Girls Rule at CHICABRAVA
By Lisa Collins-Haynes
Las Vegas Informer
Have you ever jumped? No, I don’t mean up and down. I mean really jumped. As in took a running jump and leaped on nothing but faith? Recently I did, and I can honestly say it changed my life. My jump led me to an unassuming town off the coast of Nicaragua; doing something that I’d never thought I’d be able to do – surf. Yes, you read right—my jump was all about surfing in San Juan del Sur. I signed up for an all-women’s surf retreat called CHICABRAVA, and had the time of my life.
Of course when I told my friends they all laughed and called me crazy. They said, “Only white people surf, why are you doing this?” My response to that is, it’s not about black or white. It’s about daring to be different and empowered enough to step out of your comfort zone. So I jumped! What I learned at CHICABRAVA will stay with me for a lifetime; not only because of the experience – but mainly because of the “girl power” aspect that renewed my inner sense of self-endurance and strength. Being surrounded by all these women in a male-dominated industry made me feel like, ‘if they can do it—so can I’. I don’t think my perception would have been the same if I had only read about this surf retreat. Being there—being in the moment—that’s what it’s really about.
CHICABRAVA is the first and best all-girls surf retreat in Nicaragua and owned by six-time National Nicaraguan Surf Champ, Ashley Blaylock; an attorney originally for Texas. It’s an elite retreat for adventurous women who appreciate comfort, but love to challenge themselves as well. When you book a package with them, it’ll include a week-long stay at either Cloud Farm (luxury camp retreat) or Surf House (in-town camp) and is driven by a comprehensive instructional surfing program. The program is focused on helping you reach your specific goals through surf theory, in-water training, drills, feedback sessions and video review analysis. They even teach you surfing lingo and water etiquette, because unbeknownst to me it’s not just a free for all once you hit the water with your board. There’s a method to the madness and it helps to know the rules. Blaylock’s team of surf instructors not only exude confidence, but also have a way of making you believe in yourself like never before. Lessons are given in small groups, so it’s like you have your own personal cheerleader, (but in a tough surfer girl kind of way). I found them each to be concise, professional, intuitive, compassionate, and patient during my surf sessions. I can attest that it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever signed up for, but also one of the most challenging and it was so worth it. I never thought in a million years that I’d have an urge or desire to surf—but after visiting CHICABRAVA, I can’t wait to get back in the water with a board.
After a full day of surfing, there was nothing nicer than going back to the Cloud Farm; which is where I stayed. It’s an upscale four-bedroom bungalow that sleeps eight, nestled high above Juan San del Sur on 500 acres of farmland. Cloud Farm is equipped with everything, including a full staff. Weeklong packages for guests staying exclusively at the Cloud Farm include three daily meals prepared by the Chicabrava chef. There’s an emphasis on healthy living, so they offer local and organic foods grown on their private farm. The rooms are cozy, but the bay view and overlooking San Juan del Sur below is simply incredible. When you’re not out taking surf sessions, you can pass the time away by getting a personal cooking lesson of Nicaraguan treats from the chef, or taking a few yoga lessons from an instructor that makes house calls, you can take a dip in the private pool, lounge in a hammock and watch the howler monkeys and anteaters go by; or arrange time to go horseback riding with the Cloud Farm equestrian team. During my ride, I saw a sloth holding her baby while crouching high in a tree as I rode by.
The Surf House is more of a Girl Scout camping environment and is ideal for the budget-conscious traveler. In the heart of the town next to bars, restaurants and shops, it gives you a taste of the local flavor and is a mere stone’s throw from the water’s edge. There’s a relaxed atmosphere at the Surf House and the perfect option for those that want to have a more traditional and rustic Nicaraguan experience during their time in San Juan del Sur.
With over 300+ days of offshore wind, nearly every day is ideal for surfing and CHICABRAVA offers lessons for beginners, intermediate, and advanced. There’s also an option for women that are 40+; that want a little pampering during their surf retreat. If this sounds like something you want to challenge yourself to do, visit www.CHICABRAVA.com and take a running jump!
Lisa Collins-Haynes is married and the mother of one daughter. She is currently working as a Freelance Travel Journalist and has had several articles published. Lisa is a self-professed out of control travel spirit (O.C.T.S) and she invites everyone to follow her new travel blog at www.octsblogger.wordpress.com.