As the sun peeked over the green hillside and warmed our backs, we stretched through yoga poses, ate fresh fruit salads, surfed warm waves together, and laughed. At the time there was nothing particularly remarkable about the day. After all, Las Olas surf retreats for women had already logged 23 years of mornings just like this in sunny Mexico.
It was February 20, 2020 and in less than one month the world would screech to a halt. On March 17, 2020, like many places, California went into a full-on shelter-in-place. The streets in my town, usually bustling with activity, were empty. No cars, no shops, no people.
Simultaneously, we all learned about the novel coronavirus that was racing around the globe and watched as businesses, health agencies, and governments worked to slow the spread and protect their communities.
Las Olas was scheduled to return to Mexico that spring. Like our team, our guests were making preparations and plans to ride the next sets, but due to strict travel restrictions we had to reschedule.
Last winter, I honestly believed we’d sit out a session, get the virus under control, and be back in the water in no time, but that didn’t happen. Since February 2020, we’ve stayed home. I heard other surf camps tried to operate, but we chose to play it safe, follow the guidelines, and work with our guests and partners.
I’ve been selling fun since the early ’80s. After co-founding a snowboard company, I was always in charge of promotions and marketing. I could’ve easily put a positive spin on surf travel during a pandemic. For example, surfing naturally requires social distancing, yoga classes take place under an open-air palapa, and meals are served al fresco at the water’s edge, but I couldn’t do that.
Over the past 23 seasons, our team has made calls on behalf of the safety of our guests, crew, and community. If the waves are too big, we’ll move down the beach. If jellyfish are in the water, we’ll wait it out. Well, this is one of those times.
There isn’t a place on earth that escaped COVID-19. Where we surf in Mexico is no exception. People dear to us have struggled with the disease including Roberto, the Coco Guy who fixed fresh fruit and icy coconut waters for Las Olas surfers returning from boat trips or the beach. He passed away this January due to complications from COVID-19. His passing will forever affect his family and those around him.
I saw how local dependence on tourism allowed visitors to slip in and bring with them the virus, perhaps not meaning to, but it happened.
If we wait for the close-outs to pass, we’ll paddle through the white water without even getting our hair wet. The vaccines will roll out, the waves will roll in, and we’ll surf together soon. We know that action sports and travel have risks, but minimizing those risks for guests, crew, and locals is part of the work we long to return to.
Please accept my sincerest appreciation for your patience and loyalty.
See you in the waves,
Founder of Las Olas, the original surf camp for women