From an ant’s perspective, it was a tsunami — a frothy thundering wave, curling and crushing sea anemones in its path. As it approached me, I paddled furiously with my tiny T. rex arms feeling the wave rise beneath me. This was day one of surf camp at SwellWomen, a weeklong surf and yoga retreat along Maui’s west coast, just afew miles north of Lahaina.
Pushing up on my yellow surfboard, I awkwardly hoisted myself upright and held my breath. In a teetering attempt to catch my first wave, I hunched over like a prehistoric hominid, hovering in gawky limbo for approximately 2 seconds before promptly losing my balance and doing a face-flop into the salty Pacific Ocean.
This was day one of surf camp at SwellWomen, a weeklong surf and yoga retreat along Maui’s west coast, just afew miles north of Lahaina. It’s an all-inclusive, all-women’s wellness program offered from April to September. Founder Me-Shell Mijango started SwellWomen eight years ago. She left her corporate job in New York City and vowed to “follow her bliss” by traveling around the world. Shortly into her adventure, she came to Maui and, what was supposed to be a two-month visit, turned into a 10-year business venture. “I combined my two passions of surfing and yoga to create a wellness-minded retreat,” she explained “This program is a way for women to give back to themselves, feel empowered and have fun learning something new.”
While there are surfing meccas all over the world, from Costa Rica to Indonesia, Maui’s gentle waves and warm waters make it a great surf choice for beginners. The birthplace of surfing, Hawaii in general is a good choice for a getaway. A trip to this distinctly atypical American state gives you an exotic flavor without a hassle. No international flight drama, no foreign currency or language barriers, just clear blue waters, white sand, surf and a whole lot of hula souvenirs.
There, bobbing in the water on a mission to live out my Point Break dreams, I prepped myself for my next wave. All the lessons we learned in class were racing through my brain: how to read the waves, control your board, navigate in the right direction, do a turtle roll and abide by the unspoken code of surf etiquette. It’s a lot to think about when you’re just trying not to fall on your face.
“Get ready for the next wave,” yelled my instructor. I sprung up on the board like a regular Laird Hamilton. My fellow female surfers hooted and hollered with wild encouragement. Woohoo! Cheers, whistles, applause, congratulatory smiles; the atmosphere at SwellWomen was extremely supportive and the feel-good vibes were contagious. This nurturing, girl-power environment is not only conducive to learning a new skill, but it brings with it an immediate comfort level — so you can worry about your balance, not your body.
After an active morning of surfing, our group returned to the SwellWomen headquarters at the Royal Lahaina Resort for a healthful lunch. This was my chance to get to know some of the other women in the program. There was Kristin Jamerdino, a 32-year-old corporate lawyer who lives in New York City. She chose to spend her limited vacation days at a surf camp because it was a structured, active vacation where she could “refine my surfing skills, make some new friends and I come back home feeling refreshed.”
Bonnie Stevens, a 52-year old PR consultant from Flagstaff, Ariz., agreed. Between bites of quesadilla, this mother of two twenty-somethings proclaimed that “it was time to send myself to summer camp!” Fresh from completing an Emmy-nominated documentary, she was looking for a place to decompress. “This retreat is a world away from normal life, and it makes you remember what it’s like to play.”
Playing in the ocean, eating clean food, practicing yoga and getting spoiled with massages . . . um, a girl could get used to this! Inspired by this healthy lifestyle, I vowed to incorporate this wellness routine in my regular daily life (a vow that I quickly violated at the first sight of a bacon cheeseburger).
In terms of surf skills, I was certainly on my way from “kook” surf status (a beginner without grace or rhythm) to an advanced shredder. True, I still have some more practice ahead of me before I’m ready to hang ten, but I’ll make it there — one face flop at a time.
SwellWomen is a seven-day, six-night surf and yoga retreat near Lahaina, along Maui’s west coast. It’s an all-inclusive, women’s wellness program offered from April to September. Custom co-ed retreats are offered to groups of 8 or more. Prices per person range from $2995 to $3695 (includes six nights’ accommodations at the Royal Lahaina Resort, all meals prepared by a private chef, surf lessons, yoga, massage, equipment, transportation). Check out SwellWomen’s website for more information and discounts.
This article was originally published on MSN http://local.msn.com/events/surf-camp-for-grownups