We have a new girl crush. Chicks who can pull into tubes with as much style as this wahine have our utmost admiration. Holly Beck doesn`t need much introducing. An ex-competitive and professional surfer on the Women`s World Tour, she is now based in Nicaragua and running surf and yoga retreats for much of the year. With a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Marketing (USCD) combined with her passion for sustainability, surfing, diving, travelling and social activism, this is one talented woman. She managed to find time inbetween retreats and pumping swells to talk story with us and shed some light on living, building and sharing her dreams….
You`ve led the life of a nomadic pro surfer and now call a slice of Nicaragua home. How long have you had Surf With Amigas operating and what was the inspiration behind it? I ran the first ever Suave Dulce retreat in April of 2009. We really ramped up the retreats starting in November 2009, and since then have had about 21 retreats and over 200 ladies come through! When I stopped competing one of the things I missed most was having adventures with awesome surfer girls. Starting the retreats was a way to keep the adventurous female energy around me while also finding a way to support myself while living in Nicaragua. It’s a lot of work but I love being able to inspire people to step beyond their comfort zones and achieve their goals. We actually just changed the name because too many people had a hard time remembering and pronouncing “Suave Dulce” so it is now called Amigas Surf and Yoga Retreats or just Amigas!
You`re also running trips to El Salvador – rad! What`s the gas on heading to that neck of the woods? We had a lot of amigas wanting to do a second or even third retreat but wanting to go someplace new. I went to El Salvador last September for the first time and loved it. I realized that the wave there is great for surfers of all abilities so we did our first retreats there in April. It was awesome, everyone loved it, so now we’re doing a couple more in October. We stay at a great spot overlooking the awesome wave at Las Flores. It’s a super long right, very user-friendly, and very rippable. There are also beachbreaks in the area if the swell is small and we can access a heavier break called Punta Mango by boat if there are girls wanting to learn how to tube ride.
Volunteer work is a big part of the Suave Dulce retreats. What are some of the challenges facing the local communities in your adopted home and how do you help out? I like to be able to give back to the local community when I travel and I want to present that opportunity to the retreat girls. We are aligned with a non-profit called Waves of Hope that is doing community development work, primarily focusing on education which I believe is the best way to teach a community how to help themselves. They do a lot of work with the kids, encouraging them to stay in school, offering tutoring and English classes, after-school programmes, and acting as teacher’s aides in the classroom. Right now we’re trying to raise money to build a high school because there aren’t any educational opportunities after grade six.
Checking out some of your pics, the waves over there look sick!! When is a good time of year to visit? The waves are good year-round, so we’re lucky. The swells are cleanest with the best winds from Nov – March. April – July have bigger waves so the points get good. Aug – October can have the biggest waves but the wind can sometimes be onshore. My favorite time of year is Nov – Feb for great weather and clean waves.
Ingrained in surf culture as you are, how do you see the current state or level of female surfing? After moving down here and having more limited internet access I haven’t kept in touch with the industry as much. I can say that from what I’ve seen the younger girls are seriously shredding and it’s fun to watch!
Your Hip-E site is a wealth of information on sustainable living and coupled with Surf With Amigas, must keep you pretty busy! What was the drive behind launching the site? I’m a computer nerd and I like to blog. It definitely keeps me busy but I like to be able to share stories about what we’re doing and hopefully inspire others to think differently and pursue their dreams. The Hip-E Habitat site was just a way to showcase all the lifestyle stuff – food, surf trips, sustainable living, eco-building, etc. that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the surf retreat stuff.
What measures do you guys incorporate into your daily life and property? We live in a simple 18’x20′ thatch roof cabana that cost us just $7k to build. We used locally sourced and sustainably harvested materials and local labour to build it. We have a grey water system in place (the sink water drains into a bucket that I use to water the garden, and the shower waters the garden directly), and a composting toilet. We grow a ton of herbs and salad ingredients like different types of basil, lemongrass, oregano, chives, chard, tomatoes, and have papayas, squash, passion fruit, and chiles growing as well.
What have been some challenges to creating your business in Nicaragua and how have you overcome them? Everything takes longer down here. Life is simple and slower which is awesome, but can also be frustrating when you’re trying to be efficient and speedy in getting things done. Internet access is super slow and unreliable which makes keeping the web content fresh a bit of a challenge. It’s hot and beautiful out and sometimes it’s really hard to sit in front of the computer answering emails when I just want to go out and play, but it’s all totally worth it!
Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs such as yourself? Set goals then define each step you’ll need to achieve to them. Then start one thing at a time and you’ll be amazed how easy it is.
Believe in yourself and anything is possible.
Favourite surf destination or spot?? I LOVE nicaragua, but now I also love El Salvador.
Essential surf items:
- Shiseido sunscreen
- A shorter (5’4″ – 5’6″) wider (19″) quad fin – I love the Rusty Dwart
- A longsleeve UV protected rash guard
- A bikini made to stay on while surfing – Body Glove, an awesome attitude! What else do you need?
Shoutouts to anyone…Rusty, Sector 9, Body Glove, Paul Mitchell, Ocean Minded, my boyfriend Kim (for putting up with my madness), my friend Jackie, the team at Coco Loco, and my two awesome dogs Ardilla and Lobo.
Holly Beck is the owner of Surf With Amigas surf and yoga retreats in Nicaragua and El Salvador. If you are interested in adventuring with Holly, contact her here. She also promotes sustainable living through her Hip-E Habitat blogsite, which is jam-packed full of insightful and inspirational tips and tricks.