1st Annual WSSM Womens Surf Retreat - El Salvador 2013

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On the beach at Las Flores, with the entire WSSM women’s surf retreat crew... except Tio Patricio? Where’s Tio? (He was still doing the “Harlem Shake”... log on to womenssurfstyle.com to see the video!) Photo by Buffy Archer... thanks mama! We love you! Back row- left to right: Kaydi Archer, Daryl Dawson, Savannah Freels, Kristin Wetzel, Kerry McDonald, Katie Radcliffe, Tara Walker, Sandra Olson, Ami Berg, Carolyn Palma, James Vybiral. Front row- left to right: Gabriel Fernandez, Dr. Sandy Doman, Dan Olson

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RAILS & TALES . . . El Salvador

Tio Patricio (Uncle Pat) at Las Flores point proving he’s still got it at 56yrs old! Taking the boat to check out Punta Mango, El Salvador’s most popular barrelling wave

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Photos by Gabriel Fernandez www.fernandezphotoart.com

It all started with an idea. Let’s gather some girls together, and host a women’s surf retreat in El Salvador, getting to know some of our readers and documenting it all in the magazine! We wanted to share all that we’ve come to love about this magnificent country, and 4 months later, with 16 of us in tow, our adventure began. But let’s back up... As we made our plans, booked the retreat at the alluring Azul Surf Club, contacted Avianca Airlines (best airline for Central American surf travel) and coordinated everyone’s flights to arrive at the same time, we hoped for great surf and good weather, and began watching the surf report in Las Flores, our surf destination. One week before we left, I got the hoped for- yet also dreaded email from Lissette. “Sandra, you may want to plan some additional activities for the girls... have you heard? The surf is going to be HUUUUUGE! All of Central Amer -ica

is talking about it, guys are coming up from Panama and Peru to surf this swell. It’s beyond huge... it’s gigantic!” Lissette, Azul Surf Club’s owner said. “Oh dear!” I thought. “Here we go. Not sure if they’ll be able to handle, but there’s always a wave at Las Flores for all levels, depending on where you sit, so let’s do this!” I immediately emailed the girls and let them know to expect the surf of their lives, and not to worry, we’d make sure we found them waves. After all, there’s no way the swell could last all week, right? (Wrong!) Some were thrilled beyond belief and ready to charge. Others, a bit more hesitant, but ready to try. That’s my girls!! On the red-eye flight from Hawaii, we landed in LAX where we met up with Carolyn Palma, my sister and our in-house yogi. After a quick plane change, we boarded the always obliging Avianca Airlines, where we enjoyed free meals and an open bar the entire ride. Touch-down... El Salvador!! We had made it! Tio Patricio (Uncle Pat from Texas) joined us at the airport, and our lovely Azul Surf Club driver transported us to the resort. Upon arrival, we were greeted with fresh coconuts and a friendly staff, and eagerly awaited the next couple of vanloads of girls to arrive! First

to arrive was Tara Walker and Gabriel Fernandez. Tara is from Daytona Beach and LOVES big waves, so we knew she’d be in her element with this swell. Gabriel, our wonderful photographer, and also from Florida, was ready to snap, snap, snap away, capturing every moment of the retreat. Next to arrive was Dr. Sandy Doman, owner of Miami Sports Chiropractic & Yoga Center (in Aventura, Florida), her good friend, Kerry McDonald, a COLD water surfer from Boston, and Kristin Wetzel from New York (learn

Sandra Olson, enjoying another beautiful Las Flores wave

Azul Surf Club

Lissette, Buffy and Rose (Lissette’s mother)

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(right) Kerry & Kristin buying hand made jewelry from the locals

Sandra watches Katie Radcliffe get one of the best waves of her life!

The view from the upper balcony at Azul Surf Club Learn more about Azul Surf Club, and how you can help with their “Soul Project” at www.azulsurfclub.com

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RAILS & TALES . . . El Salvador

Daryl... floating on top

Carolyn (left) and Kristin (right) headed back to shore

Kaydi, catching waves a LOT bigger than Cocoa Beach, Florida, while the crew up on the hill (right) cheer her on

James, Kristin, Tara, Tio Patricio, Carolyn, Ami, Sandra On the beach at Las Flores... did anyone bring wax?

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Dan Olson at Las Flores... enough said!

(above) Ami Berg finds one of the rare, glassy lefts she craved at Las Flores. (below 1, 2) Carolyn passes out school supplies to the local kids before they enjoy a free magic show. (3) James enjoying the experience with the kids (4) Irma Estrada-Silva, owner of The Sweet Spot gives Tara a stressrelieving massage that was included in the retreat package (5) Winners of the daily Sun Bum monkey trophy (our retreat sunscreen sponsor), given out nightly to the most inspiring performance of the day.

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more about her as an artist on page 119). Kerry and Kristin were cold-water surfers, so they were ready for warm water and sessions with the girls. Next arriving was the Florida crew- Katie Radcliffe, Kaydi Archer, Buffy (Kaydi’s mom), Ami Berg (Kaydi’s surf coach), and Savannah Freels- all from the east coast and accustomed to small, snappy waves. Daryl from Hawaii/California was our lone wolf, coming by herself- yet leaving with life-long friends, and our videographer- James Vybiral, from the UK, made our group complete! Initial greetings were made and hearts pounded as we heard the surf beating on the shore in front of Azul Surf Club. Was it as big as it sounded? After renting a couple boards for those that didn’t bring their own, we loaded up the trucks, stuffing boards and people everywhere we could fit, and were off for our very first session! The sun was slowly setting, and Lissette was

right. The waves were HUGE! Double overhead with occasional bigger sets, we instructed the girls where to paddle out at, and where to sit, and then jumped in! Some weren’t comfortable going all the way out to the outside just yet, so those that could, paddled out for some of

the biggest waves of their life (see one of Dr. Sandy Doman’s epic ride on page 52), while others played in and surfed the inside sets. The

best part of this retreat, was that there were girls there with all levels of experience, and everyone surfed wherever they felt the most comfortable at. No pressure for them to perform, or made to feel bad when the inside waves were really where they wanted to be. And over the next few days, they ALL ended up venturing out into the bigger surf, with the guidance of the other girls, ending the week surfing overhead waves! It was truly life changing, and soul cleansing for all. The week went by in an all-to-quick blur. EARLY mornings of getting up before the sun, so we could race to the break for dawn patrol, where we quickly learned a lot of the other resorts in the area had the same idea. The lineup, due to this AMAZING swell, was usually packed within an hour, then emptied out again after two. It was nice because you could take breaks from surfing, go get a sandwich or drink on the beach, hang out with the other tired surfer girls, and root and cheer each other on in the surf from the beach and cliffs! No schedule to keep... just great waves and good fun on the agenda! Double (3-4 hour) sessions every day meant that most afternoons were spent lounging in hammocks, doing yoga in the 2-story ocean side cabana, playing chicken fights in the pool (Dan & Sandra remain undefeated!), and napping in the A/C rooms (so refreshing). Four meals a day kept us well-fed and happy, and one afternoon, when we just couldn’t paddle back out for an evening session, we visited one of the local schools, where we donated school supplies to the kiddos and Frank put on a free magic show! Another

Katie Radcliffe

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Dr. Sandy Doman 5

Kerry McDonald Kristin Wetzel

RAILS & TALES . . . afternoon was spent doing a WSSM lifestyle photoshoot, filming filler images for the short film we’re producing from the trip.

We also visited a volcanic lake, perched HIGH on a mountain top, that was serene and peaceful, full of mineral soaked mud, that was supposed to cleanse the skin and refresh. Peaceful that is, until we got there! How can you have that much mud and NOT have a mud fight?!

Covered in volcanic mud and laughing till our sides hurt, we cleaned up and made our way back to Azul Surf Club, where we ate a great dinner, gave out the nightly “Sun Bum Monkey” award to that day’s most inspiring performer, and ended the night, dancing on the bar to local salsa music. So fun! Another bright and early morning arrived, and again, we loaded up the vans and headed out for more epic surf. Glassy, perfectly pealing waves greeted us day after day, and the swell simply didn’t want to go away. James and Gabriel took turns shooting from the mountainside overlooking Las Flores, perched high on the cliff in front of the break, and also from the beach... so many great angles to view the surf! Those that were tired often joined them, bringing them food and drinks to refresh them in the hot sun, and cheering when one of our girls caught a wave. I think we made the guys

Surf stoked, headed back to Azul Surf Club for breakfast. Tio Patricio, Kaydi Archer & Kerry McDonald Morning yoga warm-ups before paddling into 10-14’ bombs

Dr Sandy Doman getting “wave of the day”

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jealous with all our hooting and hollering. Word spread quickly who we were, and remarks from the guys in the lineup, ...”I wish they’d cheer like that for my wave” were often heard. LOL!

All too soon it ended. Sandy was the only one that endured any sort of injury, taking a nasty slash to the ankle from her fin. $35 and 6 stitches later, she was good to go again, but the surf was over for her for the remaining two days. Look closely at the “Harlem Shake” video we made, and you’ll see her with her taped ankle, “paddling”. Dan broke his board on his 2nd wave of the trip (bummer!), then proceeded to break his leash on his rental board, sending it sailing wildly into the rocks along the shoreline, and gashing it beyond immediate repair, thus needing a 2nd rental board for the trip. Sandy also enjoyed a long swim to shore after her leash broke on day 2, and several of the locals were also seen exiting the break with only half of their boards. Big, powerful, glassy WILD waves were enjoyed by some, whitewater bliss for others, and memories of a lifetime for all were made. The bond between us was something we could never have expected, and we were all genuinely sad to say goodbye to eachother. Thank you, El Salvador, for your beauty, solitude, and perfect waves. Thank you, James and Gabriel, for 30 | womenssurfstyle.com | wSSm

Kerry, Carolyn & Sandra... Done, alive & back on shore!

Another perfect set rolls through Las Flores Tara Walker shows her confidence in big waves

Dinnertime at Azul Surf Club

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Everyone asking for a coke at the same time (in english)

(left) James & Gabriel being hit by an oncoming house before it mowed the rest of us over (above) Kerry McDonald outrunning the impact zone at Las Flores “Ya, we’re alll single... and surf...” Tara Walker, James Vybiral, Savannah Freels, Katie Radcliffe, poolside at Azul Surf Club

Ruby leading us to town for snacks and drinks Savannah’s 1st time out of the USA- and loving it

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Gabriel shoots the ladies at the point (Las Flores)... yea buddy!

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Tara Walker proved to be the big wave rider of the group


Here are some other great activities to check out while in El Salvador. Learn more about these activites and so much more that El Salvador offers by visiting our friends at www.greenbluered.com


WSSM recommended! Cleanse your body of the stress that long surf sessions place on you. Feel energized and ready for your next session, with an incredible massage by Irma Estrada-Silva, owner of The Relax Spot. Contact her at

facebook.com/TheRelaxSpot E: therelaxspot@gmail.com



Kayak through the mangroves and learn about the fragile ecosystem


Visit the town of Alegria, where you can buy local souvenirs, eat locally hand-

made chocolates mixed with espresso, enjoy pupusas and other local foods from street vendors


Take a tour of the historic town of Joya de Cerenthe “Pompey of the Americas”, a town that was completely covered in volcanic ash over 1400 years ago


Visit a local coffee plantation and sample the delicious flavors of El Salvador coffees


Zipline (called a “canopy tour”) over a coffee plantation and take in the

amazing view from above the treetops


Visit the town of La Libertad, where you’ll enjoy some of the freshest seafood in the world


Visit a local school and give back to the communities with your labor or school supplies

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Take a horseback ride along the beach at sunset

Take a mud bath in a volcanic lake, or hike one of the 22 volcanoes in El Salvador

spending all those hot hours in the sun capturing footage. We love all your photos and videos! Thank you, Azul Surf Club, for taking such good care of us all and feeding us like champs! Thank you Avianca, for getting our boards back home without a scratch on them. And thank you, GOD, for watching over us all, and bringing us home safe, once again. So when will we be doing it all again? April - Sept. 2014... in Peru, then Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and Costa Rica! And YOU can join us! Learn

more online at womenssurfstyle.com, and be sure to check out Sandy Doman’s “Get Fit for Surf Trips” article on page 52 of this issue, so you can be ready to charge! Aloha, and see you in central America in 2014!

-- Sandra & Dan Olson P.S. Logon to womenssurfstyle.com for short video clips and hundreds of photos from this amazing retreat!

What happens in El Salvador, stays in El Salvador...


Kristin... charging! Late night bonfire on the beach

Explaining what a s’more is to the Brit, James

Getting loaded

“Watch me make the fish come to life” - Buffy Archer

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RAILS & TALES . . . El Salvador

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Through My Eyes... “I have only been surfing for a couple of years, but in that time I have managed to take some pretty exciting surf trips before heading to El Salvador, including Peru and the Canary Islands. Although these trips were great, they could not begin to compare with the absolutely perfect WSSM surf retreat in El Salvador at the beautiful hidden gem of the Azul Surf Club. I am still a beginner when it comes to surfing, and I didn’t have nearly as many years of experience as most of my travel companions. Regardless, everyone was encouraging and more than willing to help me learn, improve, and catch some of my best waves. Despite the size of the

swell, we all had fun, whether we were dropping down an eight foot face or catching party whitewater waves. We share a common love for the powerful gift that the ocean provides every time we show up to surf, and that’s what matters. In addition to having

a great group of fellow surfers to cheer you on, it was also great having them there to look out for my well being. When a big sneaker set wiped everyone out of the lineup, it was indescribably comforting to have someone at the surface when I came up for after being “washing machined” in the impact zone. That same impact made me nearly lose my bikini, and another one of my travel companions was a great help on that end as well.

Daryl Dawson, dancing on the waves

day we woke up before the dawn to surf with the rising sun, and we surfed in the evenings until the sun went down again. However this trip was unique in that there were so many special activities to complement our time on the waves. While at the lovely Azul Surf Club, we had some great yoga sessions, and we each received a bamboo massage, both of which worked wonders for our surfing muscles. We were also blessed with delicious meals every day, all of which introduced us to the cuisine of El Salvador using the freshest of ingredients. We had a bonfire on the beach in front of the surf club, roasted marshmallows, and watched shooting stars. In addition, we took an afternoon trip to an old volcanic crater to experience from head to toe the healing minerals in the mud there, as well as have a good old fashioned mud fight.

Having been part of the retreat for the Women’s Surf Style Magazine, we were also lucky enough to be part of a photo shoot for the magazine, as well as have phenomenal professional photo and video coverage from Fernandez Photography and James Vybiral Photography. But most of all, it was great to meet and spend time with so many other strong and beautiful women who share a common love of surfing. I had been wishing for a network of travel companions, as I love to explore waves on distant shores, but finding someone to go with can be very difficult. After this trip, I instantly gained at least a dozen surfer buddies for life, and I cannot thank WSSM enough for that.”

Needless to say we had the opportunity to do plenty of surfing. Every

Surfer girls RULE! Ami Berg (FL), Kristin Wetzel (NY), Katie Radcliffe (FL), Savannah Freels (FL), Kaydi Archer (FL), Tara Walker (FL), Carolyn Palma (WA), Kerry McDonald (MA), Sandy Doman (FL)

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Kristin Marie Wetzel Buffy’s favorite picture she took of James Vybiral, our videographer

Katie, Kristin, Ami, Kerry

El Salvador sunsets are breathtaking!

Sandra heaves a chunk of mud at the girls!

Now... get the videographer!

Katie laughs off a face-full of mud from Sandra (she’s very sorry!)

The “Surfette’s” at the soothing volcanic lake... before the mud fight

Ami and Kristin, mud-hugging

AND... 30 minutes later!

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Life led me to you, my ocean “There’s something to be said about being submerged into a new culture of complete strangers that have the same love I have: a dire need to have the ocean at my feet and a board at hand. I’ve traveled to several exotic locations with lush landscapes and tropical vibes; though nothing I have ever done, no where I have ever gone, and no love compares to that of El Salvador. The opportunity to be a part of the first all-women’s retreat with WSSM Magazine presented itself when I had lost sight of the beautiful lifestyle every surfer knows. After not being in the water for roughly four months, I couldn’t have needed this trip at a better time. I experienced by far the best week of my life.

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Behind the scenes of the WSSM lifestyle photoshoot (left to right) Kristin, Savannah, Katie, Ami, Kaydi, James & Dan James gets his marriage proposal to Kerry on film (Kerry... “James is so dreamy...”)

Carolyn, Sandy, Tara & Kerry at the WSSM photoshoot

Ten enriched women joined me in El Salvador and after making such quick relationships with each and every one, I finally remembered what it was like having a community out in the ocean to cheer you on as you exert the most positive energy.

With perfect timing, we arrived at Las Flores point just as the first ground swell of the season did. Honestly, I was very intimidated with what the locals might think of a van of not only tourists, but women surfers. After the first day I knew most of the guys in the line up by name and enjoyed their company for every day to come. The swell pushed through with exceptionally great force and brought 10-15 ft sets. I, being the local beachbreak rider that I am, was surprisingly ecstatic to surf the biggest waves I ever had the chance of seeing. There were several waves that I can remember perfectly; every turn, every cross step... those being the waves that I was riding before I even knew so, paddling as hard as I can to stand up just seconds faster than the man charging beside me. My feet were always under me before I could realize that I just took off on a wave five feet above my head.

Day in and day out, we used our limited time there to the fullest- Whether it be taking mud baths in a volcano, dancing through the night on the pool bar, or each and every meal I shared with great smiles and stories. All of those things, however, showed me the big picture of the essence of life and how lifted my spirit became after my inspiring trip to El Salvador.” 

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Dan & Sandra holding leashes after a perfect long session with double overhead rides on the peak

More photoshoot fun

The sand can be very hot in the afternoon, must float whenever possible! (left to right) Ami, Sandy, Kristin, Kaydi, Kerry, Carolyn, Savannah, Katie, Tara

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