Sometimes, even in this Northern surf paradise we call Vancouver Island, the dreams of sunshine and tropical barrels are what keep our minds firing through the long cold flat spells. The discovery that Vancouveryoga.com, Milagro Retreats, and Pescadero Surf Camp were hosting a week long retreat near Todos Santos in Baja California sounded like a dream. Nothing sounded better to a cold surfer than yoga, sun, surf, and delicious food. A group of 18 like-minded souls spent the week learning “blissology“ ( definition: yoga, surf, and scrumptious edibles in Baja) and came home filled with memories of the amazing journey through it all. Here is Jenny Stewart’s account of their sun-soaked adventures.
I’d set out on this adventure with no idea what to expect. Not knowing anyone going, never having been to Southern Baja, and never in my life having attended a yoga class made for a good mix of endless possibilities for adventure! Meeting a large group at the airport for the very first time isn’t always easy. I was amazed at how natural it seemed when a woman holding paintings of surfers and yogis came up to me and asked, “Are you Jenny?” Yes! My all day brain fog was starting to clear as I finally felt like this was not just a dream. Already I could feel the buzz about surfing within the group. Everyone wanted to know what it feels like and did I think they could actually do it? I think I was the only one who had a million questions about yoga, but I didn’t know where to start.
DESERT, BUT NOT SOLITAIRE
As we drove toward Pescadero Surf Camp, I noticed the landscape blurring through the car window. I thought Baja was desert and just plain dirt, but it looked almost lush green for miles and miles. There were cacti as tall as trees shooting up between the constant green of prickly trees and flowering bougainvilleas. It looked as though someone had taken the time to plant this garden, although I knew from hearing stories that this wild desert was anything but tamed. Our driver was a local tour guide who spoke wise words about preserving the environment he was so passionate about. He spoke of the changes that needed to happen within the local communities concerning the dumping of garbage everywhere, and how embarrassed he felt when he saw tourists picking up the locals own garbage. A change in mindset needed to happen soon.
THE CAMPING ROOST
Pescadero Surf Camp is on the hill above Cerritos Beach. Almost like an oasis, the camp was vividly colorful, bursting with flowers and palm trees. Freshly raked sand surrounded the palm thatched palapas where we set up our tents. Camping is always my favorite type of accommodation, although it was a new experience for more than one person in our group. One thing most people almost never forget about camping is the stars. The night sky was brilliantly lit up and I just wanted to lie on my back and stare at it all night. My little tent was very cozy, and I had a super deluxe therma-rest and surfboard bag mattress. You never know what to expect when you crawl into your tent for the first night. I fell asleep most nights to the sounds of dogs barking ( coyotes?), trucks chugging up the hill near the camp, and the occasional rooster. We all laughed over breakfast in the mornings about the night sounds. It turns out the camp is located near a cock farm, so every morning the roosters would go nuts. Rise and shine! A splash in the big blue pool was an absolute necessity after the yoga workout every morning. The kitchen palapa was naturally the centre activity, with fantastic meals prepared there. Herbal Mate tea and fresh fruits in the mornings prepared us for our first yoga class, then we waited with great anticipation to see what came out of that kitchen for our lunch! I may sound a bit crazy talking about all this food, but after practicing yoga for hours or surfing all day, food definitely becomes number one priority! Just ask any surfer.
IN SEARCH OF WAVES
When my plane landed I could see swell lines and perfect waves peeling down Baja’s right points. I had no idea how big it was until we rounded the southern tip of Baja and came out to the more exposed Pacific. The beach breaks were thumping as hard as I’ve ever seen. It looked like Waimea shore break everywhere. This was just the first day! That night I fell asleep to the sound of lips cracking as the giant swell pounded the coast.. All I wanted to do every single second of every day of the trip was to be in the water. I couldn’t believe that to go surfing all I had to do was grab a board and go ( if my bikini was already on!). Being a regular foot surfer, I was stoked on the right points near Pescadero. The first few days I surfed, the swell was still huge by my standards ( I’m not a big-wave surfer) and I was super scared just paddling out. I decided not to chicken out, so every time I went out, I made sure to catch at least one ride. It wasn’t just rumour that Baja waves had juice, those waves were powerful! Each day I surfed, the swell size dropped a bit. By the middle of the week I was surfing perfect waves that just peeled off the point. It seemed a miracle that the wind stayed calm and I got to rack up a few sessions with sheet glass afternoons and only two or three other surfers out. One day, as my friend and I were walking down the beach to paddle out, an old surfer guy stopped us and said that he had “reserved us” the spot from the camper to the house. This was the very end of the wave, way over on the shoulder and far from where the only two other people were surfing.. I just said “thanks” and laughed. He probably thought we were a bunch of kooky girls who were going to get in the way and get banged up on the rocks. It only took a few waves to prove him wrong and leave the other guys asking my friend, “who’s that girl? Where did she learn to surf like that?” Their eyes just about popped out of their sockets when my friend said, “Canada”. It probably didn’t hurt that I was wearing only a bikini too!
Starting class in the big palapa the first day, I felt my palms sweating as I experienced the nervousness of a first timer. It didn’t help that my yoga mat ( new at Christmas) hadn’t been broken in and was causing me to slide even more. My fears quickly subsided as I was slowly eased into this new world of yoga . The teachers from Vancouver yoga.com were so talented. They offered expert advice and instruction for beginners (like me!) to advanced, as some in our class were. I learned meditation, breath work, and the correct positioning for the asanas. We were practicing power yoga, I was told, although I had no idea what that meant at the time. I found out soon enough, that after practicing 5 hours a day, my sore arms could barely hold me up. It couldn’t believe that surfing used totally different muscles, even in the shoulders! Every day we had a morning class and an afternoon class, as well as a “blisology” class after dinner. I loved waking up early and getting my body moving in the morning.. After surfing all day, the afternoon class felt like a full body massage. I was the “early to bed, early to rise” one in the group, meaning that I made it through only one bl;issology class the whole week. I usually succeeded in bringing up the previous evenings topics again over breakfast so at least I had some idea of what blissology meant! After every practice I felt stronger, both inside and out. I felt a certain serenity creeping into my life, something I had never experienced before. I felt more alive and full of energy, as if something inside of me was starting to awaken. This may sound strange, but it was so real for me that my journal entries even expressed it. One night I wrote that we had an absolutely “ mind boggling” evening session. There really are no other words to describe it, you’ll just have to experience it for yourself!
HOME SWEET HOME
I felt sad on the last night, almost like I was leaving my best friend behind. It was hard to say goodbye to such a beautiful, simple world. The ride to the airport felt like a dream once again, long, dusty, and hot. It was as if I was watching life go by like in a movie. I felt mesmerized by my experiences of the last few days. Surfing Baja is not something I will forget.. Duck diving a crystal clear wave and opening your eyes to see the ocean underworld spread out before you, or dropping into and overhead wave and seeing fish swimming beneath you, that’s Baja! The bliss of surfing and the bliss of yoga are perfectly complimentary. Everything just becomes twice as good. It’s after trips like these that I sit and wonder, how good can life really be?
|Jenny Stewart runs Surf Sister Surf School in Tofino British Columbia. She is recently married to a surfer named Mike, and together they plan to travel the globe, surfing as much as possible before the thought of starting a family takes over. They live on Vancouver Island with their dog Sitka. email@example.com