The humble mermaid – Elaine Abonal

Ocean-loving beauty, Elaine Abonal is living proof that great things can happen if you set your mind to it.
The inspiring yet humble 29-year-old was born and bred in the Philippines and has been surfing for about 10 years. Elaine was first introduced to the sport when she was 18 and studying in the US.siargao - august 2013
“I pretty much just got obsessed with it and wanted to do it as often as I could,” she said.
“I love everything about the ocean. I love that I feel at home when I’m in it.
“I love that it teaches me things like courage, perseverance, appreciation of the simple things, beauty and how everything in life is connected.”
Elaine has been lucky enough to turn her love of it into one the best jobs around.
With the support from two pioneer surfers from the Philippines, Elaine launched her own surf company early last year.

IMG_3299From years of surfing and staying at the San Juan Surf Resort in La Union, Philippines, Elaine got to know the owner Brian Landrigan and professional surfer Luke Landrigan.
When Elaine told Brian and Luke about her dream to own and operate a surf tour company in the Philippines, they gave their full support and encouraged her to turn it into a reality.
“They’ve seen me spread the word about surfing and bring my friends and friends of friends on surf trips,” Elaine said.
“On one international trip with them, they told me that I could always do surfing for fun but that it’s also something I can do as my own business.
“ They know that I have the resources, support, and talent so I thought about it and realised that they were right.
“They helped me and I told my friends and family about it.
“I feel very lucky and blessed to of had their encouragement.”

?????????????Elaine now operates Surfista Travels Philippines – a surf tour company that helps surfers and travellers from around the world, men and women, arrange trips such as accommodation, transport, surf lessons and more.
Surfistas September 2012 LUFor most people heading to the country to surf, Manila is the starting point to get to surfing destinations like La Union and Baler.
Elaine said despite Manila being a big city with no beach close by,  a lot of Filipino’s have taken up surfing.
“Manila’s not next to a beach with waves so it’s definitely the concrete jungle,” she said.
“But ALOT of people from Manila, especially the younger crowd, are getting into surfing because many have the resources and money to travel to the surf areas.
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“We’re still a long way compared to other countries when it comes to surf culture, but it’s getting more popular every year.
“Many of my Surfista trips are mostly made up of girls, which is pretty cool to see.
“Surfing here used to be an underground culture but now it’s the “cool” thing to do. I’d say it’s much mellow and friendlier in the water compared to other countries.
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“It’s so much better to surf here – the locals are friendly, the water is warm, the location is beautiful and it’s fun.”
Elaine says she doesn’t want to label herself as anything she just hopes to promote the Philippines as a beautiful destination to the rest of the world and inspire other like-minded women.
“I don’t really want to name myself as anything, but I do want to be an ambassador for surfing in the Philippines and show the rest of the world that we live in a beautiful country with beautiful people,” she said.

“I also want to be an ambassador for women to show that we chicks CAN surf, we CAN travel and that we CAN do whatever we dream to do.”

 

101 Best Australian Beaches book

Ola Nina recently chatted with co-author and pioneer surf conservationalist Brad Farmer about his and professor Andy Short’s latest book, 101 Best Australian Beaches.

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The two men travelled to every one of Australia’s 11,761 beaches over a 14 year period  to decipher what beaches would make the cut.

To develop a final list, the authors had to step away from their surfing souls and incorporate a list of beaches that everyone could relate to.
After years of research, Brad and Andy accumulated a collection of intellectual and social engagement with Australian communities which allowed them to look at and judge each beach in an entirely different way.
Brad describes the research as a long process but one that has been a worthwhile exercise.
“At the end of the day you can’t please everyone,” Mr Farmer said.
“We had to separate ourselves from our surfing souls and look at them through everyone’s point of view. “For example, we even looked at beaches and swimming holes in the Northern Territory and how Aboriginal communities engaged with beaches up there and in other parts of the country. 
“We looked at beaches as not just a surf zone but a place where people like to walk the dog, have a swim, meditate, find solace, bird watch or engage with marine activities.”
Brad describes the book as a “smorgasbord of beaches” for Australians and visitors, which encompasses 101 alphabetically listed beaches, with detailed information and beautiful photos.
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One interesting aspect of the book is that Crescent Head’s beach was the only beach named as a personal favourite by both authors in their top 10 lists.
“Does it make it Australia’s best beach? Well based on the fact that two authors who went into separate rooms and came out agreeing on only one, I’ll leave it up to you,” Brad said.
“To me, Crescent is like an artist has painted a canvas of the perfect visual.
“It just embodies everything an Australian beach should be and it retains its magic because the locals continue to look after it.”
Professor Short has dedicated his life to the study of coastal geomorphology and is considered a beach expert, while Mr Farmer’s life has been shaped by the surfing industry, as the co-writer of the first Surfing Guide to Australia (1985) and the founder of the Australian Surfrider Foundation as well as National Ocean Care Day. 
Mr Farmer said the idea for the book came about after both authors realised they had come up with a gimmick. 
“There was nothing like it out there and we thought it was time in the development of this nation that we have a national conversation of what beaches mean to us,” he said.“We felt that we were the two most authoritative people to come up with a list, we’ve travelled the Australian coastline since the 1960s.”For more information and to purchase the book visit: www.101bestbeaches.com
Or you can like the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/101BestBeaches

Carly Chivers – Soul Surfer

Carly Chivers is a 26-year-old surfer and yoga instructor living in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Although she was born in landlocked Winnipeg, Carly has been living and surfing in Nicaragua for two years.

733985_10152721566030293_1748052942_nShe currently works as a yoga teacher and a surf guide for the local surf lodge and runs yoga retreats with Papaya Wellness. I caught up with her at the local internet-café to have a smoothie and talk about living the dream in this little costal town.

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“I came here on a surf trip. I was planning on living in Costa Rica and teaching yoga for a few months but I started my surfing trip here. Playa Gigante was that place that I’ve always been looking for, it’s still really raw and untouched. Since I got here, I just haven’t been able to leave.”

Carly loves to surf and although she’s softly spoken, she speaks with heartfelt enthusiasm when she talks about her home break. One of her favorite things about her new home is the waves along the stretch of beach known to locals as Playa Amarillo (which means Yellow Beach in Spanish).

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“Surfing at Amarillio, is just so beautiful. When I think about all the incredible sunset surfs I’ve had there and paddling around the point in the evening when the water is all lit up with phosphorous. It’s like, ‘where am I’?’ This place is magical.”

Carly learned to surf 6 years ago. Whilst in-between semesters at college. She traveled to Europe where she learnt how to surf on the Algarve coastline in Portugal.

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“As soon as I started I fell in love with it. After that I kept traveling south. I stayed on the coast and surfed everyday. I spent a month in Morocco just surfing and experiencing this new passion.”

Growing up in Winnipeg, her college was in a small town 2 hours away.

“It was completely landlocked and in the middle of the prairies. My parents used to take us to the ocean on holiday and I always had this love affair. I would cry when we left.”

Her love affair with the ocean was what inspired her to paddle out for the first time in Portugal.

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“I stood up the first wave I ever caught and it was the most incredible thing in the world, I didn’t even stand up for the rest of the day. But I kept trying. There’s nothing else like it.”

These days Carly surfs everyday. Whether she is taking clients on surf trips to the beautiful breaks surrounding Playa Gigante, or just paddling out on her day off she is living her dream of being one with the ocean.

“Ever since I started surfing I’ve felt that it’s a lot like meditation. You’re on the wave and you are literally being moved by nature. You are connected and present. Surfing is a blissful form of meditation – there’s no time for inner struggle during surfing. It’s a totally unique feeling.”

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Carly likes to meditate and use her yoga practice to learn more about herself and her place in the world. Surfing  also helps her get in touch with her focus.

“It’s finding those things that offer you that sense of peace and connectedness that is really important.”

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It’s no wonder that after attending her first yoga class with her mum at 13, Carly is now a qualified yoga instructor. Together she and her friend India run Papaya Wellness, a yoga, health and wellness retreat in Playa Gigante (you can find out more about it here).

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Carly laughs about what her parents think of her living in rural Nicaragua.

“They love it, they are really proud of me because I’ve always had this dream of starting a wellness business and now we are actually doing it. I’m feeling happy and fulfilled and they are happy for me, but they are also like, “Nicaragua?”

After talking with Carly, you get a sense of her huge heart and her passion for health and wellness. She has a beautiful energy and when you take one of her yoga classes you leave feeling refreshed and empowered. She’s not only a positive influence on the town of Gigante, but spreads a great vibe to everyone she meets.

It is with great pleasure that I can announce – Carly is going to be contributing to Ola Niña, giving us health, wellness and surfing tips when she can! Welcome Carly and we can’t wait to spend more time with you. 🙂

If you’d like to find out more about Carly and Papaya Wellness, you can check out their website: www.papayawellness.com

By Carmen Angerer

Yoga and Surf Retreats in Nicaragua!

If you are thinking about making a surf trip, we highly recommed the sunny shores of Nicaragua in Central America. We travelled to Playa Gigante and found some incredible waves and some even more wonderful people.

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Our lovely friends at Papaya Wellness have some incredible retreats available, if you want to get away, eat healthy, surf and practice yoga everyday.

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Their all inclusive retreats will immerse you in mindful, recharging yoga and challenge you in the epic Nicaraguan surf. They’ve done all the work in the beautiful coastal town, to ensure that you will have nothing to worry about except having the most relaxing, healthy, fun and inspiring vacation!

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They offer all inclusive retreats to accommodate your needs for relaxation, rejuvenation and enjoyment, including airport transport, healthy detoxing meals, and a variety of yoga classes and surf sessions to keep you motivated and fulfilled. Papaya Wellness will take care of you for 7 days, with no worries!

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Papaya Wellness  also runs a variety of community projects that you can get involved in. They also have a regular yoga and fitness class schedule, so even if you don’t make a retreat, you can always surf and practice yoga in your own time!

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 As far as we are concerned, these retreats are 10/10. The location, the incredibly delicious healthy meals and the wonderful team at Papaya Wellness, make these retreats extra special.

Whether you are looking to improve your surfing, your yoga practice or both, you will leave rejuvenated and feeling empowered.

You can find out more and check out the upcoming retreats at their website: www.papayawellness.com

Australia’s 8 Best Surf Spots

If you call Australia home and love to surf, my bet is that you have some opinion on what Australia’s best breaks are. Even those who have visited Aussie breaks will have their favourites…

PC105 Surfing Kangaroo, Rooly Awesome Dude

Which is why I was intrigued when I found out that Australian Geographic has chosen the top 8. According to them the list is as follows:

1. North Coast – Angourie to Byron Bay, NSW Snapper Rocks, QLD

2. Noosa – Point Break, QLD

3. Snapper Rocks, QLD

4. Seal Rocks and Pacific Palms, NSW

5. Northern Beaches, NSW

6. Torquay – Bells Beach, VIC

7. Crescent Head, NSW

8. Margaret River – Yallingup and Prevelly Park, WA

As a local Victorian, I don’t feel like our incredible selection of cold water waves has been represented (but I’m probably biased). I’m interested to hear your view. What is your top 8?

Surfing In Nicaragua

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Nicaragua is our new favourite place. Bordering Honduras in the North and Costa Rica to the South, the Nicaraguan coastline is a tropical, jungle hideaway. It boasts incredible waves, atmosphere and a fraction of the crowds.

We suggest staying in Playa Gigante. This quaint local village has a few restaurants, a hostel (including a variety of rental properties for long and short term) and best of all surf camps. Even if you aren’t staying with the camps, there’s surf board rental and you’ll be able to jump on the boats (for a small fee) frequenting one of the 14 local and amazing breaks.

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If you love to practice yoga, there are also daily classes run by the Papaya Wellness girls (who you’re sure to meet out in the water). Carly and India run incredible retreats including delicious nutrition courses.

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Volunteer:

There are also lots of opportunities to volunteer with the locals to give back to this awesome community. Check out The Sweet Water Fund and Project Woo.

Wildlife:
There are 3 groups of Howler Monkeys around Playa Gigante and you’ll hear them early in the morning. There’s also an abundance of local seafood, pigs that wander the streets and local dogs and kittens who are all very friendly.

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How to Get There:
Catch a plane to Managua, or enjoy a delightful bus ride (sarcasm noted) from one of the surrounding countries. For safety reasons we suggest you take a King Quality (ask any local tourist tienda). If you like living on the edge you can catch Chicken buses all through Latin America for a fraction of the price.

Currency:
They take both US dollars or Nicaraguan Cordobas.

Language:
Spanish

Things to pack:
Sunscreen
Swimmers (make sure they are tight as the beach breaks can be heavy!)
Board
Wax (can be hard to get in town).

Remember:
Don’t drink water from the tap! Sadly, it’s only bottled or purified water. (Please try and recycle your bottles to save the environment).

If you want any more information – head to www.playagigante.com

Swim with Turtles in Tullum, Mexico

There’s many cool things to do in Mexico, other than drinking Margaritas and lounging on the beach. If you are heading down south and looking for adventure, skip Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Instead, park your booty in Tullum. Although still touristy in high season, Tullum has a relaxed vibe and maintains some authentic Mexican charm (unlike Cancun and Playa).

 Tullum is the closest town to Akumal beach, where you can swim with one of these cute critters for free!Image

Swimming with Turtles in Akumal
There are many, many turtles chilling out in Akumal beach and if you decide to go, it will take your breath away. During breeding season (April-May) the bigger turtles come to feed in the area and are simply enormous!

Akumal is a small beach, about 10 kilometers away from Tullum center. Get there early to avoid the crowd and swim within the designated zones (marked by bouys). It’s quite touristy, so save your dinero and hire snorkelling gear in town (shouldn’t cost you more that $70 pesos for the day).

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Getting There
Catch a collectivo bus (local bus) from out the front of the bus station. It will cost you $20 pesos each way and will give you a good opportunity to practice your spanish! When you get off at the bus stop, it’s a 5 minute walk down the road towards the beach. Otherwise,  you can catch a cab $100 pesos one way.

Things to Remember
It is rumoured that this area is to be turned into a marine park as it is a hot-spot for turtles during breeding season. This is bad news for thrifty travellers who don’t want to pay to swim with the marine life, but excellent news for the turtles and the locals. The large influx of tourists has meant that the environment is slowly suffering from the impact.

If you go, be friendly to our flippered buddies. When swimming, it is recommend that you keep a 2 metre distance from the turtles and don’t chase or touch them.

If you go to see them, keep the turtles happy and healthy, you will have an incredible time!

NB- $70 pesos = $7 U.S or $5 AUS

The first female surfer in Iran

Irishwoman Easkey Britton has made waves, surfing in Iran.

When she climbed onto a surfboard on a beach in Iran, the whole of the local village turned out to watch and I’m sure they were impressed. Easkey is the five time Irish surf champion and is a natural in the water.

“They were just so friendly and so curious – they hadn’t seen surfing before,” she said.

You can see Easkey and her journey in a new documentary about being the first woman to surf in the Islamic country.

Initially, she and filmmaker Marion Poizeau were unsure of their reception in the country.

As they got on with their surfing in the sea close to Chabahar, southern Iran, last September, a police car pulled up and they became more concerned.

But there was no need.

“The police were just checking we were okay. They were worried about the rocks on the beach and whether we knew about them.”

Easkey – named after a famous surf break off the west coast of Ireland – is passionate about the ocean.

“I have been fortunate, I was born into surfing. There is no other experience like it for me,” she explained.

Easkey travelled to southern Iran last September.

“We headed off to this Islamic Republic as two women looking for waves,” she said.

It seemed a little bizarre and they had a few preconceptions that were quickly squashed.

“The moment we landed, people were incredibly welcoming and Iran has an amazing heritage. Yes, as women we had to have our heads covered and it was incredibly hot.”

The other issue was one of respect for the local culture and rules.

“I bought a lycra hijab which had not been designed for the surf. But it covered me,” explained Easkey.

“The water was so hot … but it was certainly no place for bikinis and board surfing.”

Now Easkey wants to bring her love of surfing across the world, to cultures where women do not normally get the opportunity to enjoy the sport

We think this is an awesome achievement and applaud Easkey in her goal to give more women a chance to experience the joy of surfing. We look forward to hearing more about her travels.

Read more about Easkey’s story on the BBC News. Or check out the documentary!

If you have surfed in any unusual places we’d love to hear about them! Send us your stories and pictures. 🙂

Billabong All Girls Surf Camp with Surfista Travels Summer 2012 by Steph Jarina

Billabong Surf Day in the Phillippines!

Surfista Travels Philippines

As I was browsing through the internet, mainly on Facebook, I came across a photo with a huge “Learn to Surf” sign on it. At first I wasn’t interested, I mean, who has the time, right? But then I always seem to find it on my newsfeed somehow. Out of plain curiosity, I clicked on the photo and took down the details of this all-girls’ surf camp that was set to take place in San Juan, La Union.

My first time to ever “catch” a wave and balance on a surf board was also in San Juan, La Union, last May 2011. A few months after that, I booked a ticket to Siargao just to, well, surf. But it did not push through because I decided to join the rat race instead. At that time, I was obviously unaware of what I missed. So when the Billabong All-Girl’s Surf Camp…

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Florianópolis, Brazil – Surf Travel

Florianópolis, Brazil – Travel to Surf, Surf to Travel.
Florianopolis (or Floripa, as the island is known by locals) is a must visit if you are planning to surf and travel around Brazil. Located in the South of Brazil, this beautiful island will take your breath away and surfer’s will be spoilt with over 40 pristine beaches to choose from. With waves, gorgeous scenery, soft white sand dunes and sparkling lagoons, Floripa is not to be missed.

Surf: Floripa has some of the most consistent surf spots in Brazil. It picks bigger swells coming from the South Atlantic and Antartica. The best surfing periods are from early March to late May, and late September from early November. Always take your wetsuits, even in summer as the currents are cold!

Photo by Bruno Matos

Places to surf: Most famous beaches in the area are Joaquina, Praia Mole, Praia Brava and Naufragados.

Beginners: Barra de Lagoa, it’s a beach break with a sandy bottom and breaks both right and left. Lot’s of fun. Best during the week at any tide, with an easterly swell and south facing wind (3ft).

Photo by Bruno Mato

Intermediates: Canasvieiras, Galheta, Ingeleses and Praia Mole. These breaks are all different, but all provide great waves, make sure you check the surf report before you pick!

Photo by Bruno Mato

Experienced: JoaquinaNaufragados and Caldeirao. These breaks are powerful, fast and demanding. However, if you paddle out you will be rewarded.

Photo by Bruno Mato

Travellers tip: Be friendly and beware of hostile locals (these guys deal with massive influxes of tourists to their home breaks). The guy to girl ratio is 9:1 and while you don’t need to worry about anti-girl sentiment, the guys may snake your waves. Prepare to challenge and call people off your waves, be assertive and you’ll get more waves.

Relax after a surf!

Places to stay: I stayed at Back Packers Share House Floripa, which was incredibly fun. Located on the beach front at Barra da Lagoa, the area is stunning. They rent free surfboards and are only a bus ride from popular surf beaches like Moçambique, Mole and Joaquina. Other great hostels include Floripa Surf Hostel (closer to breaks), Backpackers Sunset (incredible view, great facilities) and Submarino Hostel (more bang for your $$$).

Travellers Tip: Make sure you try the ice cold Acai with granola and banana at the beach hut on Barra da Lagoa. It’s healthy and delicious!

Other things to do: There are loads of other adventure sports to get involved in such as sand-boarding, diving and dune racing. Check at your hostel for more information. The nightlife in this area is also fantastic and you will find a good number of dance floors.

Enjoy the beautiful view.

Getting there: If you want to fly, Hercílio Luz International Airport is the closest to the city (12km). Catching a bus from there to Floripa is easy as it is a well known tourist destination. Alternately you may want to travel by bus from Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, many companies service this route and your closest bus station will offer tickets. For more information check out ‘how to travel to Florianopolis‘.

More Information:
Check the Surf Report and find more breaks.
When looking for places to stay in Brazil, don’t miss Hostel World.

Have a travel question?
Feel free to add your tips or ask any travel advice in the comments. Or you can email us your travel stories. 🙂

Photos by: Carmen Angerer and Bruno Matos. Bruno is a brazilian surf photographer who’s blog we loved. Check out his other photos!