Life’s what happens, when you’re trying to catch the perfect wave. Bev Sanders, in her 22nd year of running women-only surfing vacations on one of Mexico’s pristine coasts, certainly hopes so. Guests at Las Olas eventually do find balance, stay in the moment, reflect on ebb and flow, and make it to shore: all surfing metaphors for life. But women falling off their boards, getting back up, falling again, laughing out loud, all the while connecting to their inner child, is what Bev finds most rewarding. “Our motto is ‘we make girls out of women’ and that’s exactly what happens,” says Bev, who runs Las Olas from her home in Camel-by-the Sea, California and travels to Mexico approximately six times a year. “Surfing is about getting back into your 11-year-old body, that state of mind when you believed you could conquer the world, when you didn’t yet know life could be so challenging.”
Relegating self-criticism to the seabed, making mistakes and learning from them, is easier and more fun on a women-only vacation. It’s also empowering for guests to see female leadership in action; women coaches riding the waves with strength and grace is an unambiguous example of what’s possible. But Bev’s feminist-leanings have deeper and earlier origins. Before the sandy beaches of Mexico, there were the snowy mountains of Lake Tahoe where Bev taught skiing and pushed for the creation of women-specific snowboards. “My long background in sports development showed me that from prize-money to equipment to magazine profiles, women weren’t given the same opportunities as men in sports,” she says. “I only learned to surf at the age of 44, but I immediately saw its potential. I started Las Olas that year.”
Always exploring ways for her programs to offer more edge or deepen the sensibilities of her guests, Bev and her husband, Chris, created Mas Olas (more waves). This surfing package takes more experienced surfers out in search of bigger swells and more challenging situations. The most recent workshop to be introduced to the vacation package is called It’s Your Wave, a notion that suggests women can claim, connect with, and conquer whatever’s approaching them. The workshop helps guests to grapple with the mental obstacles associated with surfing by using yoga, meditation, positive mental affirmations and songs. She’s currently writing a book “It’s Your Wave!” about lessons learned from surfing and our connection to the ocean.
Every November, guests of Las Olas are also treated to turtle releases, where thousands of baby turtles blindly heed to the natural pull of the ocean. “I’m haunted about what’s happening to our oceans,” says Bev. “Turtle release is one thing we can do as an example of hope for the future.”
Bev is at a contented but not complacent stage of her life. Her next chapter is likely to involve supporting women and business and draw on her knack for encouraging people to explore their dreams. “If women can help women learn to surf, we can help women start up their own businesses,” she says.
But Bev’s not done with the ocean just yet; she still surfs and stares at it every chance she’s gets – unrelenting, beautiful, deep, calm, unpredictable. Where every crash is natural and at best, a way to carve newness into stubborn rocks. Yes, that’s the ocean. Or, perhaps, a woman.
OVER LAND AND SEA…
Favorite Mexican experience: Our surfing village feels like home, but Mexico City is an extraordinary place to visit
A Must-Do: Surprisingly, Mexico City has impressive green space. Parque Mexico, in the Condesa district is stunning, and Bosque de Chapultepec is double the size of Central Park! The public spaces are phenomenal and museums are some of the best I’ve seen anywhere I’ve traveled.
Where to Eat: Matisse and Milo’s. Both are located in the Condesa district.
Plaza de la Constitucion | Flickr Ted McGrath
Packing Style: Perfectionist. Compartmentalized. Efficient.
The Best Thing About The Quartermaster: The carryalls are brilliant. There is a place for everything. My favorite piece is the bath/beach bag. It’s rubberized inside, so if I’m surfing in the morning before an afternoon flight, I don’t have to worry if my gear is a little damp. This little bag protects it from the rest of my clothing.
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