If one of your friends asks you to go to an all-women’s surf camp in Nicaragua, say yes, especially if that surf camp is ChicaBrava.
A text message from one of my dearest friends, Hanna, asking me that very question is how I ended up in San Juan del Sur at a surf house on the bay with six other women. There were sisters Rizzy and Idy. One of them lives in California and the other in Boston. There was Sammie from Florida, Amy from Texas, Amanda from California, and, making a return visit to ChicaBrava, Michelle from Nevada.
And of course, Hanna and I, fitness enthusiasts from Virginia who had never so much as touched a surfboard, but decided “that sounds like a good idea” and showed up in Nicaragua with carefully selected “stay put” bathing suits and a lot of snacks.
Seriously. We packed so much food. We took ChicaBrava’s recommendation to pack protein snacks for all it was worth. Lots of Luna Bars and Complete Cookies (and Swedish Fish…) made their way to San Juan del Sur with us.
Hanna and I arrived in Nicaragua a day early and spent the first night in Managua. ChicaBrava picks up from the airport on Saturdays, and then stops at two hotels to gather that week’s surfers. We piled into one of the two Land Rovers that would be our mode of transport for the week and made the two-and-a-half hour drive to San Juan del Sur with a stop for lunch in Granada.
Our residence for the week was ChicaBrava’s Surf House. It’s the most basic of their options, but it was more than comfortable for the week. Located in the heart of San Juan del Sur, right on the bay, the Surf House is spacious with four bedrooms that sleep 2-3 women. The bedrooms are air conditioned and the living area is open with super comfortable day beds. There is also a TV with a selection of DVDs, board games, and plenty of books. And we can’t forget the hammock!
Upon our arrival on Saturday, we were greeted by ChicaBrava staff and cold hibiscus tea. After a few minutes to regroup and freshen up from our journey from Managua, we walked to a bay-front restaurant for drinks and goal setting. My first goal was to pop up, meaning to stand up on my board.
ChicaBrava is all about empowerment. They want you to learn to surf, but they also want you to face fears and grow your self-confidence. Surfing is hard. Facing those waves is hard. We won’t even discuss how hard turtle rolling is. But the ChicaBrava staff – some of the coolest babes in town – are with you the entire time, cheering you on, encouraging you, and helping you believe in yourself.
After setting our initial goals, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant, then turned in for the night. We were up early on Sunday morning for breakfast and the thing we were most excited about – board assignments!
More on board assignments shortly. I have to discuss breakfast first.
As an avid fan of breakfast, I came to look forward to breakfast each morning, cooked by our house mom. The first morning she greeted us with a traditional Nicaraguan spread – rice and beans, fried plantains, eggs, and fruit, not to mention delicious coffee. Throughout the rest of the week, we had things like pancakes, breakfast tacos (win!), and fried eggs and toast. There was always fresh juice and fresh fruit as well. I was a big big fan of breakfast.
At ChicaBrava, each woman is assigned a board for the week in a process that’s similar to renting a car. Part of the surfing experience is loading your own board, learning to care for it, and cleaning and storing it at the end of each day. Each surfboard has a name and I acquired Robin. Hanna, naturally, ended up with Batman. I had no idea how big my board was until I saw a photo of myself standing next to it!
Our instructors, Pasquel, Marie, and Kelsey, were ever patient with us. With the exception of Michelle, we were all beginners, but they had us riding waves in no time. Not without some epic wipe outs, of course.
We surfed at Playa Remanso each day, but did visit Playa Hermosa where a season of Survivor was filmed. It was a stunning beach, but I can assure you there was little actual “surviving” going on there. They chose the day’s beach based on surf reports and got us there by taking the Land Rovers over muddy roads and sometimes, creeks, as it’s the rainy – or green – season there, meaning it rains most nights, but everything is sunny and green by morning (or some days… mid-morning!).
After setting our initial goals on Sunday, we set new goals on Tuesday (master the pop up) and Thursday (turtle roll). We also had surf theory lessons and reviewed footage from the previous day’s surf so we could better understand what we’re doing wrong and how to correct it. It was incredibly helpful to see yourself on film, not to mention rather entertaining to see your wipe outs.
What I loved most by ChicaBrava is that the instructors were truly empowering. They were ever patient with us and had a genuine love of surfing – so much so that they often joked about how Saturdays are their day off, yet the end up surfing. While they prodded us to challenge ourselves, they never forced us to do something we were uncomfortable with. At least one of them went out to dinner with us each night as well which was especially helpful as they could tell us the best places to eat and help us navigate San Juan del Sur.
Besides surfing (and breakfast – I’m still thinking about those tacos), our stay included two yoga lessons and one of the best deep tissue massages I’ve ever had. Despite my love of fitness, I haven’t practiced a lot of yoga, but the two classes at Zen Yoga helped me see how it would benefit my lifting and barre training. As for the massage, I was ready to bring Carla, my masseuse, home with me.
I left ChicaBrava with every intention of returning next summer, if not sooner. Surfing was incredible, but Nicaragua stole the biggest piece of my heart to date. It’s been two weeks since we spent our final full day there, but I miss it acutely. I’ll share more about Nicaragua next week!
In addition to their Surf House accommodations, ChicaBrava also has a more luxurious option, the Cloud Farm, located on a 500-acre farm overlooking San Juan del Sur. They also announced a new option for seasoned surfers, Playa Colorado, while we were there, although it’s not yet available for registration online. You can learn more about pricing and booking here.
Have you ever tried surfing before? Would you go to surf camp in a third world country? (The answer should be a resounding YES!)
*Not a paid endorsement – just my honest opinion of a great week in Nicaragua!