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.
We’re back again to catch up with more alumni amigas that you may know!
this month we’re chatting Q+A style with mother, surfer, and world traveler danielle gustafson to learn more about the why behind her surf journey + a bit about her personal retreat experiences. 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’ve been obsessed with surfing for 20 years, but I never committed. I was a white wash wahine. As my kids got older and started shredding, I recognized that I had to learn to surf or lose them to their passion. My main motivation to finally commit was to keep a connection with them. It only made sense to send myself to SWA. That was four and a half years ago. I had no idea it would change the course of my life in the best possible ways.
Q: Now that you’ve been on several SWA retreats, what keeps you coming back?
A: I can’t get enough. Every retreat has been epic. I gift myself at least one a year. Hey, I invest in my kids’ summer camp, tutoring and sports development. Why wouldn’t I offer myself the same level of self-care?
Our retreat locations in Northern Nicaragua are situated just a short walk from a big sandy bay with peeling rights and lefts. It’s our favorite playground in the area for both longboarding and shortboarding! With waves for everyone, the bay provides the perfect layout for us to connect to the ocean and just have FUN.
We hope you enjoy this surf video celebrating Amigas of ALL SURF LEVELS, ages, sizes, and backgrounds, catching super cute waves on their longboards in Northern Nicaragua!
Mujeres Que Mueven is a non-profit organization in northern Nicaragua that inspires and empowers women to better self-manage their health through movement, group support, and dietary awareness. This is just one of several organizations that SWA supports in rural northern Nicaragua. We believe that travel is more meaningful when you have a chance to give back and support programs that improve the lives of locals wherever you are.
When you join a surf with amigas retreat In nicaragua, this is how you’re helping give back!
Last year SWA funded Mujeres Que Mueven’s annual nutrition challenge, and we’re proud to be funding the event again this year! The inspiring event in the village of Aserradores gives local women access to a month-long intensive program that is focused on exercise, nutrition, healthy cooking, and healthy habit forming.
Aside from the annual nutrition challenge, Mujeres Que Mueven holds exercise classes every afternoon, and each month offers one educational workshop and one women’s night. The women’s nights are built around wellness practices that include affirmations, vision boards, empowerment circles, self massage, and reiki.
MQM is empowering women in rural Northern Nicaragua to take charge of their personal wellness to lead healthier and happier lives.
At many of the monthly workshops, Nicaraguan women are invited on behalf of the organization to come to the village and teach local women about nutrition and self care. An amazing workshop was hosted in April 2022 that focused on education about the menstrual cycle and how to use menstrual cups + period panties. Over 30 cups were donated by Lenacup and MQM purchased panties to give to the women who attended. Over 25 women from the surrounding area attended and there were even families of three generations. Check out a highlight of the incredible event here.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MUJERES QUE MUEVEN AND HOW TO GET INVOLVED, CLICK HERE.
After a career as a professional surfer, SWA Founder Holly Beck ran off to Central America to find herself. She built Surf With Amigas (and a family) over the course of 11 years living between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In 2021 she decided to move back to calling California home base.
The ocean was always a place holly went to escape and find healing.
Now, she’s pursuing a Master’s in Counseling on the path to become a licensed surf therapist. She’s interning with Groundswell Community Project and partnered with Jess Ripley to create and leadsurf therapy programs in Southern California.
Q + A with Holly
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in working with women in the world of holistic surf coaching?
A: After spending the last 12 years involved in surf coaching, i’ve realized that beyond the physical tips like looking down the line, putting more weight on the front foot, and all the other common bits of coaching advice that i’m typically giving Amigas, there is often a mental component as well. Whether it’s the un-helpful voice of our inner-critic, a fear of bigger waves, anxiety about getting in someone’s way, etc., there’s a lot going on in our heads that affects our surfing performance. I’ve been really interested in exploring that internal stuff both in my own life and then also adding it to a coaching program to create a more holistic approach to surf coaching that would be even more effective in the water, but also spill over into benefits to someone’s personal life as well.
Q: You’ve made a few big career changes in the past year. Looking forward, what are you most excited about?
With a gorgeous cliffside backdrop, super stylish surfer, and phenomenal videographer, this windy afternoon in Morocco was a recipe for greatness. Well, now that I think of it, the entire retreat season was destined to be great!
The retreat setup looked like this: We surfed long, peeling rights every single day, then relaxed at the luxury villa in between sessions. We explored old cities and shopped for Moroccan treasures, then slid down sand dunes at sunset. We laughed, cried, danced, and ate a TON of amazing food. For each and every one of us, it was the surf adventure of a lifetime.
Mary joined us this season at the Southern Costa Rica Longboard Surf House with a few of her closest surf friends. These ladies surfed for hours every day and reminded us that it’s never too late to just go for it and try the things you’ve always dreamed of trying.
“I’m going to turn 70 and really what I think about is that it’s time to do everything that I really want to do. There’s no time a wastin’ here.”
What surf specific exercises can I do to prepare for my retreat?
Surf With Amigas’ head yoga instructor Reesie just made this perfect compilation of workouts and stretches that you should do to prepare for your next retreat with SWA. Expect to do pop-up practice, stabilizing core workouts, and a few juicy hip openers. After completing the exercises in this video (a few times) you’ll be ready to go!
Interested in more surf-related tutorials or workouts? Let us know!
The bottom turn. It’s the setup for most maneuvers in surfing. Want to get barreled? Do a cutback? A snap off the top?
A good bottom turn will set you up for success
We know its not as simple as it sounds, so here we are. We encourage you to play around with these techniques. Consider how your board feels different under your feet each time you try something new, and practice, practice, practice.
Below are 4 simple steps to improve your bottom turn:
Keep your back foot on the tail pad
The tail (back end) of the surfboard is the point where the board pivots and turns. If your stance is in the middle of your board and your back foot isn’t placed on the tail pad, you may notice that the board feels stiff and difficult to turn. If you don’t usually get your foot all the way back there, just start here! Practice this. Notice how the board starts to respond differently. Just get used to placing your foot back there, then move on to step 2.
Position yourself at the bottom of the wave
Mid-wave bottom turns just aren’t as good. Why? If you’re already halfway up the wave, there’s not much space to really set up for a good turn! The best a mid-wave bottom turn will ever produce is an average horizontal cutback. Try to get speed and pump yourself down to the bottom of the wave to set up for the bottom turn. This will ultimately give you more space on the wave to work with and result in a bigger, better maneuver.
Touch the wave with your inside hand/fingertips
Once you’re positioned at the bottom of the wave, try to reach your inside hand or fingertips down to touch the wave. This will automatically pull your chest down closer to the wave and get you in a lower stance. It also creates a pivot point on the wave. Creating this pivot point will not only give you more control, but will help direct the nose of your board more vertically up the wave. Getting the hang of this is seriously a game-changer! When you try it out you’ll know what I mean. It may be a technique that you’ve never even noticed before, but after reading this I encourage you to go watch a few surf videos (of short boarders) and you’ll notice that talented surfers do it on almost every single wave.
Look up (or ahead) at the section on the wave that you want to go to
The momentum from your bottom turn needs to take you somewhere! As you reach your inside hand into the water you should already be looking up (or ahead) at the part of the wave you’d like to go to. The purpose of a bottom turn is ultimately to set up for a barrel, snap, or cutback. Keep this in mind and keep your eyes on the prize as you set it all up.
We hope this 4 step guide to improve your bottom turn is helpful and encouraging. If you try out these techniques and they work for you, please share with us! If you’d like for us to break down another surf maneuver, contact us here.
Standing on the beach and watching the waves with butterflies going crazy in your stomach. Paddling halfway to the outside only to turn back around out of fear or anxiety. Or making it to the outside but then feeling too far out of your comfort zone to catch any waves.
Here are three tools that may help you overcome anxiety in the ocean so you can tap into the joy of surfing and catch more waves.
Surf with friends (aka, surf with amigas!)
So much pressure is taken off when there’s a familiar face in the water. Surfing with friends means that someone can keep an eye on you, while you keep an eye on them. It also means that you can encourage each other to catch waves, cheer each other on, and laugh at the wipeouts together. Wiping out without a friend close by just isn’t the same. If you can’t line up a surf session with a friend, the next best thing you can do is chat with another surfer in the water. This will immediately take the edge off. Not to mention your new buddy will also be more likely to share a few waves with you!
Spend time swimming and playing in the ocean
Surfing comes with many challenges. Surfers have to learn how to read waves, build up paddle and core strength, be able to steer clear of other surfers in the water, and overcome big wipeouts, to name a few. We can all agree that it’s hard. Swimming and playing in the waves (close to shore) is a great way to open up a more playful mindset while you’re in the ocean. Laughing loud, jumping over and swimming under waves, body surfing in the shore pound, laughing loud all over again. These are just a few things that will not only teach you how to tap into a more relaxed and playful approach to surfing, but will also build your confidence in reading waves and being underwater.
Although this one’s a no brainer, it’s hard to remember to just breathe when you’re amidst the chaos! Deep, slow breaths will calm your nerves and get you re-centered. Try taking a few deep breaths every time you reach the outside and have a chance to sit up on your board. This will help to get rid of any panicky feelings you have and put you back in the zone. Try to make this a consistent practice.
We hope these simple tools help you calm your nerves and tap into the joy of surfing and ocean-play. If you try one of these tools and it works, we’d love to hear your story! If you have other practices that have worked for you, we’d love to hear about those too.