an all-age adventure in Nicaragua
Female surfers and surf-curious women from around the world come together on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua to visit a girls-only surfer hangout. Ashley Blaylock, a Texan surfer and six-time Nicaraguan surf champion, made her surfer chick dream come true when she founded ChicaBrava Surf Camp. “I grew up always just around dudes,” she said, since most girls didn’t surf. “Nowadays I’m always around women because we’ve created a place where like-minded women can do those things.”
ChicaBrava, which means “brave girl,” offers seven-night surf intensives to women of all ages and levels. Their youngest guest was eight. Last year two 70 year-olds attended camp.
Besides Blaylock’s focus on female empowerment and camaraderie, San Juan Del Sur’s offshore winds are a big attraction. Offshore winds make better waves than the more common onshore winds.
Surf camp starts when the ChicaBrava crew picks visitors up at the Managua airport. They transport their guests over a surprisingly good road to the little beach town of San Juan Del Sur. The ChicaBrava Surf House is directly across from a bay full of bobbing boats crowned by terrific sunsets. The commercial part of SJDS stretches for a few blocks along the beach, and a few more back towards the hills. The surf instructors point out their favorite bars, restaurants and smoothie spots during an introductory walk around town.
The focus of surf camp is clearly surfing. The whole itinerary is planned around tides, and the goal is to get about three hours of board time daily. ChicaBrava keeps a maximum ratio of one instructor per three campers, but it’s usually more like one to two. The instructors, which are all female, include one local woman and several from surf spots like California and Hawaii. They are very hands-on, helping beginners position themselves on the board, pushing them into the waves and telling them exactly when to stand up.
The Surf House can host up to 10 women. Up to three share each room, some of which feature bunk beds. The bath, too, is shared. The in-town location makes it perfect for checking out the local restaurants at night, buying souvenirs and practicing your Spanish with the locals. A week at the Surf House costs $1,090 per person and includes daily breakfast, lodging, transfer to and from Managua, use of a surfboard, transportation to area beaches, two yoga classes, a one-hour massage and six days of surf instruction. Yoga classes are at Zen Yoga, a darling little second-story studio with screens for walls, so you can admire the view and feel the breeze.
At breakfast, vegetarians are well accommodated with beans and rice, pancakes, egg dishes, toast and lots of fresh fruit. Vegans should definitely pack some bars and nuts to supplement meals.
If you like a little more luxury, ChicaBrava also offers accommodations at the Cloud Farm. This higher-end lodging is 15 minutes from SJDS, up in the quiet hills. For $1,700 per person in a shared room, you get everything listed above plus three organic meals a day, use of a swimming pool with a killer view, and an extra yoga class. Let them know of any special diets when you make your reservation.
Many experienced surfers find ChicaBrava’s video critiques most enlightening. One of the staff spends time onshore videotaping surfers so they can learn from seeing their mistakes. In the middle of the excitement of scrambling onto a wave and then trying to stay on, it’s hard to be sure your feet are in the right alignment or your pop-up is smooth.
In addition to lots of patient and insightful surf instruction, surfer chicas visit local attractions. Horseback riding, ziplining, stand-up paddleboarding, hiking and sailing are all options. Or you can relax in the Surf House and watch a film from the ChicaBrava surf movie collection.
Blaylock has received a lot from the country she fell in love and moved to ten years ago. She is determined to give back to Nicaragua. As part of her goal of empowering women, she raises funds for Camp Bella, a program that brings girls saved from sex trafficking to ChicaBrava for a week. Last year, she and her instructors taught surfing to six of these girls, aged 13 to 16. “Definitely Camp Bella is one of my favorite, most memorable experiences,” Blaylock said. “Being with those girls, getting the community involved.” She hopes to change people’s perceptions of prostitution, to realize those young girls are probably not there out of choice.
So if you’ve always wondered about surfing – or you’ve always surfed with dudes – rejoice in knowing that down in Nicaragua, a pack of women are headed for the beach right now. And when they get there, they’ll hoot and holler and cheer each other’s attempts to catch a wave and ride it as far as it will take them.
To Find out more about ChicaBrava.