Adventure Vacations Blend Surfing and Yoga

Surfers often reflect on their connection with the ocean, while yoga devotees try to reach nirvana, a heightened state of being.

Travel companies, noting the parallels, are introducing vacation packages that combine the practices. After all, yoga can improve flexibility, balance and coordination; helpful skills on a surf board. And yogis might appreciate the awareness of nature that comes with surfing.

"Yoga and surfing are a natural fit," says Peggy Hall, creator of the DVD series Yoga for Surfers. "They both are spiritual experiences that help you connect to the 'now,' the moment where life is taking place. To me, surfing is the equivalent of doing yoga in the water."

Surfers return to shore in Sayulita, Mexico.

Yoga can boost concentration, essential for mastering the waves when the seas are crowded. It may also help eliminate aches and prevent injuries, Hall says.

"I took up yoga to avoid shoulder surgery," she says. "Not only did my shoulder heal but my surfing improved dramatically."

When evaluating retreats, ask organizers about the experience levels of their instructors, and the types of waves and weather conditions they expect. Find out the student-to-ratio before you sign on -- small groups are best.

Here's a sampling of some of the yoga and surfing trips available:

Liquid yoga + surf; Montauk, N.Y.: Liquid, founded by yoga-practicing surfers, will offer weekend retreats for $799 on Long Island's eastern tip this summer. They include surf and paddle board lessons, yoga classes, movie screenings, seafood feasts and drumming on the beach.

Guests stay at the Crow's Nest Inn overlooking Lake Montauk, near Ditch Plains beach, the most famous surfer hangout in the Northeast. The sojourn begins on a Friday afternoon with a yoga class, followed by a dinner of lobsters and clams, and surf movies.

Saturdays start with strengthening yoga classes to live sitar music, followed by breakfast and a day of surf lessons. At 9 p.m., everyone gathers around a bonfire on the beach and dances to hypnotic drumming. Liquid yoga + surf also offers retreats in Costa Rica.

Access Trips' Mexico Surf & Yoga Vacation: This travel company, which specializes in instructional tours, takes beginner and intermediate surfers and yogis to the small fishing village of Sayulita, on Mexico's Pacific Coast.

Surfers "discovered" this up-and-coming area in the 1970's. They trudged through a dense jungle in search of waves said to be 1,000 feet long. While Sayulita has replaced jungle paths with dirt roads and camping tents with boutique lodgings, the village remains void of tourist trappings. This seven-day retreat offers group surf lessons and yoga classes, plus snorkeling expeditions and visits to "secret" surf breaks reachable by boat. Guests stay in newly built bungalows with ocean views and private patios. Prices start at $1,985.

"For a lot of people, surfing is more than just a sport; it is a way of life -- a way of appreciating nature, relaxing the mind, living well and looking after your body," Access Trips co-founder Victoria Ransom says. "For many who practice yoga, the goals are very similar."

Pura Vida Adventures; Mal Pais, Costa Rica: Pura Vida, named for the common greeting used by Costa Ricans, runs surf camps for women in Mal Pais, a seaside village on the country's Nicoya Peninsula. Coed camps are offered once a month. The area has five beaches with beginner to advanced surf breaks. Seven-day trips start at $1,995.

The company's eco-chic lodging, Hotel Tropico Latino, overlooks Playa Carmen and is surrounded by lush gardens. Rooms have bamboo beds, teak floors and private decks. A typical day starts with vinyasa, hatha or iyengar yoga classes before a breakfast of fresh tropical fruit. Then it's off to the beach for small-group surf lessons. Massages at the hotel's Spa Natural are optional, but they're a relaxing reward for braving four-foot swells.
Paola Singer is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and Hemispheres magazine.