I had always wanted to go to a surf camp or surf trip with coaching but could never get a week coordinated with friends. Also, I kept finding excuses not to go as I was afraid to leave for seven days as I had never been away from my family for that long. When a few spots opened up on the Surf Simply waitlist and, again, the week didn't work for my surf pals, my husband convinced me to go alone. It was my version of going away to a spa. I came back renewed and felt like I was a better mother for doing something completely for myself. My surfing improved substantially. I met some wonderful people. The effect on me was so visible that five friends returned with me, and we now have a yearly trip of 12 people with a waitlist for spots! I never realized how short seven days would feel until I went on one of these trips.
There are plenty of great camps, retreats and trips where a woman can go solo and improve her surfing, meet new people and feel safe. Note that most surf camps and trips are not 5-star operations and can be quite basic. It is best to contact the owners and see if the fit is right. I almost signed up for a trip and the owner emailed to see if I was comfortable being the only woman on a small basic boat. For another camp I was informed I was probably too good of a surfer for what they offer (yes, seriously, I was so proud). I really appreciated that they were looking out for me and not just trying to sell me on a trip. Here are a few of the ones to which I have been or am dying to go:
The Gold Standard: Surf Simply
Vibe: Located in Nosara, the surf coaching system here is top-notch for all levels. They focus on breaking down bad habits and instilling good ones. There are two surf sessions a day, one of which is filmed. Your coach (one per two people) then does a classroom session and breaks down your waves compared to pro surfers and surf simply coaches. There are also group classes each day covering duck diving, breath hold, board shape and design, and reading wave reports, to name a few. You feel real improvement in just a week. The accommodations are better than any Nosara hotel. Breakfast, lunch and several dinners are served by the ace kitchen crew. The in-house meals alone are the reason some people come. They have added a barista and bartender (we love you Diego!) to spoil guests even further. Secret recipe snacks and pipas (fresh coconuts with straws) are always available. Smoothies await surfers in the morning, and drinks and cervezas are at the ready in the evening. A couple of the dinners are at the best local restaurants. You get a necessary surf stretch class each day, a killer massage (sometimes two), and Wednesday is a day off from surfing with options for all sorts of fun activities from SUP tours to deep sea fishing to horseback riding. And pretty much all you have to bring is a bathing suit — EVERYTHING else is included: meals, classes, excursions, drinks, sunscreen, rash guards, airport shuttles, etc. Monkeys, birds, lizards and other wildlife visits daily. The biggest drawback is the very long waitlist! Insider tips- Get on the waitlist because a fair amount of spots do open up and they are assigned by lottery. Try an aerial yoga class at Bodhi Tree or Harmony. You must try a Trit (chipwich on crack that we have tried to find in the US). And borrow the fat wheeled cruisers to roam around town.
The next two are from fellow Wanderist and surf camp aficionado Stacey Van Scoyoc:
For Beginners: Kalon Surf
Kalon advertises for all levels but is best for beginners. It is located in Dominical Costa Rica- 2 ½ hours from San Jose. You can choose a 5 or 7 night stay. It is casual and relaxed in a remote hillside vista, about 15 minutes from the surf breaks.. The house is lovely with clean, modern rooms. The view is spectacular for sunsets and the location is perfect for enjoying the flora and fauna of the Costa Rican jungle. The staff was fabulous and attentive to their guests' needs. Similar to all surf camps, the waves are dependent on what mother nature provides. They predominantly use 2 uncrowded locations with beach breaks. The food is wonderful, locally sourced as much as possible and the chef will accommodate different dietary needs. On surf excursions, snacks and water were brought to the beach for the guests to enjoy during breaks from surfing. The resort is all-inclusive, including beer and wine, which we did our best to run out of every night to be met with the next day's challenging restocking. Surf coaching includes daily dryland or in-the-pool group educational lessons, daily surfing with instructors followed by post-surf video review/coaching. Wednesday (midweek) off to relax at the resort (which we did) or there are sightseeing excursions available in the area. Yoga is offered three times during the week for anyone who wants it, and a massage is included in the price. Supplemental massages can be purchased at a reasonable price. Insider tips: Stay in San Jose on both ends of the trip to extend and not feel rushed arriving or departing. Don’t miss the coffee tasting! Bring your camera, if you have one, to take pictures of the wildlife at the resort.
Women Only: Las Olas Surfing
Located in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico (they do not post on their website the location to try to keep it secret and you find out the location when inquiring personally or upon making your reservation) Their motto is “we make girls out of women'' and they have been around since 1997. The owner is a woman, and so are the coaches. The camp is 5 nights with arrival on Sunday and departure on Friday. The location is a cute, hippie-chic town with cafes, ice cream shops, several restaurants, stores and local street vendors. Las Olas is for beginners, however, they also offer Las Olas for intermediate surfers. I participated in Las Olas and there were six of us plus two surf coaches for the week. The day starts with yoga and ends with yoga. The yoga instructors knew exactly what our bodies needed each day. There are daily surf lessons with coaches plus dryland sessions including a personal development “It’s Your Wave'' workshop. One midweek massage is included. Insider tip: don’t ask for the sports massage if you are expecting a more relaxing one! The Las Olas lessons and surf break are very convenient to the hotel where you stay. Las Olas has a casita in town, a block from the water which is a daily meeting spot- a place to apply sunscreen, store clothes, and pick up your board for the day and a post-surf shower. The Las Olas ladies meet at the casita but may travel by boat or bus to local breaks Since they avoid the busiest weekend days, the breaks are not typically crowded. This is not an all-inclusive retreat, however, breakfast and two dinners (orientation and final) are included. You are able to enjoy the town for dinners, which is a fun way to get to know your fellow surf camp new friends while you break off into smaller groups. Dinner could be as simple as a street cart taco and beer or margarita, to a pizza, or a nice local seafood meal at one of the more upscale restaurants. Las Olas has beach chairs and umbrellas on the beach and lunch can be ordered from one of the restaurants. For the Las Olas ladies, we brought lunch to eat on the boat every day. There are other activities during the week such as turtle release, tequila tasting, salsa dancing, whale watching in season and some art or Spanish classes. More insider tips: The cocos frios are a perfect post-surf treat to rehydrate and they are sold right next to the casita. Stay a few days after your retreat so you can hone your new surf skills once you are familiar with the town and the surf break. Maybe have your spouse or significant other come if you were a solo traveler to Las Olas and show them around the quaint town. The donuts being sold on the beach are huge and are so tasty! Plus, find the churros cart and enjoy some of the best in all of Mexico! Bring some extra cash since there are many things to buy in the area from surf gear to jewelry, to pottery and all kinds of local arts.
Wellness Included: A Week Awake
A Week Awake, located in Costa Rica, is a week-long experiential retreat enjoyed by women flying solo, or with a group of friends. There are lots of advantages to an exclusively female retreat such as providing a safe environment for female solo travelers and causing new friendships to form from bonding over commonalities of daily life. A Week Awake has endless experiences to choose from since you can create your own retreat, but surfing is the most popular - beginner, intermediate, and advanced are all encouraged! Other experiences including movement, nature, adventure, community, nutrition, and so many more are also at your fingertips on this calming and nurturing retreat. A Week Awake can serve as anything from a girls trip to a much-needed break from the craziness and hectic aspects we endure everyday.
Retreats with Multiple Locations:
Surf Specialty trips: Surf With Amigas
Founder and former pro surfer Holly Beck and partner Jackie George have surf coaching and yoga trips running almost every week of the year. All of the coaches are women and while some trips are co-ed it is rooted in coaching female surfers. The locales vary from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama to more distant locales like Peru, Indonesia, and Morocco. There is also a variety of types of trip- all women, co-ed, family, beginner, all level, advanced, longboard, short board, barrel riding (dying to do this one), holistic. If you are looking to zero in on improving your cross-step or moving to a shorter board you can find a trip that is tailored towards your specific goals. There is also daily yoga and time to adventure and discover the country you are visiting. The trips are small and fill up quickly. Holly is very hands on and responsive so check in with her to see which trip would work best for what you want.
Wellness Aspect: Rise Up
Rise up offers retreats in the surf havens of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Barbados. They run specialty retreats with the likes of our own ambassador Kassia Meador, and other wellness facilitators like Amy Ruttenberg and Dan Churchill. Kassia cannot say enough amazing things about these retreats and the “family” that runs them. Rise Up is run by Phil and Corina, who met while surfing. They are able to access some of the marquee waves in each location. As with the many surf retreats they offer coaching, both in and out of the water. The retreats run for 6-8 days depending on the location, and much of the trips are all-inclusive but vary a bit by location. There is plenty of surfing, exploring, and daily yoga. They offer four healthy locally sourced meals a day that are designed to keep you feeling good during such active days.
There is nothing better than a boat trip, except maybe a surfing boat trip in the Maldives. The beauty of a boat trip is if the conditions are not what is expected ro if the break is crowded you can move on to another. You also have the advantage of waking up at a break and being the first ones out and can get in a good surf day before others arrive. The Maldives are a great place to improve as the waves are mostly point breaks so you have the continuity of perfectly breaking long waves over and over.
Conscious Travel: The Ocean Spell
Based in the Maldives, Silvia San Lorenzo, the founder of Ocean Spell, creates trips that are designed around responsible travel principles, aiming to support organizations and people that preserve habitats and empower local communities. Most of her group trips are on boats. She also has collaborated trips with Salty Sensations, coached by pros Kassia Meador and Leah Dawson. She has trips for all levels. Silvia can also plan bespoke surf trips for private groups or solo travelers.
Intermediate Surfers: Renegade Surf Travel
Renegade Surf Travel is a UK-based coaching company that offers elite-level surf coaching in The Maldives for the often underserved market of intermediate and above surfers. This isn’t your typical ‘surf camp’ experience; think world-class coaches, in-water guidance, daily video analysis sessions and the most progression-friendly waves on earth. There truly is no better way to improve your surfing in 10-days. When you’re not in the water you’ll be enjoying restaurant-quality food, world-class snorkeling, and surf-theory sessions, all whilst onboard your floating home. Their signature coaching trips are all-inclusive, meaning all you need to sort are flights and insurance. Additionally, with over 50% of previous clients being solo-surfers, their trips are a great option for those who are traveling alone and don’t want to charter a whole boat. Already got your crew assembled? They offer private charters too, both with and without coaching, for groups of 4+. Simply drop them an email to begin planning your dream trip.
* If you have been to a retreat that you loved that is NOT listed here or operate one you think would be of interest to our community PLEASE let email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add it to the list!