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Click on a profile title below to read some inspirational stories about Las Olas alumnae.

Carol Dalton   |   Elizabeth Southworth   |   Melissa Palmer


Las Olas Guest Profile  |  Melissa Palmer
Las Olas accommodationsTeaching novices to surf must be both mentally and physically exhausting, especially with the added challenge of keeping a clumsy beginner with no natural balance and no athletic skills from constantly falling off her surfboard. Fortunately Erin, my instructor, was used to klutzes like me. “Surfing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she told me in her quietly encouraging voice, patiently showing me how to slide my back foot up and brace my foot against the board’s sticky bumps for the twentieth time.

By the end of our first afternoon, the inside of my biceps were scraped raw from rubbing against the side of my board as I paddled into the waves again and again and again—but my bloody wounds felt like badges of honor. And with fresh aloe gel from the garden smoothed on my arms, I was ready to hit the surf again the next morning.

Las Olas is about more than just surfing. We started our days with an hour of yoga—perfect for limbering up the body for a day on the water. After a substantial breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled potatoes, pancakes, fresh tropical fruits, granola, yogurt—hey, surfers need a lot of fuel!—we’d head out for open water. Apres-surf, I found myself attempting to salsa (oh, the horror!), I got a great massage, and I learned how to make a killer margarita and negotiate the best price on beaded bracelets from a beach vendor. I even came home with a temporary tattoo on my thigh—a souvenir of a morning spent paddling until my muscles were so spent I could barely lift my arms. My body was exhausted, but I was exhilarated. I can do this!  

One of the perks of surf camp is that once I sent in my registration, Manifesta—the Carmel-by-the-Sea company that runs Las Olas as well as women’s golf and art safaris in northern California—made all of the arrangements for my food, lodging, and ground transportation, and they made outstanding choices on my behalf. My round, open-air room was three stories above the ocean, with a palapa-style thatched roof that helped keep out the mosquitoes that thrive in the warm, tropical climate. Lavender and orange flowers cascaded down the leaf-covered mountainside onto the enormous terrace outside my room, and there was a private plunge pool only a few feet away. I’m a habitually early riser, but instead of getting up at daybreak to start my workday, I’d wrap myself in a bathrobe and wander out onto my private terrace to watch the night sky fade into a glorious morning. Far below me the day’s first surfers were bobbing around on the glittering, sun-kissed waves. It was paradise.

I discovered that there is a unique beauty in Mexico’s slower, gentler pace. With my laptop thousands of miles away and my useless phone tossed in a corner of my duffel, I was forced to focus my attention on the sensual pleasures all around me—the taste of a warm tortilla wrapped around grilled carne asada, the scratch of a dog stretching against my foot, the sting of ocean spray in my eyes. Even though I brought a work-related book to keep my mind occupied, I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the warmth of the sun on my shoulders and the constant roar of the crashing waves. I guess I needed a vacation after all.

For those of us who balance demanding careers with relationships and families, trading wool suits for wetsuits is an almost unimaginable luxury. Although I traveled solo to Las Olas, spending time with an extraordinarily accomplished group of sister surfers from nine states and four countries was one of the best parts of my week. Our shared challenge of catching the perfect wave drew us instantly together. As we introduced ourselves, a new friend from Seattle who celebrated her fortieth birthday in Mexico reminded us to let the worries of the real world drift out with the tide. “This week,” she told us, “I’m a surfer.”

We cheered. From now on, we all are.

By Melissa Palmer


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