I was invited earlier this month to join Chicks On Waves and write a review here for their yoga and surfing retreat in Algarve, South of Portugal. The fact that it’s run by women for women was all the confirmation I needed. The founder, Katrien, and all the ladies who work with her have a huge love for surfing, and they all surf as well. It is a team of independent international women.
My experience in surfing was limited to the one surfing lesson I tried in North Portugal last summer, which I loved. Going to a dedicated surf camp to immerse myself in the experience for a couple of days sounded like what I needed to fully appreciate this sport. Yoga is my first love and always a positive bonus. Both sounded like the perfect combination I needed to warm my soul after the long winter in London.
Active retreats are more than just having a holiday. It’s having time to work on the self and learn something new. These experiences are to remember for life. In this post, I will share my retreat experience and how I found the general feel to help you decide if you want to go on a similar experience.
Where is Chicks on Waves Located?
Before I tell you about the retreat and all the things I did let me start with the location and give you the possible ways to get to the retreat. The information online about traveling within the Algarve was a little confusing!
The retreat is located in a gorgeous villa, One Life Lodge, on top of a hill in a small village five minutes from Burgau facing the Cabana beach. It is about an hour and a half from Faro International Airport. There are a few ways to get there. The easiest way is to get a private pick up with a taxi and the retreat can arrange it for you. The cost is 84 euros. The longer, but the cheaper way that I tried myself is to book a seat on a shared bus. The company I used is called the Green bus and I booked my ticket the day before online for 27.50 euros from the airport to Burgau.
After I landed, I headed to the Green Bus counter, which was located just outside of the luggage area within the airport. It took about half an hour for everyone who booked on the same bus to come through. Burgau was the last stop. Thankfully, I had the exact location coordinates, so the bus dropped me off right to the villa door.
The villa is very stylish and the location is stunning, which makes up for the journey to get there. There are a few areas to hang out: the lounge upstairs and downstairs plus the terrace and the private pool area.
The rooms are shared with two or three and you have a shared bathroom. The rooms are light and stylishly decorated with an easy beach vibe.
What is it like being on a surf and yoga retreat in Portugal?
Chicks On Waves, a surf and yoga retreat in Portugal, offers a five-day or a-weeklong option. The dates depend on the season and you can choose from their offers.
The morning starts with a very relaxing yoga session in the villa. Thankfully the yoga was at 8 am and not at the crack of dawn, which is a good time to wake up. I just rolled out of bed in my PJs to the yoga mat and into the corps pose. It was a great way to wake up and start the day.
Breakfast followed in the lounge and I was ready to devour all the healthy food that was on offer. I am usually not even hungry in the mornings and only drink a cup of tea, but I worked up an appetite after yoga. After my three-course breakfast of granola, fruit, eggs, and peanut butter and jam toast, I would get ready and finally take my PJ off to be ready for the surf lesson pick up a 10:30 am.
Surfing was divided into two sessions; one right away when we got to the beach and another half after lunch. We had light and healthy lunches of salads on the beach. After another hour and a half of surfing, we were dropped back into the lovely villa to rest until dinnertime at 7:30 pm.
Dinners were delicious and mostly vegetarian (and can be vegan). The food was prepared by Anina the Swiss surfer chef. We all ate together at the big table like a family. I enjoyed being with other independent and interesting girls. It’s nice to just grow the womanhood bound.
The retreat had a good balance of activities and relaxing times. The days went by really fast and it was satisfying to the soul.
Ps. These times might differ because surf lessons are scheduled based on the tide, but you will be notified ahead of time if there are any changes.
Check this video of my experience:
What is it like to surf for the first time?
Learning to surf is fun and challenging in equal measures.
I have only tried two lessons since I was on a press trip, so it’s hard to judge my progress. Having one surf instructor for six girls made it a little difficult especially at the beginning when I needed more assurance, but this is the normal practice in all the surfing schools in the area. To stand on my board, I would have needed several daily practices I think.
If you are there for a whole week, you will certainly get a real taste for it. I am still at the very beginning, but I would like to give in another go later in the year.
Surfing depends on many factors like the tide, wind, and waves. It’s hard to predict how the surf will be, but just being in the water is good for a surfing learner. Water conditions are different worldwide. In the South of Portugal, the weaves are not as harsh as the North because the windbreaks before getting to the South, which gives learners and professionals good ‘swells/wave height’ for the surf.
The water in the Atlantic Ocean is very cold all year round, but after few minutes in the water with the wetsuit you will hardly notice the coldness of it and you will be more focused on the waves and your board.
The wetsuit and the board are supplied. All you have to bring with you is a towel, bathing suit, flip-flops, and thick sun cream.
Surf terms for beginners
When you get to the retreat, you will learn so many new surfing terms. I haven’t heard of some of them even during my previous surfing lesson, but the longer you are out there, the more you will know. If you want to be well prepared before heading to the retreat these words might help you out!
This describes the waves and how high the curve gets for a surfer to be able to use it. This is the most important term that was used every day a couple of times! There are apps such as Magic Seaweed that tells you how the daily details of the swell.
This is where beginners start in the ocean. It’s the white-colored or shallower waters.
The group at the retreat sometimes includes intermediate surfers and some of them were speaking about the green water, which is basically the higher wave in the deeper waters.
Advice before going on a surfing retreat
Although this retreat is so much fun, it is an active retreat that needs somewhat of an active body. You do not need to be a gym addict, but be aware that you will be using all your core and shoulder muscles, so it might be worth doing a few exercises at home a few weeks before you come on the retreat such as squats, push-ups, lunges, and planks.
There are full training programs, but you doing a set of each a day will give you an advantage and you will last longer in the water without your body aching all over!
Yoga is a series of poses that stretch your body and teaches you self-control. It is always great not only to work out but it is fantastic to heel your tired muscles. It is said that yoga makes you a better surfer because of all the benefits that it can give you.
The yoga lessons on Chicks On Waves are used to connect the girls to the group together and to stretch out the tension after surfing. Every day of the four days I was there, we did either group or partner poses alongside with individual ones, which strengthened the group dynamics. Additionally, it was needed in the morning after the surf.
I felt so much better directly after the practice.
What is the benefit of going on a women-only yoga and surfing retreat?
As a Muslim woman, I prefer women-only activities because I feel less restricted. Women from other faiths who were on the retreat felt the same way as well. It was just comfortable to be with other women.
We were just ourselves without the added pressure of having men around. It was also nice to just talk to other women and hear out their experiences and life stories. A lot of the ladies who come on this women’s surf camp end up becoming friends especially if they live close to each other.
Chicks on Waves Highlights
This retreat was a great experience to have and I particularly loved these things:
- Everything is included: food, lessons, transportation, and accommodation. That made life so much easier. There was no pressure or stress of figuring anything out. It was all planned in this surf and yoga holiday.
- The yoga was in the One Life Lodge villa – aka this women’s surf camp headquarters – so I did not even have to change from my PJs and that was great.
- The female staffs were such beautiful souls and all of them are so passionate about surfing, which charges the place with positive energy and reinforces surfing love.
Are you a surfer chick looking for a women’s retreat? Then this yoga surf retreat in the Algarve, Portugal, might be all you need!