My name is Anna, and I find it hard to relax.
But I like being busy, and fitting lots into my days. I’m generally very active and in between work, exercise and catching up with friends, I sometimes find days have passed with little or no time spent just doing not a lot.
So when I was invited to a surf retreat weekend in North Devon and saw things on the schedule such as meditating, yoga and mindfulness I had mixed feelings. Yes I’ve heard these things are good but I really struggle to shut down my brain and take them seriously. Especially when I would be staying on my favourite beach and the surf forecast was perfect!
But that was where the SurfFit Retreat, run by Andrew Cotton and Andrew Blake, completely nailed it. It was the perfect balance of go go go; surfing then circuit training, then yoga then lunch, mixed with enforced moments of stillness, perfect for busy people and active minds. It was the first time I enjoyed forcing myself to relax and take on board everything that Andrew and Bex from SurfFit were telling us.
SurfFit was set up by big wave surfer Andrew Cotton and his fitness trainer Andrew Blake, to provide focussed surf fitness retreats for individuals, and take lessons from big wave surfing and teach them to people to use in everyday life. Blakey has years of experience training some of the world’s best surfers, and Cotty adds an interesting dynamic, currently living the reality of rehab from serious injury, and returning to full big wave surf fitness. They were both extremely friendly and down-to-earth individuals, happy to answer any questions and tailor the sessions to us. Blakey is so knowledgeable with a background in Sports Science and went into interesting detail about the exercises and benefits on fitness and the body. The fitness sessions were hard, but pitched well to the group, and everyone joined in on the surfs and at mealtimes which was great for group vibes.
The part I found most interesting, and probably thought I’d find least interesting before the camp, were the breathing exercises. Cotty led this part, as he has studied different techniques to help increase his breath-hold and to keep him calm when he is surfing big waves. We learnt simple techniques to slow breathing rate, and ways to increase how long you can hold your breath.
The retreat was held at Chalet Saunton, brand new luxury apartments in the best location I’ve ever stayed in, overlooking Saunton Sands beach. It is the perfect place for a retreat: calm, quiet and minimalist. The views from every balcony are enough to make even the busiest mind mindful and appreciative of the present. I took advantage of the short walk down to the beach and went surfing whenever I had a chance. Little details at Chalet Saunton such as an outdoor shower to rinse off wetsuits and boards shows that it is a true surfers’ paradise.
We were fed so well. Just as well as we definitely felt we earned it each day! The food was beautiful buffets at each meal, with so many tastes to try and colourful dishes to pile onto our plates such as healthy salads and perfectly cooked fish. And of course a tasty dessert or two as well! All the food was local and provided by local caterers which was a running theme of the retreat that I loved. Being a Devon girl myself, it was great to have Devon local Cotty there, and a good appreciation of my wonderful county.
There were so many skills and tips I can take home from this retreat to my everyday life. I have suffered in the past with extreme anxiety and stress, and can see how the breathing techniques Cotty covered would help so much in those situations when I needed to calm down. They can help to increase confidence, as a technique to do before a big presentation or a first date. The fitness and yoga too covered so many exercises that can be done at home to keep surf-fit. I will definitely try harder to relax now that I have learnt a few ways of doing it such as restorative yoga. I think a lot of people who lead busy and stressful lives would benefit from this activity-packed weekend, with scheduled periods of calm. It definitely made me relax, and tired me out so I slept like a baby in the huge comfortable beds.
Chalet Saunton’s SurfFit Retreat costs from £1,299 per person including two nights’ accommodation, meals provided by The Glorious Oyster and Home Grown Catering, fitness training, plus surf safari and lesson. £100 of the booking cost will go to the Surfers Not Street Children charity. (www.chaletsaunton.com; 01271 890 514)