Surfing to Nirvana
Beyond the breaking waves, I sit balanced atop a surfboard as my feet slowly churn the warm Pacific waters. Ocean swells rise, then gently lift my body as they roll toward shore. It's early, not long after sunrise, and I am lured to this perch thanks to Jessica, my surf coach and yoga teacher for the week. Last night, over dinner, she spoke reverently of this "special, magical time of day for surfers" and the cathartic joy of floating in the morning sea. And just as deftly as she had guided me into Savasana during morning yoga, I became transfixed, intent upon exploring the mystical morning surf.
So here I am, a novice surfer looming near the reef break on a stunning half-moon bay in Mexico. I breathe deeply, then grin at the smattering of surfers and the rhythm of the swells. Leaning over to lie on my belly, a position vaguely reminiscent of Upward Dog, I nod to the mermaid emblazoned across my surfboard, glance back at an oncoming wave, and start paddling.
Sometimes I catch it. Many times I don't. Either way, it's exhilarating, and I'm increasingly mindful of the wave. If I time it just right, an incredible energy carries me forward to pop up for a spine-tingling ride. Just as likely, I'll topple over and grapple in the bubbling water for my board and bikini bottoms that might have plummeted to my ankles. Tomorrow morning, after countless rides like this today, I'll be immensely grateful for the recuperative powers of yoga.
This is Las Olas, a surf-sister nirvana nestled in a small fishing village north of Puerto Vallarta. A single week here is better than any summer camp you remember. Here I practice yoga high on a jungle hill and spend my days learning to surf, all while bonding with my fellow surfistas. We share long-tabled breakfasts in the morning, afternoon shade in the rustic and endearing clubhouse casita and evening samplings of local favorites like grilled fish and shrimp diablo. At night, the crashing surf lulls us to sleep in our glorious seaside accommodations.
Surf days at Las Olas are grounded in yoga—a gentle and rewarding morning practice that stretches, soothes, and centers paddle-weary bodies and minds. It doesn't take long to realize that yoga and surfing share common threads, both spiritually and physically. While it might take a long time to catch a wave or learn a new pose, both practices allow ample space for contemplation, focus, and conscious balance. Both command complete physical and spiritual presence. Both can be transformational and sublime. And they share an appreciable simplicity of gear.
Of course, guidance from a guru is essential whether you're riding waves or striking asanas. Las Olas surf coaches are remarkable. Their gentle voices, nurturing ways, and micro-adjustments turn many a hard-fought wave into a smooth, silky ride. And their insight nurtures body awareness and consciousness of the changing shapes of waves and the water's energy around us.
As women who make yoga an intrinsic part of their lives, these gutsy surf coaches are honest-to-goodness surfer "chicks" (because "chick" is how they proudly say it)—like Lizzie, the uproariously funny Australian who keeps us in giggle fits and good form by reminding us, "It's all about being cool, isn't it ladies?"
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