing yet, but Maritime Swimming and simply knowing the sea –, began to grow along with Prof. Bruno Castello’s ‘internal flame’ of embracing that into a structured method.
SurfingPedagogy.com: HAD YOU ALREADY HAD ANY EXPERIENCE WITH THE LEARNING OF SURFING PRIOR TO THAT? IN WHICH WAY DO YOU BELIEVE PROF. BRUNO CASTELLO’S MARITIME EDUCATION WORK ACQUIRES A DIFFERENT SCOPE THAN THAT OF THE TRADITIONAL SURFING SCHOOLS?
Isabelle: I had already taken a few Surfing school lessons by then. I even bought a board at some point, but obviously I did not know anything about the sea, could not use the rip current to my advantage. It was a total disaster and I was lucky!
I think Prof. Bruno Castello’s method to be revolutionary, because no one teaches what he teaches; there are a lot of people who probably understand what he understands, but don’t know how to pass it on, because to them such piece of knowledge remains somewhat subconscious. Prof. Bruno Castello has managed to activate that information, rationally analyzing what people who have learned through the “Natural Method” usually fail to explain, nor have never analyzed: why did I fall in ‘that’ situation? why do I have to do ‘it’ this way? why must I not do ‘this’? etc. And he went on, perfecting more and more his perspective – and I find that revolutionary!
In that sense, this thorough study of the sea, getting to know your own limits, how your body interacts with the water – a wild environment… It’s revolutionary.
And all that, the whole idea behind it has always been that of a great autonomy – finding a balance: he gives a lot of support to the student, he gives a lot of respect for the student, he demands a lot of respect for his work, but at the same time he provides a lot of autonomy. It feels like if I were a child, able to freely run within the boundaries of a large, wild playpen. Maybe this will sound a little weird, but you cannot get this feeling from a traditional Surfing instructor; in that case it would feel more like a child kept ‘in leash’. This is what the difference is all about, so I think it’s revolutionary.
It gives you a deeper understanding of the environment, and makes you understand yourself better as well. There’s no one to push you into the wave, there’s no one to take you out there beyond the surf… It’s you. And he acts in a way to progressively allow his student to accomplish that, respecting each student’s own reality – this is revolutionary!
I beg your pardon, but other people pass on a complete distorted reality, alleviating the student’s real situation with the addition of that extra knowledge of theirs to that of the student. And that echoes on when you are body-to-body in the water, when someone is holding you, holding your board, pushing and pulling you around. You mix your reality with that of the student: if I can make it out on a 6-foot surf with you on a regular lesson day, I think it is normal to assume I can repeat such feat on my own.
SurfingPedagogy.com: JUST A BRIEF PARENTHESIS: YOU’VE MENTIONED THE EXPRESSION “NATURAL METHOD” ON THE SECOND PARAGRAPH OF YOUR PREVIOUS ANSWER; COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN THAT TO US?
Isabelle: In the case of Prof. Bruno Castello’s research, the “Natural Method” refers to the way people learned to surf before the advent of the Surfing schools, up to the late 1980’s in the city of Rio de Janeiro. You would learn from others, observing and performing, without a lesson, without an instructor to push you into the wave; you would persist on your own accompanied by your friends.
SurfingPedagogy.com: WHAT DOES THE CERTIFICATE YOU’VE RECEIVED FROM PROF. BRUNO CASTELLO MEAN – “SURF SWIMMER” –, AND FOR HOW LONG HAVE YOU TAKEN LESSONS WITH HIM?
Isabelle: To me this certificate symbolizes what I’ve conquered along with Prof. Bruno Castello during the 7 years we’ve been together. Today I feel I have the ability to recognize the wild environment, its inherent risk, my condition and limitations, what I am and what I am not able to accomplish in that scenario. I feel the confidence I have on my perception of the sea is the same confidence that Prof. Bruno Castello has on my judgment.
SurfingPedagogy.com: CONSIDERING THE ENTIRE WORK YOU AND PROF. BRUNO CASTELLO HAVE PUT UP TOGETHER, HOW DID YOUR SURFBOARD-RELATED SKILLS EVOLVE?
Isabelle: Maritime swimming – and all that knowledge about the sea – forms the base, indeed, to all the aquatic sports that take place in the surf. So, regardless if we pick Bodyboarding, Longboarding, Shortboarding or Bodysurfing – or even good old-fashion Swimming –, the base remains the same.
After going through Prof. Bruno Castello’s initial steps, he opened me up that possibility, saying I could opt for the surfboard if I wanted to. But in fact I had never developed a greater desire for the board, so I preferred to focus on Bodysurfing – which I feel to be more immediate, the contact with the water to be more immediate. But one choice does not prevent the other, absolutely: the other way around, it represents the base to all aquatic sports that take place in the surf.
SurfingPedagogy.com: HAVING ACCUMULATED THIS MARITIME EDUCATION & SURFING EXPERIENCE OF YOURS, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT OPINION ON THE LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT SEEK TO LEARN THE SPORT OF SURFING NOWADAYS? IF YOU COULD, WOULD YOU GIVE THEM ANY PIECE OF ADVICE?
Isabelle: It is very important to establish a distinction between someone who wants to learn the sport from someone else who wants to have fun (on a surfboard, during a two-week vacation, etc.). This is essential.
For anyone who wants to learn the sport, I reckon the study of Maritime Education to be essential.
On the other hand, if your goal is mere fun – in the context of a controlled ‘reality’, a controlled situation –, if you’re not interested at all in deepening your knowledge in the sport – or in surfing on your own –, then I don’t see why not enrolling in a Surfing school. In that case, I think the ancient model of the Surfing schools is okay: you will be able to stand up on the board on your first or second day, take a photograph and upload it to your social network – and that’s good enough.
Now, if there is any desire in learning more about the sport, or any desire in acquiring the necessary autonomy to enter the water on your own, then Maritime Education becomes essential, a matter of life and death.
SurfingPedagogy.com: HAVE YOU READ THE BOOK ORIENTED CONSCIOUSNESS MASTERING IN THE PRACTICE OF SURFING? WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT TO INSTRUCTORS, STUDENTS AND/OR SURFING ENTHUSIASTS?
Isabelle: I’ve definitely read the book! This book, this methodology, is a profound analysis of everything a Surfing instructor should know – and I hope they do –, but that probably still remains as part of their subconscious. It is essential, and will most certainly help. Everything in it has already been analyzed, put into words. Many things in the learning of the sport seem to be instinctive, but as we analyze the work we realize those can be explained. A work of years, in collaboration with fundamental adjoining areas: the psychological, the environmental, the human body, the biomechanics; all that. All that comes into play, things that a Surfing instructor will probably fail to know all at once.
So it represents an incredible foundation to assist in the instructor’s work, and for the student it is just as essential. That’s what I keep telling everyone – because there’s nothing alike –, it’s a world, it’s a new world that unfolds. And for this you don’t even have to get in the water: for those who simply enjoy observing the surf, the knowledge in this book will launch you towards a broader look over that scene.
SurfingPedagogy.com: HOW DOES IT FEEL AFTER YEARS OF ACTIVELY TAKING PART IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF PROF. BRUNO CASTELLO’S METHODOLOGY?
Isabelle: I’m very proud of participating since the beginning. Because Prof. Bruno Castello is an incredible human being, with a revolutionary vision that most people did not understand at first, and whose relevance has become more and more evident nowadays. The work he wrote is an inheritance that he left to mankind! I know there’s nothing similar, it is revolutionary: his approach, to the sport, the way he does, is unique!
SurfingPedagogy.com: DO YOU HAVE PLANS OF COMING BACK TO RIO, AND/OR PERMANENTLY RETURNING TO SURF OTHER BEACHES?
Isabelle: I want to return to Rio on a regular basis – for vacation, at least. But now, within two weeks I am moving – from New York to California –, exactly because I want to bring back this environment into my life, and resume my daily encounters with the sea.
SurfingPedagogy.com: DEAR ISABELLE, IT’S BEEN A GREAT PLEASURE THE OPPORTUNITY OF THIS INTERVIEW. WE APPRECIATE YOUR ATTENTION, AND WISH YOU ALL THE BEST IN YOUR CAREER AND PERSONAL LIFE. WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEAVE A FINAL MESSAGE TO OUR AUDIENCE?
Isabelle: The message I would like to leave is for anyone who holds any interest on the sea, that you should read the book. And who gets a chance, when coming to Rio try taking a few lessons with Prof. Bruno Castello – or simply getting in touch with him. Because now he’s just had a beautiful baby daughter, and when he gets to his fifth child he probably won’t be giving lessons anymore – enjoy him while he’s still available!
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