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Holly Beck grew up the oldest of five girls in Palos Verdes, CA. She always loved the water and wanted to learn to surf around age 12 but her very old-fashioned mother would not allow it, telling her, “surfing is for boys, you’ll never get a boyfriend out there competing with them. You should be sitting on the beach looking cute in a bikini!” By age 15 Holly had saved up babysitting money, bought herself a surfboard and a wetsuit and never looked back.
In June of 2001, Holly graduated from UCSD with a degree in Psychology and won the amateur National Surfing Championships. She turned pro and spent the next 10 years traveling all over the world to places like Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Gabon, Sao Tome, the Seychelles, the Andaman Islands, Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, England, France, Portugal, Ecuador, the Galapagos, Mexico, and Costa Rica. On a trip to Nicaragua in 2006 she fell in love with the warm water waves, friendly locals, and laid-back lifestyle, bought land, and began to fantasize about moving to Central America full time.
While still traveling as a pro, Holly earned an MBA in Marketing and crafted a business plan to start a women’s surf school in Nicaragua. In 2010, she founded Suave Dulce, later changing the name to Surf With Amigas. She is always looking for new learning opportunities and challenges and is currently in process of earning another Master’s degree in Counseling, planning to get licensed as a therapist. She relocated back to California in August of 2021 to volunteer with Groundswell Community Project as a Surf Therapy intern and has created a new Holistic Surf Coaching program in Southern California. She will continue to run Surf With Amigas from afar and make guest appearances in Central America a few times per year.
To learn more about Holly’s new projects, click here.
Jackie George grew up spending the majority of her time on the beaches of her southern California hometown, San Clemente, where she developed her expertise as a water woman and beach bum. In high school, she embraced the path set before her by previous generations of lifeguards, swimmers, surfers, and water polo players and devoted her time and energy to exactly those things. Jackie went to on to study cultural geography and Spanish at Humboldt State University where she was able to explore California’s more remote coastline, the home of bigger waves and colder water. It was in Humboldt that she developed a love for a natural and slow-paced lifestyle, but eventually tired of the cold weather, and decided to head south to Nicaragua for the winter. That first winter working with Holly quickly turned into eight months, which quickly turned into a business partnership and friendship that is going on six years.
Before coming to Nicaragua, Jackie worked as a surf instructor up and down the coast of California, a beach lifeguard, a swim instructor and coach, and a whitewater rafting guide, and spent any free time she had traveling the world in search of adventure. Working with Surf With Amigas seems to be a culmination of her university studies, guiding and ocean experience, and inherent love of travel coming together to provide her dream lifestyle. In her time off from retreats you can find her searching for surf somewhere in Central America, hanging with her boyfriend on her little farm in northern Nicaragua, or cruising up and down California’s highway 1 in her camper truck.
Carly Chivers is one of the rare instructors that excels at both surfing and yoga. She is both a surf and yoga instructor. The path of self inquiry through yoga practice is an ongoing exploration for Carly. She attended Brandon University in Canada, studying psychology and world religion, and competing in volleyball at the CIS level. During this time, the practice of yoga came about as a way to balance out her life, and her physical body from the constant impact of sport. Since then, yoga has evolved into a constant source of deep grounding and inspiration in her life.
Yoga, combined with a dedicated passion for surfing, has led her all over the world. She has surfed and explored Europe, N. Africa, Indonesia, Hawaii and is currently living in Central America. Her love for the ocean and surfing has a strong influence on her yoga practice. Carly often marvels at the parallels and level of meditation that both surfing and yoga offer, both allowing for moments of deep connection to nature and to self. The ebbs and flows of moving through life and the constant flux of the ocean are great teachers for Carly, always reminder her to let go, enjoy the ride and find an immense of level of gratitude in every moment.
After years of practice, Carly took the leap to become a 200 HR RYT in 2011. Since then Carly has been studying, and sharing her contagious love for yoga, and the peace she finds on the mat with her students. Carly challenges her students to express their most authentic self on the mat, and in the world. Teaching, sharing her passion with others, and encouraging her students to pursue what inspires them, is what keeps Carly going!
Learn more about her by clicking here
Cherise Richards grew up in Ashland, Oregon and spent almost twenty years in the modern dance world as a performer, teacher and choreographer. She has a BFA in Dance from UCSB and an MFA in Choreography from California Institute of the Arts. She has also been a member of the Capoeira community for 20 years and has taught Dance and Capoeira at Loyola Marymount University, CalArts, UCSB and ACDFA among others. She had her sights set on a dance teaching career at the college level, but found her time and attention being dominated more and more by her growing love of surfing and the beach lifestyle. The shift from dancer to surf instructor/full time beach dweller was made official when she packed her belongings into a storage unit and started working for Surf with Amigas in Nicaragua.
Michelle Kienlen was born in Black River Falls, Wisconsin and moved to St Petersburg, Florida at the age of 6. Growing up fishing, playing softball and a few musical instruments she was not introduced to surfing until the age of 15. That first wave was all it took and she was hooked. Surfing instantly turned into a passion. Her parents were unsupportive but as soon as Michelle was 16 she drove across the state every weekend to surf the Atlantic side of Florida and learned to surf. She picked up a few small sponsors including Nekton surf shop, NXTC shapes, Zinka, and DNA energy drinks. With the support of Tommy Daniels shaping her boards and coaching, Michelle started avidly competing, surfing small waves in ESA and local pro-am contests all around Florida.
After that, she decided to start traveling in search of better waves in between school and work. At the age of 19 a close friend brought her and her friend Nina to Puerto Rico. They loved the perfect Caribbean waves and took many trips back to PR to surf. Since then Michelle has traveled to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and El Salvador. She is currently taking classes online and working at the Don Cesar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, Florida, when not surfing with and inspiring Amigas.
Watch some of her surf and adventures here
Coco grew up in the Caribbean on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands.. It was there that her and her two sister’s started surfing together. Unfortunately the waves weren’t very consistent so their new focus was to travel.Coco has surfed all over the world, catching waves in Australia, California, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico, New York, Nicaragua Panama, Puerto Rico, and the British Virgin Islands.She has been surfing for more than 15 years, and in 2009 she earned a diploma in Sports Management & Surfing Studies from Southern Cross University in Queensland, Australia. In 2015, she was inspired to turn her love of the sport into her full-time career so that she could share her passion with others. She has taught professional surf instruction in Australia, Costa Rica, New York and the Virgin Islands.
Coco also developed an interest in Yoga after she used yoga therapy as a way to heal from an injury. She later went on to study Yoga at the Dyhana Ayurvedic Center in California. She got her 200 RTY in 2014, and now teaches restorative Yoga, focusing on practices and poses specifically for surfers. Coco loves sunsets, coconuts, running on the beach, being barefoot and hunting for perfect waves and empty line ups. She currently resides in Playa Grande, Costa Rica with her twin flame of 10 years.
Chloe Piester grew up in St. Augustine, a small beach town in North Florida, and started surfing around age seven alongside her entire family. For her, the ocean has always been home and surfing has always been just a part of life. She landed her first gig as a surf instructor at an all-girls summer surf camp when she was just thirteen and has been working as a surf instructor at various surf schools ever since.
For years, Chloe was studying business and marketing in San Diego and traveling down to Central America to work retreats with SWA during her semester breaks. She recently graduated and now bounces between Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Southern California, where she teaches surfing and works remotely in social media marketing . When she’s not out in the water or editing a new SWA post on Instagram, you might find her roaming through the city streets of Nicaragua or on a wild search for fun beaches and friends along the coast.
Shelly Massie is the youngest of six kids and grew up on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. She spent her childhood following her brothers around playing all sports but her favourites were soccer and bodyboarding. When she reached 15, she ditched the bodyboard and taught herself how to surf. Shortly after, she started teaching at a local surf school on the Sunny Coast.
She studied primary school teaching at university whilst working with children in outdoor education and spent most of her holidays traveling down the east coast of Australia in her van or quick trips to Indo and Fiji. The travel bug kicked in and when she finished her degree she decided she wasn’t ready to get back in a classroom. Instead, Shelly started traveling and finding jobs around the world where she could share her love for surfing. She has worked as a surf instructor/guide in Portugal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, El Salvador and now in Costa Rica.
She believes the most important part of surfing is to have fun. If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong! You can often find Shelly in the line up goofing around on all different sorts of boards, trying to call every wave a party wave. If she is not surfing she is more than likely cracking into coconuts or playing some pranks on her friends.
Natalie Small grew up on the east coast sailing and boogie boarding with her family from North Carolina to Florida until she moved to Los Angeles at age 10. As soon as she had her drivers license she learned to surf and hasn’t stopped since. Her love for the ocean lead her to call “Mi Corazon”, a 28 ft sailboat in San Diego harbor, home in her 20s. Most recently home has been Huanchaco, Peru, known as the birthplace of surfing with the longest left in the world (Chicama) only an hour away.
Gaby Guyon is from Montreal, Canada. In 2015, She changed everything. She traded the cold winters of Quebec for the Costa Rican sun. She finally started living the life she always dreamed of. Surfing has an important place in her heart because of her father. When she was six, he helped her catch her first wave. Since then, her life has revolved around surfing because she couldn’t see any other way to live happily. She spends half of her time studying new surfing technics and the other half sharing her knowledge.
She trains, eats and sleeps like an athlete because her goal is to be a better version of herself every day.
She is dedicated and passionate about learning everything regarding surfing, nutrition and fitness. She is deeply motivated to share her knowledge and experience with anyone open to learning. She believes surfing helps people become a better version of themselves, and with better people, we can create a better environment and world to live in!
Emma Castillo grew up in Pacific Palisades, California, and fell in love with surfing at age 12. She spent her high school years growing her surf skills, and working at her local surf shop, ZJ Boarding House. She started surf instruction while earning her degree in Sociology and Politics at UC Santa Cruz. There she also reinstated and led the UCSC surf team, competing in NSSA college events up and down the California coast. After college, she spent four years working in marketing at the World Surf League in Santa Monica, coordinating their global brand and event campaigns. For 5 years, Emma has volunteered with Stoked Org, surf coaching and mentoring underserved youth in Los Angeles.
In between school and work, she’s been lucky to travel and spend time surfing throughout Central America, Brazil, Bali, France, and Morocco. After an extended surf camping trip through Mexico, Emma joined the team at Surf with Amigas. She firmly believes the ocean is for everyone, and sharing surfing with others is one of her favorite things! She is stoked to further Surf with Amigas’ mission to empower women in the water and to help foster their amazing community of lady-shredders.
Beyond surfing, Emma is passionate about sustainability and social justice. She’s also a cheese enthusiast, and a proud dog mom.
Laura Pecoraro was born in Argentina and grew up in the coastal town of Mar del Plata. At age 10 she was handed a surfboard and from that day on she was hooked. Wave riding became an obsession!
With or without permission from her mom, she would do whatever was possible to get in the water. Rain or shine, summer or winter, she was out there.
In South America in the 90s, surf culture was practically non-existent. There was no one to copy or emulate, so the passion came from within. The love for the ocean was real and raw. It was a true companion in the good and bad times of a tumultuous upbringing. Every once in a while Laura would get a hold of a Surfer Magazine and dream of one day making it to Hawaii where the big, warm waves were. There weren’t many woman surfing at that time in her town so she was just one more of the boys surfing and playing soccer on the beach all day long.
After finishing high school Laura got a job and saved all her money, determined to travel and pursue her dream. At age 19, with a surfboard bag under her arm, she bought her first airplane ticket and left home to take a one year surf trip to Costa Rica. A one year surf trip became a lifetime and Costa Rica became her home. The ocean was her college, but, still avid to learn, she took several courses in natural building/carpentry/permaculture and then used those to build her own house. Laura has lived in the small town of Pavones, Costa Rica for 22 years now.
Surfing, teaching surf lessons, fixing boards, doing yoga, reading books, growing food, and tending to her garden are her daily practices. Life for Laura revolves completely around the ocean swells, winds and tides. When she’s not in Costa Rica, she is still chasing that dream of big warm water waves which has taken her to places like Hawaii, Indonesia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador and many more. You can find her walking on some dirt road, barefoot at dawn, surfboard in hand, always looking for those waves, and always looking for the next adventure til’ the day she dies! Always grateful and always loving the simple life.
Xiquiu Acosta (pronounced CQ) is originally from La Guaira, Venezuela. She grew up with the Caribbean ocean as her backyard, playing in the waves, body surfing, diving for shells, and doing whatever she could to stay in the water as long as possible. When she was 12 years old she was introduced to surfing. Only few years later, Xiquiu joined the Venezuela surf selection, where she had the opportunity to participate in international surf competitions like ISA and ALAS. In 2012 she traveled to Costa Rica to receive training for the upcoming competitions, where she fell in love with the country.
After high school she stopped competing and decided to go to college. Her passion for the ocean led her to study Marine biology and aquaculture. Then, at age 19, Xiquiu made the move to Costa Rica, where she still lives now. This country motivated her to form such a passionate relationship with nature. She’s not only addicted to salt water, but she’s also a waterfall hunter, and she loves hiking and exploring the jungle. Whether it’s your first time surfing or you’re eager to progress your skills to the next level, Xiquiu will blissfully share her surf knowledge with you.