Assume the Surfers Pose

Posted Wed, 26/08/2009 - 5:43pm by Bel

Kelsey Munro
Sydney Morning Herald - Weekend Edition March 28-29 2009
Mar 2009

No meat, no men and no booze - for one virtuous weekend, Kelsey Munro concentrates on yoga and the waves.

I'm having doubts. A surfing and yoga retreat sounded so healthy. Now, waking up grumpy in the pre-dawn dark for our first yoga session, I recall that discipline and exercise are more pleasant in contemplation than practice. Our three-day program for the women-only retreat at Broulee, on the South Coast near Moruya, is wholesomely busy: 6.30am yoga, breakfast, surf lesson, lunch, free time, another surf lesson, dinner, meditation, bedtime. Repeat on the following day and a half.

Our surf teacher and group leader, Belinda Wehner, gently encourages us to attend every session. Our meals are vegetarian. There is no coffee, no chocolate, no meat, no booze and no men. In short, apart from the beach, this trip promises almost nothing I would normally consider fun. I am, however, excited about learning to surf.

The morning yoga, led by Elena Rabuda of the Broulee Wellness Clinic, is designed as a warmup for our first surf lesson. It is challenging. Actually, at this hour I feel as if I might cry. Obviously I don't.

Rebalanced chakras, peer pressure, middle-class repression, call it what you like:
there are powerful forces arrayed against throwing a tantrum mid-pose. As we watch the sunrise from the ocean during the class, I have to admit there is something to this virtuousness.

We are a group of eight: professional women in our 30s and 40s from Sydney, Canberra and London, most surfing novices. There is much laughter and some trepidation about the relentlessly healthy schedule we're facing. After a light breakfast, we are handed a fulllength wetsuit. I would like to  resemble a svelte superhero in my snug rubber - Trinity from The Matrix, say - but I feel more like a pressed ham. Clear green waves are rolling into the beach in gentle parallel sets. The water is virtually ours alone. It's warm, the sun is shining and there's a soft breeze: perfect conditions for learning.

Wehner grew up in Broulee and learned to surf here aged 12; she also has taught surfing in Queensland, Costa Rica, Bali and Hawaii. She gives us our boards: chunky nine-foot soft malibus that we can barely lift but are quite stable in the water. As a teacher, Wehner is calm, easygoing and fun, with a passion for sharing her knowledge of the surf. She shows that with the right instructor and the right waves, it's surprisingly easy to get started.

She links the surfing with yoga, encouraging us at first to catch waves in a yoga plank position. In no time we're zooming towards the beach on hands and feet, tumbling off in all directions. Lesson two involves trying to jump from plank position to standing. This proves easier on sand. Later, out in chest-deep water, I sit up to survey the waves. I pick one and paddle like crazy. If I can get the nose to stay up and scramble to my feet . . . I'm up! I'm a natural! This hubris comes exactly as I'm dumped spectacularly in the shallows. The adrenalin rush has erased the fatigue and I see why surfers get addicted. I spin the board around and push back out to do it again.

The following morning we return to the water after a long yoga session. I graduate to an eightfoot
board after my early success. In the water, we learn how to do eskimo rolls to duck big waves. The weather is not as pleasant as yesterday and the waves are erratic. It's hard and we all feel battered by the sea. But after a meal and a rest, we do it again. This time, whoops are heard along the beach as one after another catches a wave on her feet.

Sticking to the retreat's program is worthwhile. Those averse to New Age philosophies might struggle through Rabuda's spirituality lessons but there's no denying how good we feel after her yoga classes.
On Monday morning we rise again for yoga and then we're back on the boards for our last run. We get the best waves of the retreat as the tide rolls in. Famished, pink-cheeked and proud of ourselves, we return to our accommodation where a vegie barbecue is sizzling. I feel fit, healthy and two inches taller. I have learned to ride a wave and I've survived an entire long weekend in good humour without a gin and tonic. Wehner is a miracle worker and I have an exhilarating new way to spend my weekends.

Kelsey Munro travelled courtesy of Tourism NSW.


Getting there Broulee is south of Batemans Bay, about 300 kilometres or a four-hour drive from Sydney. Regional Express flies from Sydney to Moruya up to three times a day. Moruya is a 10-minute drive from Broulee.

Learning to surf Belinda Wehner's Broulee Surf School holds all-women surf and yoga retreats for $750
including three nights' beachfront accommodation, twin share, all meals, yoga classes, surf lessons and equipment. She also arranges half- and full-day surf classes for people of all ages and abilities and surf holidays at North Stradbroke Island, Bali and Hawaii. Phone 4471 7370 or see details:

Broulee Surf School | Surf & Yoga Retreats Schedule

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