by Mary Osbourne and
Chapter 6: Las Olas
by Bev Sanders, Founder, Las Olas Surf Safaris for
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
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.
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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