When you sign up for a surf retreat, you expect to surf your brains out, and as passionate surfers, we really get it.At Surf With Amigas, rest assured, every aspect of your retreat will be planned around the surf. We are frothing surfers that love the water as much as you do!
FAQ: IS THERE A SCHEDULED TIME TO SURF?
ANSWER: We do schedule our paddle out times. Why? This is how we assure that you get to the best surf spot for your ability with the best possible conditions! For each scheduled session we also coordinate with videographers to make sure all your awesome rides are captured on video to be reviewed and enjoyed later. The surf coaches will join you at all of these scheduled sessions, where you’ll receive in-water instruction, coaching, and support.
The scheduled surf sessions have no specific end-time. We’ll stay in the water as long as conditions permit or until you’re ready to go. We might give you a head’s up that the tide is really dropped out, breakfast is now ready and yoga will be soon, to encourage you to find that last wave in, but if you just want to keep the salt-water soak going, as long as there is no safety issue, we’ll support you in doing that.
FAQ: HOW ARE THE SURF SESSIONS PLANNED?
ANSWER: Our team’s expert knowledge of the various surf spots in the area is used to plan the surf sessions around a variety of factors including tide, wind, swell size/direction, avoiding crowd, plus the surf ability of each surfer. It’s a complicated matrix sometimes, particularly because we will usually split up the group by ability level and have people going in different directions, but it’s important to us to make sure that everybody has access to waves that are suitable to their ability and everyone has the opportunity to be in the water during the best conditions possible.
A typical retreat day might look something like this:
5am coffee and first breakfast
9am Second (Hot) breakfast
10am optional second surf or Classroom session or Chill time
“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.”
“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.
Lately, I’ve received a few emails from potential clients who mention that they experience a lingering fear from a past injury. That situation seems to be really common and brought to mind the story of an Amiga that I met back in October in Morocco.
I was in Morocco on day 1 of a Surf With Amigas Holistic Surf Coaching Retreat, just getting to know the guests and starting to form a mental image of each participant, her goals, and how I could be most helpful. The vast majority of our guests use boards from our quiver to avoid having to travel with a board bag but one of the participants, we’ll call her “Sarah”, had brought her own – a Takayama mid-length. I could tell by our chit-chat about the conditions even before we paddled out that she knew how to surf. She presented as strong and confident, walking down the hill to the waist-high peeling rights.
In the water, she paddled assertively, positioning herself well, taking off with perfect timing, and maneuvering down the line. “She knows how to surf!” I thought, and then told her so as she paddled back out to me. “Ya, I’m fine when the waves are small and easy,” she replied.
A few days later, the swell was small enough that the point break was slow and boring. We made our way around to the more exposed beach break on the other side. The waves still weren’t what I’d call “big”, but they were closer to head high. The peaks popped up and broke more quickly. The wave was soft, breaking over sand, but there was a quickness to it, particularly in comparison to the slow, easy point break waves we had been surfing. I noticed a different energy in Sarah. If she was closer to the peak, she’d pull back and not take off. If she was anything close to being a little late, she’d let the wave go. Having surfed with her for a few days already, I believed she had the skill to take off late and deep and make it, but she was avoiding those situations.
She didn’t want to let the injury stop her. She didn’t want to appear weak. She tried to forget about it and just keep surfing. That worked…. sort of.
As we drifted outside the surf zone, I quietly listened to her story. It all made sense to me. Her body had suffered a painful trauma. If the injury had happened in CA and she’d received help immediately, including good medical care, and the whole experience hadn’t ruined a long anticipated adventure, it may not have become as heavy of an emotional weight. In her case, the physical memory of painful injury combined with the fear and anxiety of the remoteness of the location and large serving of disappointment due to the altered trip, all combined to serve as a significant trauma.
The coping mechanism often suggested by our society : to “just get over it and get back out there,” worked, in the sense that it didn’t stop her from continuing to surf. However, it didn’t help her process the trauma. Therefore, even 20 years later, she still felt the effects.
Sarah initially told her story without much emotion. It was very matter of fact, as if telling a story that had happened to someone else. I listened, asked a few questions to be clear on the details, and then started by validating how scary that must have been at the time. I gave her space and encouragement to sit with the feelings of fear. When given an opportunity to connect to the feelings of the story, instead of just the details, the tears started flowing. She apologized, but I encouraged her to let the feelings happen. It’s ok to not be ok right now.
After the moment passed, I explained that it’s totally normal and understandable that she feels fear when faced with a situation (a steep drop) that triggers her body to remember a time it was injured. By ignoring it or avoiding those situations, she isn’t allowing herself the chance to move past it. We talked about the importance of accepting the fear.
Rather than trying to avoid the fear or feeling shame that it exists, the healing process begins with allowing oneself to feel it.
Her body is trying to keep her safe. That’s a good thing. We took a minute to listen to that message, accept it, and actually thank it for its efforts, allowing whatever emotions arise to flow. I suggested to talk to that fearful part, telling it, “I’m sorry you were hurt so badly. That was a very scary time and your reaction was perfectly justified. Thank you for trying to keep me safe. I appreciate you.”
Once that fearful part has had its chance to fully express whatever needs to be expressed, and those feelings are accepted and appreciated, there’s space for the next step, which is to notice what has changed since then. Since that time, Sarah has been surfing for 20 years. She is a much better surfer than she was back then. She has the skills to make steep drops. If there’s any doubt about that, surf coaching and working on popup technique can help.
Then, start small. On a small wave that’s only a little bit scary, try to pop up late. Notice the feelings that come up. If there’s fear, thank it for what it’s trying to do (keep you safe), but assure that part that you are capable. Come up with a positive mantra that works not to argue with that voice, but to change the script. Little by little, work up to bigger waves and steeper drops, not ignoring fearful feelings, but embracing and accepting them.
Celebrate successes, lean into falls, and smile at the simple pleasures and teachings of the ocean.
In preparing to post this story, I checked in with Sarah to see if she would be ok with me sharing and also to see if the she’d noticed any positive changes in the four months since our sessions. She said,
Yes it did help…. I repeat “all is well” to myself pretty much every time I turn for a wave now. It reminds me I’m ok, that I’m in control, and that it’s supposed to be fun. I think I never gave myself permission to talk about my injury because it maybe seemed trivial and I had no one who would understand it in a more complex way. So yes, it definitely helped. And it’s a process. Even just the permission to address those things in my surfing that hold me back helped so much. I feel like every session since Morocco is accompanied by a memory or conversation from the retreat that empowers me. I’m really glad I went and I look forward to going on another next year. It was an incredible experience and I really appreciate you listening and noticing and being there.
Holly recently completed a Master’s in Counseling and has been incorporating mental and emotional awareness into coaching to create Holistic Surf Coaching retreats. For more info on these specific retreats, click here.
WE’RE BACK AGAIN TO CATCH UP WITH MORE ALUMNI AMIGAS THAT YOU MAY HAVE MET ON YOUR RETREAT!
This month we’re chatting Q&A style with Brandy Flotten, a mother, fitness + nutrition coach, and inspiring amiga- who booked her first SWA retreat in a moment when she needed to focus on self-care most. Brandy has adventured with Amigas at various retreat locations including Nicaragua, Southern Costa Rica, and Northern Costa Rica, even joining us once with her beautiful family!
Over the years we’ve seen her commitment to helping women look and feel great shine through in everything she does- especially in the way that she shows up for herself and for others. We are inspired by the way Brandy discovered surfing as a tool to connect with a new community, boost her confidence, and feel more joy!
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?
A: I lost myself in my career and parenting years. It wasn’t until my confidence was at it’s all time low that I decided to do something for myself, and I booked my first SWA Trip. I discovered a challenge (a new sport I love), a community of incredibly strong women (not just physically), and most of all JOY. I’m forever a fan ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Q: Now that you’ve been on several SWA retreats, what keeps you coming back?
A: I absolutely love the format of Surf With Amigas, the quality of instruction, the amazingly talented (but oh so fun) coaches, and the type of women that a surf retreat attracts. Each trip just gets better and better!
Q: Describe the feeling you get from surfing…
A: Surfing is much like stepping into a weightlifting gym for the first time. So intimidating and obvious to spot the regulars who know what they are doing. It’s such a humbling and exhilarating sport and I absolutely love the challenge and the thrill of catching a wave on my own.
Q: What are you most passionate about in life right now? The SWA community wants to know!
A: I’m passionate about supporting busy mamas. I coach moms and busy women how to make themselves a priority in their busy lives with practical nutrition.