A week at Chicabrava, the first all women’s learn to surf camp in Nicaragua, is bound to be on any female adventurers bucket list. Created by American Ashley Blaylock in 2008, an all time Nicaraguan surf champion, Chicabrava’s mission is all about empowering women, one wave at a time, and I can attest it is true.
At the end of February, when the weather was cold and gray in Minnesota I packed my bags and headed south to San Juan del Sur, a tiny fishing and surfing town located near some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches in all of Nicaragua. Fifteen years ago when Ashley first came to San Juan del Sur, there wasn’t even a hotel there but over time the town has grown to become one of the hottest destinations for surfing in the country due to their fabulous year round surf. Today San Juan del Sur hosts an array of good restaurants, nightlife, hotels and shops to keep you entertained after a day in the surf and sun.
After a three hour drive from Managua, I arrived at our casa for the week just in time for sunset. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the clouds danced in rays of pink, orange and red light. I sipped my wine and pinched myself that I was in such a beautiful place. Our casa was located about a ten minute drive from town up in the foothills overlooking the bay. The house accommodates six guests, and has a living room, kitchen and dining area where each day we were pampered with home cooked delightful meals of fried plantains, fresh ceviche, and pan-fried fish topped with lime by our lovely cook Katerina. The meals were to die for and the infinity pool at sunset with a drink in hand was heavenly.
If you’d rather stay close to the action, you can stay in town at Chicabrava’s Surf House which is located in the heart of San Juan del Sur or if you really want to experience country living and get away from it all you can stay up at one of the luxurious casas in the Cloud Forest. At the Surf House, lodging is casual with communal living in rooms with bunk beds. Also, the meals are not included. At the Cloud Farm, you stay in a beautiful house with anywhere from 3-5 bedrooms with double occupancy. All meals are home cooked by the hired chef, and the accommodations are high-end. Either choice, you can’t go wrong. It all depends on the kind of trip you want to experience.
Chicabrava accommodations at the Surf House:
Chicabrava accommodations at the Cloud Farm:
The days at Chicabrava are filled with surf, sun, adventure and time to relax. The entire week revolves around surfing and the days fluctuate around the tides. Depending on the tide, you may do all your surfing in the morning or afternoon. Then the rest of the day is reserved for different activities such as yoga, a massage, horseback riding on the beach, a catamaran ride or even a tour of Escuela Adelante a local school that Chicabrava supports. There is never a dull moment and there are plenty of beautiful sunsets to watch each night.
Here are a few of the highlights of a trip with Chicabrava.
Learning to Surf
Women go to Chicabrava to learn or perfect their ability to surf and to be empowered. Surfing is the primary focus of the week-long camp, and each day is different depending upon the tides. Generally, a day is split in half with either fun activities like yoga, horseback riding, a massage or exploring the town during the morning or afternoon and the other half of the day is dedicated to surfing. While I was at Chicabrava, the tides were most suitable for surfing in the afternoons thus each morning was spent doing a different activity. My favorite was the tour of the sustainable farm at the Cloud Forest.
For surfing, each session starts out with a theory lesson at the Surf House where guests learn all about the basics of surfing. Videos are taken of each surfer, and are reviewed by the group the following morning after the in-house theory class. We learned about different kinds of boards, how to ride a wave and surf etiquette. Each day, goals are set for what each surfer wants to accomplish, either with surfing or for empowerment. Then the boards are loaded up and we head out to the beach.
There are several beautiful beaches surrounding San Juan del Sur that offer perfect waves for surfers. My favorite beach by far was Playa Hermosa (“Beautiful beach”). It is absolutely stunning! Playa Remanso is also a popular beach with the locals. The beaches are wonderful because they are relatively undeveloped. Only one or two small restaurants or bars line the beach and it is very pristine.
Each day, guests are assigned to one of Chicabrava’s amazing instructors for the entirety of the lesson. Depending on the size of the group, there may be one or two guests working with an instructor. I loved being able to work with a different instructor each day as it was super fun getting to know them all and also each one had something different to offer. They also had their own unique stories of empowerment that made the experience even better.
Chicabrava’s instructors are of course all female, and they are fantastic. They literally join each surfer in the water for hands on instruction, encouragement and advice. I couldn’t have braved the water without them. They pushed me to overcome my immense fear of the ocean and do something I never dreamed possible. To catch a wave and surf.
Sunset meant beers on the beach and laughs about our day. A big part of the experience of Chicabrava is togetherness and empowerment. It is really powerful to be with a group of women, many who you don’t know and who all come from different walks of life, and bond together as friends through learning to surf.
Surfing was physically exhausting so we took as many breaks as needed. By the end of the day, we were all hungry, exhausted and full of sunscreen, salt water and sand. We could hardly wait to get back for our wine at sunset, a hot shower and yet another incredible homemade meal by our cook, Katerina.
By the end of the week, I was stunned that I was able to successfully pop up on my board and catch a wave. Going into the trip, I had no idea what to expect yet my adventurous, competitive spirit pushed me to try my best. Little did I know, I’d leave learning a little something new about myself. Despite my fear of the ocean, anything was possible if I had the right team of cheerleaders encouraging me on, and that knowledge is sure empowering.
If you go:
Chicabrava offers weekly surf camps year-round in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. You can stay at the surf house in town or the more luxurious Cloud Farm up in the hills. Check out their website for more information at www.chicabrava.com
Disclosure: I was invited to attend and review Chicabrava Surf Camp at no cost except airfare however all the words and opinions expressed in this article are my own.