I Booked a Surf Trip Like Lena Dunham And It Was Life-Changing

Channel your inner surf goddess.

via @theseea

It started out with a Google search: All-girls surf trip.

I’d been thinking about learning how to surf for years, honestly. Growing up in southern California, I’d spent almost every summer at the beach. But somehow, I’d never touched a surfboard—most of our beach days were spent tanning and getting caught in rip tides. After moving back east, I got used to people asking me two questions once they knew I’d spent my formative years in Laguna Beach:

“Do you know Lauren Conrad?”
“Do you know how to surf?”

I’d always roll my eyes and answer no, but deep down hope that one day I’d be able to say I could surf … and that I would become friends with L.C.

Welp, now I’m 28. And a half. And I live in California—just six miles from the beach—and I still didn’t know how to catch a wave. So I decided this was the year I’d have my Blue Crush moment—I would learn to surf.

I polled my wave-riding friends about the best way to learn. A few suggested just buying a board and heading out into the ocean—that sounded 100 percent terrifying and like an excellent way for me to drown. Hard pass.

A girl friend recommended going out with a surf instructor for a few hours for one-on-one instruction, which sounded reasonable but still sort of icky to me. “It’s kind of not fun to go out with a guy instructor, though,” she continued. “Because you won’t look cute—you’ll have snot dripping out of your nose and your bikini will be all messed up and your hair will be in your face, and you’ll feel really self-conscious.” Instantly, I pictured myself getting serious anxiety while sitting on top of a board in the middle of the ocean with a hot surfer dude, looking like a drowned rat trying to stand on top of a surfboard. NOPE.

What I needed was an immersive experience—something I couldn’t walk away from after one bad day, where I could get practice and incrementally improve, and where I could learn from multiple instructors and other novice surfers around me. A surf camp sounded like an excellent idea. So I got Googling. “All-girls surf trip.”

A few options popped up, but the one that looked most promising to me was called Surf With Amigas.

Surf with Amigas is the place for adventurous women to come together and encourage each other to fulfill their goals. It’s about empowerment, creating connections, learning to attract awesome into your life, and living in the moment.”

OK, I thought to myself as I scrolled through images of women of all ages, shapes, and sizes riding waves, this looks promising.

Surf With Amigas was started by Holly Beck, a former professional surfer who moved to Northern Nicaragua a few years ago to live full-time with her husband, and now, two kids. The Surf With Amigas retreats take place throughout the year in Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica—all excellent spots to get in the water for everyone from beginning to advanced surfers. And it’s not all surfing, all the time—each retreat has a yoga and adventure element, too. Good news for someone like me, who was worried about spending seven days in on a surf retreat if I decided day one that I hated surfing.

Per my schedule, a week at the Northern Nicaragua “home base” eco-resort, Coco Loco, worked best. So kind of on a whim, much like Lena Dunham’s character in Girls, I booked the solo trip.

What to pack

via @surfwithamigas

Before the trip, Holly sends out a checklist of what to bring on the trip. LISTEN TO HER! You’re gonna need a lot of bug spray, shampoo, sunscreen, and an umbrella. What you’re not gonna need? Cute, skimpy string bikinis and typical ‘resort’ wear. You’ll need a sports bra-like, supportive swimsuit for surfing (string bikinis kind of just fall off in the water), and at least one pair of surf leggings and a rash guard. Every article of clothing you bring is going to end up dirty and sweaty—it’s Nicaragua, after all. It’s really humid, hot, and there’s a lot of dirt and mud.

I lived in my Vitamin A swimsuit and Hamabla caftan the entire week, which was easy to throw over my suit when I walked back from the beach and offered plenty of mosquito protection for evening dinners. I’d also recommend bringing a pair of throw-away sandals, or a pair that you don’t mind getting real dirty.

Getting there

OK, it’s not that hard … but it’s definitely not easy to get down to Coco Loco for day one of Surf With Amigas. Coming in from Los Angeles meant a layover in Mexico City, landing in Mangua, and then driving about three hours to the resort. Thankfully, Beck and her team think of literally everything once your feet hit the ground in Nica—I was so relieved to find a shuttle with my name on it waiting outside of the airport. After a long ride (with a stop for lunch, duh.) we made it to Coco Loco.

Coco Loco Eco Resort

People, you already know I’m a big fan of nature and sustainability. So when I read that Coco Loco was a sustainably-run eco-resort, I was pumped. Located on a green parcel of land overlooking the shore, Coco Loco is a serious dream. Guests stay in nice, but basic cabanas, and everyone gathers for meals and hang outs in an open lodge area in the middle of the property. There’s a small pool for floating and swimming, as well as an open yoga studio where you’ll have class daily.

My favorite part of Coco Loco? Definitely the food. On-site chefs whip up delicious, healthy meals four times a day for the Amigas—trust, you will never be hungry.  There’s also an open bar available if you’re really ready to kick back and enter full vacay mode.

What to expect

via @surfwithamigas

Every day starts with first breakfast—coffee, tea, and light snacks to fuel your first surf session. Then the whole group heads down to the water and surfs for a few hours before returning back to the resort for second breakfast. Yep, second breakfast, which is just as delicious as it sounds. After that, the group gets down time to chill, hang by the pool, and review video footage of that morning’s surf with Holly. A few hours later you’ll grab breakfast, head over to open studio for a gentle 90-minute yoga class, and then eat dinner. The schedule varies a little from day to day—sometimes there’s the option for a second surf sesh or another activity like horseback riding. But the days begin early, around 5:30 a.m., and end early, too. You’ll definitely sleep soundly in your cabana every night!

As a novice surfer—like, someone who had never even touched a surfboard before—I was a little anxious about being the only person who was a beginner. Honestly, I had nothing to worry about. Women come to the retreat with varying levels of ability, and the incredible instructors do everything in their power to make each woman feel confident in the water. Before we paddled out on our first morning, we got a thorough training on how to “pop-up” on the board.

Before we paddled out on our first morning, the whole group was divided into beginner and intermediate levels. The intermediates hit the water, and the newbs got a thorough training on how to “pop-up” on the board on the sand. Then, we spent the first surf session (about three hours) practicing pop-ups on the whitewash. Throughout the week, as we learned more skills, we’d eventually graduate to join the others on the “outside,” the area where you can catch actual waves.

The entire time you’re in the water, the massively talented surf instructors are out on their boards with you, giving feedback and helpful encouragement. Like the attendants, the instructors are all women—and they are probably the coolest group of ladies I’ve ever met. Not only were they talented, athletic, and enthusiastic teachers, but they’re also SO nice and kind it’s almost unbelievable.

By the end of the week, you’ll be able to stand up on a surfboard—no question! Some women were seriously ripping by Friday. As for me? I was able to catch a few waves on my own, and I definitely felt like I was living out my Blue Crush dream.

Thinking about going? Here’s what you need to know

via @silviayom

I can honestly say that this trip was life-changing—yes, learning how to surf was pretty freakin’ cool. But traveling by myself to a foreign country to hang out with a group of people I’d never met before was an even greater learning for me … and something I didn’t realize would be so empowering. I can’t recommend Surf With Amigas enough to anyone who’s interested in stretching out of their comfort zone and learning how to shred.