Remember last Summer’s Costa Rica Surf Contest winner Alissa? Well, we’ve followed her and her college gal pal Kate down south to capture the fun. Check out the wins and wipeouts of their surf education as we document their week-long adventure. All of this is possible through the generosity of our friends at Pura Vida Adventures who host all-women surf and yoga retreats. We’ll be talking more about Pura Vida Adventures, Alissa and Kate in the coming days so stay tuned!
It’s Costa Rica. It’s surf camp. It’s all-women and it’s truly awesome!
I just spent the past week laughing, crying, learning and bonding with an incredible group of women from all different backgrounds, age groups and locales. Everyone was there for a different reason. There were women trying to find themselves and on a personal sabbatical. There was a very thoughtful Christmas gift from a husband, a break in between grad schools (yes, plural), a 40th birthday celebration, a sister reunion, a couple straight-up vacations, two contest winners and two Title Niners there to document the whole thing.
I don’t remember the last time I was thrown into a group of people that I didn’t already know to spend a considerable amount of time. Jury duty maybe? (But I don’t think that counts.) As you can imagine, things start off a bit slow, both from a conversational standpoint as well as a surf learning-curve. We were taught about the ocean, rip currents, waves and general safety. We then moved on to “pop up’s”—how to pop yourself up onto your board in one swift, core tightening movement. Mind you, this is all before we get into the water. We don’t yet know each other and we’re all a bit awkward. But by late afternoon on the first day, our first lesson under our belts, we were in the ocean putting our new knowledge to good use. I was pummeled quite a few times. I’d never surfed before and I’m proud to say that I was up and riding waves within a few tries. Others were more fortunate and riding like the soon-to-be-pros that they are and yet others were less fortunate; you could read the frustration on their faces.
We did this for days and days on end. We got into a routine. Yoga in the morning, then breakfast and surfing directly after. A few hours in the water, a hearty lunch, free time in the afternoon and dinner together again in the evening. The conversations flowed like we were old friends and the soon-to-be memories of surf camp were rapidly forming. All the while everyone was genuinely interested in how the others did. Did you catch a wave? Did you ride it in? How was it? How did you feel? I heard these questions over and over again. The best part is that none of this is forced. It’s all organic and natural. You can take a group of women who were complete strangers and give them this opportunity to face their fears and challenge their athletic abilities. It’s what I loved the most and what I’ll miss at home in my normal non-surfing life.
What did I learn? That surfing is hard. The ocean challenges you mentally as well as physically. Writing this, I can still feel the swells of the ocean rise and fall. I can hear the roar of the waves and almost literally feel the energy and power of the ocean forcing itself onto the shore. It’s enchanting and a bit hypnotic. While concentrating on my new found skills and paddling with all of my might, it’s hard to remember your troubles and frustrations and everyday life. There’s a euphoric feeling that takes over while you’re surfing. Then within an instant, I’m rolled and tossed in the surf. I regain my footing with a bit more respect and understanding than I had a moment before.
In summary, if you have the opportunity to go to an all-women’s surf camp, take it! I never thought that I would make new friends, learn a lot about myself and have a thoroughly enjoyable time with 12 strangers. Tierza, the founder of Pura Vida Adventures, has inspired this camp with her own heart and soul and it shows. It’s not about increasing the camp size and quantity or even about generating greater participation. While she is focused on running a successful business, she’s also created a camp that gives everyone a unique and individual experience. Where women aren’t competitive but supportive. It’s about breathing in the nature of Costa Rica and realizing that you’re alive. Surfing is empowering and she’s empowering all her camp participants every day. So I thank Pura Vida Adventures as well as the women who shared in my experience. My trip and its learnings will be remembered for many years to come.
By Jennifer McClelland
Because we get so many questions about our “models,” I thought I’d share some of our guidelines:
Rule #1: If you’ve always wanted to be a model, you can’t model for us. We only use gals with real bodies — no additives or preservatives.
Our “models” have real jobs or consuming passions. Since we spend a LOT of time with our “models,” they’ve gotta be interesting and interested, someone with whom we’d want to spend a lot of time.
And always, unselfconsciously confident.
In the end, our “models” are regular women, leading regular lives, lives not so very different from our own.
Missy Park, Founder
Alissa Pywell geared up and headed down to Costa Rica for a week-long adventure with her (super-lucky) friend Kate. “I am excited to be able to try surfing again…and to get into Yoga.” Alissa told us, “Neither are things that I avidly partake in at home.”
Alissa avidly partakes of many other things, though. She lists camping, biking, volleyball, swimming, backpacking, snowboarding, kayaking, and exploring (phew!) among her interests. “I am very outdoorsy and love to travel,” says this 29-year-old outdoor program coordinator at Illinois State University. “My greatest accomplishments have been working with young people, introducing them to nature, and showing them that they can do anything!”
That kind of idealism seems to be second nature to Alissa. “I like to show that I can swim, snowboard, and mountain bike hard in a size 12, and I like to encourage others to keep trying new things no matter their age, weight, or perceived ability. I think Title Nine shares that mission and I’d like to promote that through this trip.”
Although she entered T9’s contest “on a whim,” that hasn’t kept Alissa from making big plans. “I am looking forward to being in a community of women and getting to know some new friends,” she says. “I am most excited about being able to explore the area and discover some of the natural history of Costa Rica.” But, in addition to the snorkeling, hiking, talking to locals, eating local food, and “watching sunsets over the water,” Alissa is most psyched about time with her pal Kate. “She and I are friends from college and haven’t seen each other in a few years. What a great excuse to spend some time together!”
Okay, okay! We admit it: We’re envious!
We’ve been on the move a lot lately here at Title Nine. Mostly with making sure we get you the gear you need, but also with getting out to play and being active. In fact, here are a few snippets of what we’ve been up to.