YOGA MEETS SURFING AT SWELLWOMEN

Yoga meets surfing at Swellwomen

by Lynn Burshtein

Days begin at 6:30 a.m. at SwellWomen with an outdoor, hour-long “flow” yoga class led by the instructor, Tiffany.

It is here that attendees learn the relationship yoga has to surfing: poses such as the Cobra and Chataranga mimic the movements needed for surfing. Muscle strength and, of course, balance gained from yoga classes will also be of great assistance on the surfboards.

Located on the expansive Royal Lahaina hotel resort property on Ka’anapali Beach on the island of Maui, SwellWomen is a week-long surf & yoga retreat aimed at women of all ages. A certain number of the annual retreats - such as Swell Co-ed and SwellMates - are dedicated to co-eds and couples.

Headquarters for SwellWomen is a cozy, cottage-like environment where all meals, classes and meetings are held. Sleeping accommodations are in well-appointed rooms in the nearby hotel tower.

Following yoga, the retreat's private chef prepares a healthy breakfast of home-made granola, yogurt, tropical fruit and toast. Then, in preparation for the daily surf instructions, appropriate surfing gear is donned (swimsuits, board shorts and “rash guards” – athletic shirts made of spandex and nylon used to protect against sunburn and chafing – and water shoes (rash guards and water shoes are loaned to guests for the week). Then it’s off to the Guard Rails, a quiet beach area located a 15-minute drive from the resort and known for its beginner waves.

LEARNING THE ROPES ON LAND

Surfing lessons are taught by SwellWomen founder Me-Shell Mijangos' husband, Mike, along with instructors from Maui Surfer Girls School – a capable bunch who are able to teach key moves to beginner surfers in a nurturing and non-competitive environment.

Students are given a land lesson first, focusing on the all-important “pop-up”, a precise movement where a surfer will jump up on the surf board from the Cobra-like position into a bent-knee stance, arms outstretched, all while catching a wave.

After the land lesson is completed, guests huddle for group discussion, where they are encouraged to recognize their limitations in the water and maintain a high level of self-awareness – not unlike what is taught in yoga class.

HITTING THE WAVES

The surfers make their way into the water and then paddle to the "outside," the calm area located before the surf’s break. As each set of waves swell, the surfers take turns testing out what was taught on land. Love the way the surfer girls were all supportive of one another, regardless of an individual’s level of skill.

With each successive surf lesson, attendees are taught new skills and additional safety measures. At one point, Maui Surfer Girls instructor Sharkey warns me not to stand too long on the ocean floor after falling, lest I get bitten by ocean wildlife.

Also on hand one day is Maui-based professional photographer Nicole Sanchez to take photographs of the rising surfer stars. Photo are then sold at reasonable prices.

AFTER THE SURF

While surfing is the main component of the retreat - along with the morning class there are daily afternoon sessions and a few stand-up paddle board lessons - attendees are given ample opportunity to discover other things that Maui has to offer.

There is a morning snorkeling excursion in nearby tranquil waters among local species of fish, including the Hawaiian state fish called the Humuhumunukunukuapua, as well as resident sea turtles.

On another day there is a picturesque island mountain hike in a nearby state park. During a free afternoon, the group heads to the nearby town of Lahaina with its enormous Banyan tree in the town square, and local surf and gift shops.

The retreat also offers some spa amenities such as massages.

Days are capped off around the cottage dinner table, and Phil’s cuisine rivals the best of any fine dining establishment. Dinners usually feature chicken, tofu or local fish dishes (macadamia nut-encrusted Mahi-Mahi is a stand-out) along with rice and beans or some variation of oriental noodles, plus salad and dessert (although comprised of healthy, fresh ingredients, portions are not calorie-controlled, so attendees looking to lose weight may need to practice some restraint.)

For those with any remaining energy, evenings can be spent watching movies or attending a Luau at the resort (extra-curricular activities provided by the resort are not included in the price). Me-Shell, the self-proclaimed “Mother Hen” of the group, frequently checks up on everyone to ensure guests are enjoying the retreat.


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Lynn Burshtein is a freelance writer and Travel to Wellness reader who travelled to Swellwoman on a holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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