“I’ve never gone this fast before. Just hold on. There’s kind of some bumps and I’m just trying to shock absorb everything and then yeah I finally made it to the bottom. I felt like I was going down forever. I was like wow I’m still going down, I’m still going down. I made it to the bottom and was thinking, okay you need to bottom turn. I had so much speed I couldn’t turn the board. When you’re going that fast you’re kind of just going straight because you need to set your rail.”
In this episode we connect with Delia Bense-Kang, a former Surf With Amigas instructor and big wave surfer. Although she hasn’t always identified as a, “big wave surfer”, since learning to surf as a young girl, she has consistently run towards what most of us would consider to be big waves. Finding and pushing her limits first in the in the cold heavy waves of Northern California, to now making a life in the even heavier warm water waves of Hawaii and chasing swells worldwide with the big wave community. In this episode, Delia shares a recent story of her biggest wave (and wipeout) in Todos Santos, Mexico, her tips for dealing with fear, training, and other techniques we can all use to build our own confidence and capabilities in the water.
A PREVIEW OF THIS EPISODE:
“You take a boat out, you’re by an island, there’s emerald blue water. And then we get out there and all these big wave legends were out. It was a full hero session. And then I was like, I’m here too, hi!I feel like in the lineups in those situations, everyone is wanting each other to succeed and be safe and cheering each other on and it’s not as much of a gnarly, jockeying lineup.
So it was kind of one of those scary sessions where you’re just sitting and you’re like, I don’t know if I’m too far inside or too far outside because there hasn’t been a wave in 30 minutes. Then all of a sudden this big wave would come through.
So after being out there for probably like at least an hour, maybe a little bit longer, again, just kind of letting a couple waves go by and watching what everyone’s doing, not paddling straight to the peak, you know, respecting lineup. A wave had come through that no one paddled for and it kind of stood up all of a sudden and I was like, oh, I thought that was a catchable wave. And then, I saw another wave coming through and it didn’t look giant at first. It was just kind of popping, you know, that bump popping up the lineup. And I was in the right place and I just swung around, because no one else was turning. So I was like, all right, I’ll go.”
“I think that [decolonization in surf tourism] might be a frustrating topic because people want answers and solutions, but decolonization is a lens. It’s a way of seeing things that raise these sorts of critical questions to then move towards solutions that are decolonizing.”
In the past several years, we have seen global explosions in surf tourism. In many ways, it feels inevitable. More and more people are discovering the joys of the ocean, embarking on their surf journeys and learning how to both read and ride waves. As surfers, we’re perpetually searching for the next swell, that exhilarating moment when we precariously perch on a slab of foam while careening down a wall of water. Most will stop at nothing to experience that feeling again and again, even if it means entering a pressurized can and cramming your body into a small seat next to a lavatory for 18 hours. But what does it mean for these foreign, often isolated communities when we, as surf travelers, enter their communities in search of the perfect wave?
In this episode, Holly and Jackie discuss what surf tourism looks like in today’s world with Tara Ruttenberg. Tara has a PhD in Development Studies and wrote her thesis on the decolonization of surf tourism. She shares her story of learning to surf, what brought her to study surf tourism in Costa Rica and discusses some of the topics in her thesis. Listen as Holly, Jackie and Tara share stories and their own experiences in the surf tourism industry while also attempting to answer questions like: What does it mean to decolonize oneself? Is there such a thing as sustainable surf tourism? Whether you are a regular or aspiring international surf traveler, this episode’s conversation offers important perspectives to consider in our ever growing, globalized world.
A PREVIEW OF THIS EPISODE:
“So some people define decolonization as returning land to native and indigenous people. So that’s kind of a hard line that some people take but decolonization is not a metaphor. It’s not only this kind of an umbrella term for liberation or social emancipation. [So] I take that approach, but kind of add on, based on the reality that many other things beside land have been colonized through processes of colonization, right? We can think about ideas being colonized. We can think about bodies being colonized. So decolonization can mean the undoing of these things.”
So in the surf tourism context, it means how, if you’re thinking about it from a land perspective, how is land being returned to local people, local surfers, for example, or local communities. It can also mean who has jurisdiction or governance over local resources, or [refer to] how women are interacting in surfing spaces in ways that are undoing relationships of colonization and patriarchy.
So surf culture in Costa Rica exists at the intersection of local culture and foreign surf tourism as a starting point. There’s some assertion of localism that other expats surfers feel in places here, and with or without recognition of the colonial privilege that they bring into these places. So what makes them get to assert some sort of localism or decide that they are locals in these places and therefore have something to say about what you’re (Surf With Amigas) doing?
And looking at who’s doing the localism and what the localism is doing, what it’s upholding or what it’s trying to tear down, that’s a line of questioning that I find fascinating. One of the things or the conclusions that we came to with that article is that there can be some really interesting forms of cooperation or community forged between local surfers and women surfers that can resist some of these more neocolonial experiences in surfing tourism. Because looking at it from kind of a broader picture reality with a lens of colonization, women surfers and local surfers are the ones being edged out or marginalized.”
“Can I try multiple surfboards during the retreat?
What surfboards will be available?
Do I need to bring my own surfboard?”
At all of our retreat locations, and particularly in Northern Nicaragua + Southern Costa Rica, we have large quivers with boards of all shapes and sizes to choose from. You can most certainly collaborate with our coaches to find the perfect board for you, and if you want to try multiple boards, just let us know! From shortboards, fish, and mid-lengths, to high performance longboards or more classic-style logs, we aim to have a well rounded bunch of boards for all lady surfers’ preferences.
We don’t use soft-tops – Contrary to a lot of surf camps and schools, we do not believe in learning on soft-tops. Many surf schools that use soft tops use them because they are cheaper, more durable, and if there is a large student to instructor ratio, everyone can stay safe. The downside to using soft tops is that the fat rails and overly flexible board and fins, perform differently than a standard fiberglass board. Our philosophy is not to simply give you a “surf experience” but to teach you the tools to be able to go home and paddle out confidently on your own. We will teach you how to manage the board safely and you will progress in your surfing faster.
Here’s how it usually works:
First, when you sign up for a retreat and fill out your Amiga profile, we will ask for a few personal surf details including:
Prior surf experience if any (ability level, frequency, where you surf)
Board preference if you have one (size, shape)
Height + weight (to determine the most fitting board)
*if you have any questions about specific boards, be sure to email your retreat leader before your retreat begins.
Then, with this information our experienced surf coaches pre-assign the board(s) they think will most suit your surf level + preferences. When you arrive to the retreat you may start on that board, or pick another. You’ll always have a chance to swap throughout the week with the available boards at the retreat. We recommend to make a note when you fill out your surf details sheet before the retreat if you’re interested in trying multiple or very specific types of boards- so that our team can pull a few aside for you! *IF you are a short-boarder, we highly recommend traveling to the retreat with your own shred sled as our shortboard quiver is not as diverse as our quiver starting at 7′ long.
We will support you in reaching your surfing goals and assist in choosing the most appropriate surfboard(s) to move towards those goals! At Surf With Amigas we invest in offering high-quality surfboards for ladies of ALL surf levels across all of our retreat locations.
Have any questions about surfboard options at a specific retreat location? ASK HERE!
“The community of women surfers and women travelers is really special and so in starting this podcast we hope to really build more ways for people to stay connected and stay a part of that community.”
Surf with Amigas (SWA) has joined the world of podcasters, under the name “Second Breakfast”! If you’ve been on a retreat with us, you know we are big fans of Second Breakfast. We believe in that extra nourishing hot meal shared with new friends post-surf, where we break down what happened in the morning session. We pour a second cup of coffee and get into engaging discussions about life, current events, and of course, all things surfing. Amigas are smart, successful, inspiring women of all ages with interesting stories and world views. We’re not afraid to tackle controversial topics. We appreciate unique perspectives that challenge us to think differently. This podcast brings those discussions to a wider audience to be enjoyed at any time and any place, second cup of coffee optional.
In our inaugural episode, Holly Beck and Jackie George, co-creators of SWA, share their backgrounds in surfing and their journey to create all women’s surf and yoga retreats. From the early days of creating spaces for women’s surfing in Central America, the dirtbag dusty days of no internet and thatched roofs, to ultimately running 8 retreat locations worldwide. Holly and Jackie take us back in time; they share some of their travel experiences and moments that solidified both their friendship and business partnership. You’ll also get a sneak peak of some of their goals and insights as to what SWA may look like moving forwards. Above all, you’ll learn the story and purpose behind Surf With Amigas’ mission, why Holly and Jackie aspire to inspire women and help them step outside their comfort zone, in surfing and in life.
A PREVIEW OF THE FIRST EPISODE:
After stepping away from her career as a professional surfer, Holly thought,
After adding our first ever Adventure Retreat to the schedule (a 3-day whitewater rafting and camping trip in California) we decided to catch up with fellow surfer, kayaker, and yoga teacher, Saanti Steyer. In the excerpt below, Saanti recounts all the things that she’s learned by spending time in rivers and oceans, and the synergy of two sports- surfing and white water rafting.
As I’m floating along the river I feel a sense of calm, the river is calm. The water is peacefully moving downstream, swiftly but with ease. It reminds me of sitting out in the ocean, those moments in-between sets, dangling off my surfboard, body submerged in water, waiting for waves to come. The water goes quiet for a moment, resting, and I take in my surroundings, the beauty of the California Trinities seen at a river’s pace. I think back to the dense Southern Costa Rican jungle being lit up by the first light of day.
This view of land from water, from river, from ocean, it’s my favorite thing.
As our panga skimmed across the open expanse of the Gulfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica, I happily welcomed the view of the flat, glassy ocean that lay ahead. It pained me to admit it, but after months of non-stop surfing and coaching Amigas surf retreats, I had had a bit too much of a good thing. My paddle muscles were ready for a break and I couldn’t be more excited to enjoy some ocean time that didn’t involve waves.
I was on my way to participate in 4-day freediving and spearfishing course. Although I had no formal freediving or spearfishing experience (besides that which comes along with snorkeling or the occasional SCUBA dive), properly learning both was a goal scrawled in the pages of my journals from previous years. I planned on joining the group with two other friends, also with limited experience, but all of us eager to learn more about how to deliberately sink below the surface and stay there, using only the gifts of our bodies and breath.
My goal for the trip was to become better equipped with knowledge that would enable me to unlock a new facet of ocean experience. I’m no professional big wave surfer. I’m not accustomed to impressively long hold-downs, but still, I wanted to become more comfortable in the uncomfortable, not only in my surfing but also in the ocean in general. I’m also a fish lover and was excited to learn more about identifying fish and catching my own food, not just by standing on shore with a line in the water but totally immersed in the ocean, “evening the playing field” so to speak between the hunter and the hunted.
I feel that freediving, spearfishing, and surfing are three activities that perfectly blend. They are complementary, yet distinct avenues for engaging with the marine environment.
We are so proud to announce the sponsorship of up-and-coming Costa Rican surfer girl, Nazareth (“Naza”) Del Mar.
Naza is a 10 year old shredder from Pavones, Costa Rica that has dreams of becoming a professional surfer. The SWA sponsorship offers Naza’s family financial support, giving their daughter a chance to travel to different locations and compete in the national circuit of Costa Rica, while also being professionally coached by SWA instructor, Gabrielle Guyon. With this sponsorship, we hope to inspire girls and women of all ages and nationalities to achieve their surfing dreams and inspire others.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT NAZA
Nazareth Del Mar Velasquez is the oldest of two girls. Her mother, Sylvia, was born and raised Costa Rica, and her father, Jonathan, is from Nicaragua. Nazareth only started surfing three years ago and participated in her first local competition just a year ago, but her love for the ocean comes from before she was born.
Nazareth was an active baby in the womb, constantly moving and kicking her mom’s belly. Her mom Sylvia found that whenever she entered the ocean, Naza would instantly cease her kicking. Since then, Nazareth has felt attracted to the sea but until recently, was never allowed to enter the water. Jonathan, her dad, has an enormous fear of the ocean and marine life. He doesn’t know how to swim and believed it safest for his family to avoid the sea.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Naza’s parents lost their jobs. With more and more time spent inside at home, they realized that there is more to life than work. They wanted to enrich their lives, take advantage of every day, and learn to be more open-minded and flexible. Wanting to ensure their kids also learned this valuable lesson, they realized they could no longer keep them out of the water, especially with a perfect left point-break in their backyard. Jonathan began to teach Naza the importance of bravery by overcoming his own fear of the ocean. Three years ago, they started taking surfboards with them into the water and eventually learned to surf together. Nazareth’s love for surfing and sharing the waves with her dad grew daily.
As surfers, we’re constantly in the sun. Most of us are accustomed to that fried chicken feeling you get after surfing for a few hours, those sessions where you kept claiming “just one more,” even while your skin roasts, turning alarming shades of red.
Although I love living close to the equator (8 degrees to be precise), my skin protests. My Irish ancestors weren’t doing me any favors. I just wasn’t built for the life of sun’s out buns out.
Because I refuse to stop doing what I love, in recent years I’ve finally started to prioritize skincare. On one of my last retreats in Nicaragua, I hit the jackpot of skincare wisdom. Bunched around the lunch table after surfing, a group of Amigas and I started chatting about our skin routines and efforts to keep our skin feeling safe. We began firing questions at our Amiga, Malissa, who works as an Esthetician.
What follows are some of Malissa’s hacks to perfect your skin routine. Malissa emphasized that we’re all bound to age, form wrinkles, stretch marks and spots on our skin. We shouldn’t sacrifice living the way we want in an attempt to prevent the inevitable! But we can better protect ourselves with the tools (most importantly hats, sunscreen and rashguards) to keep our skin supple and protected.
Why do you think skin care is important, does your routine change when you spend more time in the sun? Did your routine change this week on the retreat?
I think skin care is very important. It clears skin impurities off the skin, helps keep the skin clear, helps with signs of aging, and you need to use SPF to help prevent skin cancer. When I’m in the sun more I definitely am using more SPF, I will use lighter feeling products, and alway have a hat on.
My routine was definitely a little more minimal this week. More SPF, just one serum, light moisturizer and no exfoliants. I just wanted to have fun this week and not think too much about my skin. I was also tired at the end of the night and I wanted less to do.
What are the best preventive steps you can take daily to protect your skin?
A good cleanser, exfoliant, toner, moisturizer, and SPF! Once you have that, you can think about adding in a vitamin C serum, eye cream, and a retinol.
WE’RE BACK AGAIN TO CATCH UP WITH MORE ALUMNI AMIGAS THAT YOU MAY KNOW!
THIS MONTH WE’RE CHATTING Q+A STYLE WITH our friend grace who has joined swa retreats with the main goal being to reconnect with herself and to make new connections with others. STAY TUNED FOR MONTHLY STORIES AND UPDATES FROM OUR GOOD FRIENDS ACROSS THE GLOBE.
Q: Think back to when you attended your first SWA retreat. Why did you book that trip? What was that first retreat experience like for you?
I had actually been researching surf retreats and was ready to reserve a spot with a different group in Dominical area. I asked my friend, Jaime if she was interested in joining me and found that for the exact same week she had already reserved with SWA – so she suggested I tag along with her! Best decision ever!
Q: Now that you’ve been on several SWA retreats, what keeps you coming back?
Holly and her wonderful staff, the awesome women I have met, the great knowledge shared in the clinics/lectures, feeling of community and FUN times! I had lost my connection to surfing for a few years with life happening… the goal for the Costa Rica retreat was to reconnect, which definitely happened. I wasn’t even half way through Costa Rica retreat yet and booked Morocco! The Morocco holistic retreat that I joined took that further and I’m finally feeling like ME again… it’s been a long time and it feels great!