“Surfing is like the mafia. Once you’re in – you’re in. There’s no getting out.” Kelly Slater
Coming off my first surf trip to Costa Rica (read previous blog – “Enter Surfing. Exit Yoga. An Unexpected Twist.”) I was stoked to get back on a surfboard. With what I felt was a HUGE learning curve in so many aspects, I was ready to research more trips and jump back in the ocean. I knew exactly what I wanted on my next adventure – food, 7 days of surf, a place to stay and something reasonably priced. It’s not the cheapest sport on the planet especially if you have to travel however, in my mind, it is all worth it!
Traveling Solo to San Clemente, California
I find it absolutely amazing when you know exactly what you want and it absolutely shows up for you. I mentioned above that on this next surf trip I wanted to find some sort of all inclusive package OR somewhere I could at least buy food and cook, surf lessons, and somewhere not too far so airfare wouldn’t blow my budget out of the water. There are a ton of surf hostels like that around the world – most of them fairly inexpensive, it’s just the getting there that can be costly. After some research and ho humming, I found a deal in San Clemente, California. The communication with the owner (Sean an experienced surfer dude and amazing photographer) was impeccable and the price for the beginner surf package amazing!
Even though I knew what I was wanting, I really had no idea what to expect. Since I had chosen the cheapest package, I kind of figured I would be staying with other people, just had no idea what it would look like. However was super happy because I was being fed three times a day, had surf lessons every morning, the flight to Santa Ana was fairly cheap, and the Uber from the airport to San Clemente was super easy. This all fell into place so nicely but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t anxious lol! Holy shit, for some reason my anxiety level was off the chain, I mean I had surfed before so felt somewhat prepared for that but there were just so many unknowns and I was traveling solo.
And I suppose that is where the adventure lies. Into the unknown is where we can find the greatest growth. Everything for this trip was in perfect order (organizationally), yet, how it would all work out was another thing. Who was going to be there? Guys? Girls? Would I be the odd man out traveling there by myself? I have had some terrible experiences with groups in the past so I definitely felt insecure and unsure of myself. But in hindsight I can tell you this is definitely my preferred method of travel, unless of course I am traveling with my husband. Traveling solo has helped me grow more confident and has definitely given me a greater sense of self and security on the planet. I highly recommend you give yourself this gift!
Bunking and beer drinking with the boys
I arrive at Nomads, a very small boutique hotel, all sorts of cool decor and bold colors. I find the office get my surf pack, free drink ticket and meet the surf instructor first. Right off the bat, you can tell he is a total surf dude – he had the language down pat (epic!, stoked!) and just this super cool vibe that surfers have. Immediately I know and feel that I want a little of what he’s got – laid back attitude, confidence and this air of playfulness and fun. This girl here (me) takes life way too seriously sometimes – meeting him was a total breath of fresh air and he was amazing!
I find my room and it’s awesome – 7 or 8 bunkbeds each one with their own little curtain for privacy. Who doesn’t love bunkbeds?!?! I used to love them as a kid. So now I wonder who I would be rooming with and as I am settling in, I meet my first roommate. A young guy in his twenties all the way from Sweden. He was there traveling solo as well which brought me a lot of comfort. A super cool guy, we hit it off immediately. Then later, we met our final addition, a young guy from my hometown (Edmonton) in Canada! Coincidence?!? And, what do you know, he was traveling by himself. These two crazies were my bunkmates for the week and it was awesome!
I felt like the “universe” put us together perfectly, obviously we had all separately booked our trips and then we came together and there was this amazing energy and bond. I love those feelings and moments. To me, it feels like there are unseen forces that magically pair you with the right people at the most perfect and right time. Yes, we could call this a coincidence however, I really do believe that there is no such thing.
Sweden was there finishing off his travels around the US, he had never surfed and I remember him being so nervous, it was great to be able to offer him details about my first experience with surfing therefore relieving some of his anxieties. Once done with this trip he was heading to LA to meet other friends then back home to deal with his ex-girlfriend and their split.
Canada had just graduated from University and was taking a break before he started a new job. A super nice guy with a great attitude. Besides surfing and relaxation, he wanted to begin getting back into shape. And me? Well I was there to surf primarily but there was so much more! The camaraderie while off the surfboard was something I hadn’t had any experience with and hanging out with them was filled laughs and tons of fun. They absolutely brightened up my life that week! I did become a mother hen of sorts, lol. My one rule for the room was no overnight guests…
We ate extremely well and drank extremely well! I had never tried a jalapeno margarita – it’s a must try if you haven’t. And even though we surfed every day, I gained at LEAST 5 pounds on this trip if not more. Those microbrews plus all the carbs definitely sat on me but hey, life is short and you must live and hopefully laugh every day!
We Surfed and We Surfed
Every morning we got up early to go surfing. Todd our gnarly surf instructor would load up the car with our boards and wetsuits and out we would go to whichever surf spot he felt was best for that day. Extremely warm weather during the day and very cool nights. So the water temperature was quite cool hence the wetsuits. I had never surfed with a wetsuit on so this was new experience for me.
We surfed at Doheny State Beach for most of the days – a great surf spot with pretty easy waves – a good place to continue building my skills. But I will say this – a lot of heavy surf traffic. Obviously it’s California and a lot of people surf there. Young, middle aged and older! It was amazing to see the variety of ages out there surfing. I would have preferred a little less traffic – had some potential run ins where I had to jump off my board however, I would consider that a good skill to learn.
One of the days we surfed at San Onofre State Beach, much more difficult than Doheny though it was a super choppy day. The waves were not smooth nor was the water. Paddling out was a bitch but a great workout and back then my paddle skills were still very lack luster so I was pretty depleted afterwards. And cold! I didn’t catch a lot of waves this trip which was super disappointing to say the least. However, for me, surfing isn’t just about catching those waves. Being on the water, moving through the fear that always pops into my heart right before I get in the ocean, hanging out with the boys waiting for waves and the fun (and sometimes deep) conversations you have out there.
I loved this whole experience. It wasn’t just about the surfing. It was about the friendships, our awesome group energy, supporting one another in surfing and in life and of course, the good food and drinks! I went in with a pretty serious attitude – there to surf and nothing else – and came out with a playful and light heart. I would definitely seek out an experience like this again though I am not sure this one could be replicated. But I do know as I continue surfing, each experience will give me “something” of value whether it be greater surf skills, amazing rides, waves that crush me and I no longer fear them or new people that shape my world into something even greater. Like the quote from Kelly Slater says – “Surfing is like the mafia – once you’re in – you’re in. There’s no getting out.” I am definitely in, it’s only gonna get better and better! Learning to live richer through these crazy and awesome surf trips!
Photo Credits – Meredith Bowerman