Forget the shopping. Jayne D'Arcy has come here to surf.
This is my most exciting status update in my Facebook history. I’ve just finished the first of five surfing lessons on the She Surfs retreat. I’m completely elated, and quite stunned. It’s my first ever go at surfing and I just caught about 20 waves in a row. We’re now back in the open-plan lounge of our modern Balinese villa and Suzanne Hart, the Melbourne-based host of the retreat, is going though the images that the photographer has taken. I’m almost drooling in anticipation.
“This one, this one, this one!” I say to Suzanne, pointing out the photos where I’m standing up and looking like, well – like I’m surfing. She loads them onto a surfboard-shaped USB, hands it over, and I hightail it to my apartment next door and update my Facebook profile picture in seconds.
I’ve had a big year of change, and this feels like just the kind of experience I need. I have a feeling it’s people like me that She Surfs is catering to, too. Women (yes, it’s women only) on high incomes (OK, that ain’t me), who carry the world on their shoulders (well, it feels like it sometimes) who want to get away and do something for themselves. And learning to surf just feels so teenage. It’s the ideal antidote to grown-up responsibilities. There are loads of retreats available, especially here in Bali, but yoga seems too middle-age and detox is too draining (literally). Surfing ticks my box because it is just so unexpected.
The villa’s driver picked me up from the airport and tackled Bali’s astounding traffic on the way to Seminyak. The glossy shops we passed as we got closer to the villa came as a surprise to me. But I’m not here for shopping, nor drinking arak cocktails, nor doing anything that would result in an appearance on What Really Happens in Bali. Suzanne’s retreats last for seven days, and I decide to give up any ideas of intrepid travel during that time. I’ve looked at the itinerary Suzanne has prepared, and it rocks.
In store for us She Surfs attendees are five scheduled surf lessons, two scheduled yoga classes (held on the grass by our villa’s pool), two massages to be taken in our villa when we please and one two-hour session in a nearby day spa. Breakfast and brunch in the villa is included most days, and we have a chef on call. For dinner Suzanne takes us to a couple of Seminyak’s tastiest and most dazzling restaurants, as well as a Mexican joint (Motel Mexicola) that I become slightly obsessed with – unable to get enough of the lime juice marinated prawns and king fish. But it’s breakfast that Suzanne’s most adamant about. “Anything!” she says, pushing us to order from the villa’s breakfast menu the night before. “You need to eat before you surf!”
The ritual of getting from the villa to the waves becomes one of my favourite parts of the day. Suzanne has chosen a lovely group of local surfers to look after us, and each morning Frankie, the boss, is in touch with Suzanne, updating her on where the best conditions are and when he’ll take us there. We travel in a convoy of two vehicles with stacks of surfboards on the roofs. I wear my baby blue “She Surfs” rashie and feel pretty cool.
Ok, on my first day I’m feeling quite nervous. A little ill, actually. I have some crazy thoughts. What if I can’t get up on the board? What if I get up, get dumped and break my neck? Then I might end up on What Really Happens In Bali. Thankfully sharks don’t need to feature in my fears, as apparently there aren’t any man-eaters in Bali’s warm, if slightly murky, waters.
When we get to the beach Frankie gives us our daily lesson on the sand before we head out with our teachers to the beginner-friendly breaks. My surfer-boy pushes my 9-foot foam board in the right direction, and when it’s time for me to catch a wave he yells: “Paddle, paddle, paddle” and I do, and then I hear: “Stand up!” and I do. The rest is in the photos. I have a low day on day three (literally can’t catch a break), but catch the wave of my life (so far) on my last day. Yes, I posted that photo pretty quicksmart on Facebook, too.
She Surfs has trips planned for 30 August, 18 October and 1 November this year, and more in 2015. The surf & stay package is $3180, excluding airfares, for one person. See shetravels.net.au
On my first day I’m feeling quite nervous. A little ill, actually. I have some crazy thoughts."
Virgin Australia feeds you on its flights to Denpasar, Bali. Return Melbourne to Denpasar fares start at $800. See virginaustralia.com
The writer was a guest of She Travels.