Surf and Yoga go together on retreats like peanut butter and jelly these days. Just about anyone who hosts a yoga retreat near a beach will name it “Surf and Yoga.” If you’re an experienced surfer, you can probably read between the lines and understand what to expect from the location, time of year, and itinerary. If you’re completely new to surfing, there’s a few things you need to know that can make or break your experience. Like yoga, surfing is a life-long practice, and it takes time and patience to build skill. We’ve all heard sad stories about people who tried something new for the first time, had a bad experience, and then never tried it again. With a little due diligence, this will not happen to you!
1. Are lessons included in the retreat cost? Although you’ve probably seen someone surf a wave in the movies and make it look easy, you DO need a lesson if you are new to surfing. Other than standing up on the board and balancing (and no, you will not balance in Warrior II) there is a lot to know about water safety, which foot to put your leash on, how to paddle your board past the breaking waves so you can chill for a second, and how not to be a total jerk with no knowledge of etiquette, dangerously placing yourself in everyone’s way. Foregoing the lesson means you’re putting yourself and others in an unsafe situation, and you’ll only end up frustrated when you realize that surfing is way more challenging than it looks.
On any yoga retreat that offers additional adventures, you want to find out if these adventures are included in the retreat pricing. And if not, what will your expense be if you’d like to take a lesson? Is board rental included with the lesson? Is there a transportation cost to get to the beach? If lessons are included, how many? And if you’d like to take additional lessons throughout the week, can that be arranged? If so, at what cost?
On our retreats, we’ve found that most beginners do great with a lesson on day 1, one day to try things on their own, and then a second lesson on day 3 to get their questions answered and their bad habits preempted. After that second lesson, you’ll spend the rest of your life still “trying” to surf.
2. What About the Waves? Your first lesson will be mostly in the white water near shore as you practice your board handling skills, and your ability to pop up to standing and find balance. By the end of Day 1, or on Day 2, what the actual WAVES are like is going to matter. A lot. Is the surf destination a “beach break” in which waves break parallel to shore? Is it a “point break” in which the wave curls around a river mouth or piece of land which juts out into the sea? Point breaks tend to offer a more consistent wave, which is great for beginners since the more consistently the waves break, the more opportunities you have to catch one.
Find out if the waves only operate under certain swell conditions or at certain times of year. This is good to know not only because you don’t want to get “skunked,” meaning…no waves. But you don’t want to be stuck in a destination with a giant swell and double-overhead waves on your first ever surf vacation.
And what about the bottom? As a beginner, you’re going to be doing a lot of wiping out. It’s much nicer to get pummeled into a sandy bottom than a reef, rocks, or a mess of seaweed. And yes, grasshopper, you will get pummeled at some point if you’re trying to catch a wave.
Some waves will never be suitable for beginners due to their size, rip current conditions, or the bottom topography. That surf yoga retreat at the Hawaiian Pipeline? Probably not for you.
3. What Are You Going to Wear? Google the average water temperature for your destination at the time of your retreat. This is best not left to chance. Sure, the photos show pictures of everyone in bikinis and board shorts, but this may not be realistic. When you are learning to surf, you will be in the water for a very long time. Most people don’t swim for an hour, but you can easily be on your board for an hour as you wait for the perfect wave with nobody on it, which may come by every 15 minutes at most. This means cold water will feel colder. Over prepare because getting too cold is the WORST. Find out if you need to bring a full or “shorty” wetsuit, or if you can borrow or rent one from your surf provider.
Being in the water for a long period of time also means that sun protection is very important. Nothing ruins a yoga retreat (or any vacation) like getting sunburned on the first day. Even if you don’t need a wetsuit, you might consider a long-sleeved rash guard, or long pants. Did you know you can surf in yoga pants? Of course you can! Oh, and they call it a “rash” guard for a reason. Not only can long sleeves and long pants protect you from sunburn, but they can prevent skin irritation due to chaffing as you lie down flat and paddle on your board. Makes it sound fun, right? You know what else is fun? Getting pummeled by a wave and losing your swim suit. Consider that learning to surf is not the time for the teeny weeny bikini. Dress for function.
Remember your face! Lather up with an excellent zink oxide based or sporty waterproof sunscreen. Go for the highest SPF. And remember the back of your neck, the back of your legs and the BOTTOM OF YOUR FEET. You’ve probably never put sunscreen there before but you’ll want to.
Trying something new for the first time is always a little bit scary, but that’s what makes it doubly awesome when you do! There’s nothing like the feeling of flow, ease and being one with the universe when you’re riding the pocket on the perfect wave. Use these three pointers to vet your surf & yoga retreat provider, and you’ll arrive prepared, in a great spot that’s beginner friendly, and enjoy a good coaching team who will set you up for success.
This blog has also been posted at BookYogaRetreats.com