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Book excerpt from:  Sister Surfer, a Woman's Guide to Surfing with Bliss and Courage
by Mary Osbourne and Kia Afcari


Chapter 6: Las Olas Stories
by Bev Sanders, Founder, Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women

Another great way to learn surfing is to get away for a premier surfing vacation with companies like Las Olas Surf Safaris. Women's surf safaris like these offer fabulous amenities like organic food, elegant accommodations, and massages. The stories below attest to how transformational this combination can be. Why not pamper yourself in the process of learning how to surf?If I was told that I would redirect my entire life because of a single experience, I would have ignored the idea. I had heard of this happening to other people, but I never thought much about it or connected the phenomenon to my world. I've always felt these types of experiences either inspired someone to move in a direction they were already moving toward - or the experience was so earth-shattering it forced them to change.

But that was before I learned to surf.

I would never have expected an activity so obvious, so typical, would get under my skin - but surfing my first waves gave me a new sense of clarity. It reawakened the sure-footed confidence that helped me break from my two-decade career as cofounder and marketing director of a successful snowboard company. Playing in the waves, I reconnected to that part of myself that was independent, joyful, and free. By the end of the year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the next chapter in my life. I would share my new sense of freedom by teaching surfing: I would make girls out of women.

Launched in 1997, Las Olas Surf Safaris set the standard for women's destination surf schools. Yoga, oceanside villas, healthful meals, massage, and a host of other activities reconnected us to ourselves and our community. The safaris offered women of all ages the chance to learn and enjoy surfing in a relaxed, noncompetitive environment.

For many guests at Las Olas, a typical day starts out with a surf-specific yoga session - carefully chosen to gently stretch the muscles used during surfing and to get them ready to paddle out again.

After a rejuvenating breakfast with local mangoes and other fresh tropical fruit, the "girls" review the daily schedule to plan their day. Some will head right out for the break, some will keep an appointment for a relaxing full-body massage, and some will take time to enjoy this friendly fishing village before heading out to surf in a later session.

Throughout the afternoon, itineraries include a second surf session, a siesta, or a cerveza and fresh guacamole at a surfside cafe. And of course, there's the ongoing beach party of constantly changing instructors and guests who cheer for the girls out in the water and learn by discussing the break and the lineup.

Again and again, I hear stories from our alumnae of how the Las Olas experience has spilled into their lives and the positive energy that returns home with them. It stirs our intuition about connectivity, life, and what's truly important. The following stories are from real women who have attended Las Olas. In their own words, they reveal their apprehension about learning how to surf, and they share their victories. For many, the experience changed their connection with themselves, the ocean, and the world around them.

"I think I am probably the story of the nonathelete who, without realizing it, became one. First, the decision to learn to surf became one of the steps in ending a long, but unhappy, marriage and finding my own independence. I was never a swimmer. One day at the beach with my now ex-husband, I saw a sixteen-year-old girl out on a longboard with her father beside her. I watched her and said, `I want to learn how to do that.' The response I heard was, `Are you kidding? Maybe you should think about a boogie board. You can't do that.'

"In a moment of total clarity, I knew two things: one, I would learn to surf no matter what. And two, I couldn't stay with someone who had time and time again shown me that he had no belief in me. I went out the next weekend and bought a board, and went right out into rough surf. Scared me to death, and bruised every part of my body. It was my mother who found the Las Olas ad and said to me, `This is what you need.' And that is what I did - I was on one of the first safaris. And I didn't do that well. I actually cried on Izzy's shoulder, I was so terrified of the water. But I was learning. Not one to give up, I have kept at it, learning the ocean and learning about me. Overcoming fear in life and in the water, I have since returned to Las Olas two more times, always learning something new. And look at me now!"

"Being a native New Yorker, the ocean was never in my backyard; it was an experience I had maybe once or twice a summer. I truly learned the virtues of patience and communing with nature. By the end of the trip I was catching waves. Now I remind myself on a daily basis how to be patient and work with nature, not against it."

My decision to finally take my first surfing lesson in Waikiki two years ago was the initial step in emerging from the predictable, stable, risk-averse lifestyle - or lifeless style - imposed by our culture. That lesson climaxed with a successful ride on my third attempt, and the thrill and sense of pride from that moment reawakened distant memories of the twenty-two-year-old adventurer who backpacked from Japan to Egypt via the TransSiberian, sans the benefit of a diplomatic passport. Each subsequent surfing adventure (especially the wipeouts) taught me that failing is acceptable, but not trying isn't. I have shed my suits and taken bolder steps to seek a career that values adventure and some risk taking."

"My marriage ended, and then surfing changed my life. It made me think, `Why not?!' So why not live three months a year in another country? (Near some good waves, of course!) I'm forty-two, I have three kids, two businesses, and one life - and I intend to live it to the fullest! `Today is a gift; that's why it's called the present.'"

"In addition to it being one of the most incredible vacations I ever had - and I don't even like group trips! - I quit my corporate job and am back in school for writing, in large part because of my surfing experience."

"Within the course of a month, I lost both my job and my boyfriend - who I thought I was going to marry. This was a time of great upheaval and self-examination. When I stood up on the board for the first time, an epiphany occurred. With the backdrop of the other women whooping and clapping, I knew I could do anything, and the rest of humanity wanted me to be a success! My life was going to be just fine."

"Yesterday I surfed my first double overhead wave. I dropped down that glassy face with a terror-turned-thrill that no one can ever teach you. Yet, if you hear that Las Olas encouragement, you'll discover this despite your fear. Since I've completed my surf camps in Mexico, I've finished a novel and begun another. I've been encouraged and encouraged others. I've wiped out and fought my way back into the lineup from a rough inside. Surfing wakes you up to yourself, the community, and the Earth. Corny sounding, I know, but true. You paddle out there and tell me it's not."

"We found ourselves at Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women. We were new to surfing as well as each other, but the power of sisterhood lifted and encouraged us, helped us stand, literally to that glorious position of achievement on the surfboard. We did it! Our individuality is powerful, but together, our sisterhood speaks volumes."

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