I started off 2013 going on one adventure after the next—going on a surf yoga retreat in Australia in January, and joining my first Flow retreat at Cintai Corito’s Garden in Batangas in February (read about it here). The rest of the year flew by and while I swore I would continue going on beach adventures, my crazy schedule took over and I thought I would end the year without heading back to the water.
Luckily, the awesome girls at FLOW decided to hold one last retreat to cap off 2013. FLOW mixes three main activities that literally have you flowing to your own rhythm—surfing (headed by surfer girl Noelle Hilario), yoga (headed by yogini Monica Eleazar-Manzano) and samba (headed by Denise Sehwani Gonzales-Bernardo).
We headed to the cute and quirky Flotsam & Jetsam Hostel at La Union for 3 days and 2 nights of absolute fun and adventure. We stayed in both breezy bahay kubos and colorful shophouse dorms, both a hop and a skip away from the breakfast nook and restaurant, hammocks and bean bag lounge fronting the beach.
The hostel was super comfy and was exactly what I’d pictured a boho hotspot would be—lots of lounging areas under open sky, guitars and a ukulele lying around for guests to use, great music throughout the day, and even an RV parked by the garden! Partners Joncy Sumulong and Carla Suiza looked after our every need, and Allan who oversaw the front desk and restaurant was extremely patient with our food orders and tabs.
Speaking of food, it was SUPERB! The brick oven pizzas were amazing and worth every penny (I loved the Margherita best!). And while I stayed away from alcohol and opted for fresh juice and fruit punch instead, my fellow FLOWers were happy to report that the Sangria was perfect for the beach setting.
Another plus was the outdoor movie show the hostel held every night. Movies were projected on a tall concrete wall of the property right beside Flotsam & Jetsam—nothing like settling down with a drink on a bean bag by the sand, watching movies under the stars!
We did a mix of surf, yoga and samba throughout our stay. Yoga was led by ashtangi and part-owner Carla. While I practice in studios while I’m in the city, I have to say there’s nothing like flowing through your sun salutations under the sky as the sun sets, or even early in the morning hearing the waves lapping just a few meters away. I normally struggle through Ashtanga classes, but moving through all the postures out in nature just made me want to keep moving.
The waves at San Juan were a bit messy during our stay, so we took a short jeepney ride to nearby Bacnotan beach for our surf lessons, courtesy of the awesome instructors of San Juan Surf School. Surfing was my main goal for the retreat since it had been a full 11 months since my last time on a board. I was concerned that I might have forgotten how to get up, but with the one on one instruction, catching waves and riding them was not a problem. All of us were able to enjoy really long rides, thanks to the steady waves at Bacnotan. Our two sessions at Bacnotan just made me set my 2014 resolution of going back to surf as often as I can!
Our third main activity was the samba. I’m not much of a dancer but Denise was so much fun, leading us through the steps. I had no idea that the samba would be such an intense cardio workout! I decided to sit through the second half of our lesson to join Denise’s husband Bogey in playing percussion instruments that everyone danced to instead. It was interesting to see how music and dance really meshed well together—all in all, it was a fun, laughter-filled activity that had everyone just letting loose!
Aside from the surf, yoga and samba, I think the best part of FLOW retreats are the friendships you form. I shared stories and celebrated new bonds with all the friends I made (and I even read their tarot cards to see what 2014 would be holding for each one!).
Icing on the cake were the other La Union spots we were able to visit during our stay. Our last lunch at Gefseis Greek restaurant was to die for (I had the grilled squid) and the Dirty White coffee from El Union was the perfect picker-upper too.
We ended the retreat with some giveaway prizes from the Denise and Noelle and the obligatory group shot. They also opened up the FLOW shop so we could grab some goodies (my score? the Live Love Surf tote to keep me inspired in 2014!).
I’m so incredibly grateful that the FLOW gals were able to help me accomplish one of my goals before the year end. I asked them about the next retreats they’re holding for 2014 and while they haven’t made a formal announcement yet, I’m totally stoked that FLOW is giving me more chances to catch some waves, do more yoga, let loose with the samba, and do all these outside Philippine shores too (woohoo!).
A happy new year to all! Here’s to catching more sun and riding more waves
Flotsam and Jetsam
FLOW Surf Yoga Samba
San Juan Surf School