is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

Surf and Yoga Retreat, Bali: YAHOO7 TRAVEL

There are moments in life when you look around and realise, it’s time to treat yourself. When those countless all-nighters at the office start to stack up. When you’ve drunk one too many vodkas one too many Friday nights in a row. Or when you realise a small part of yourself silently slipped out the back door without you realising, and you badly want it to come back.

When that moment came for me, I did what all good women at the end of their tether should and booked myself a trip to Bali. But this wasn’t just any Eat Pray Love adventure – I’d booked myself into a women’s surf and yoga camp called Salti Hearts, in Bali’s latest hippie hotspot Canggu. And from the moment I met the camp’s founder Yeni Canelón, a bright and bubbly Venezualan surfer chick who hugged me at the airport in a way that told me everything would be ok, I knew I’d made the right decision.

After settling into my little villa, a glass-fronted affair with an alfresco bathroom, pineapple-printed pillows on the bed, and a small pool in the frangipani-lined garden, it was time for a gentle yoga session on the deck. We flowed through our downward dogs, our warrior ones and our cobra poses, and before I knew it we were saying our namastes and heading to nearby Padma beach for our first surf.

“In the ocean you have to be aware, you have to be present every second,” Canelón said over her shoulder from the front seat of the surf van. “Every single wave is different, and every day you wake up a different person, so surfing is always new.”

It was at this point that I decided to reveal my morbid fear of the ocean. That I’d never really gotten over that day on the beach in 1990 when I turned around to show my mum a trick I’d just learnt, and an enormous wave reared up behind me and dumped me in the most ferocious of ways. I churned around on the bottom of the sea for long enough to be put off jumping back into the waves until… well, pretty much until I booked myself into Salti Hearts.

Luckily, Canelón offered enough hand-holding and advice to make me feel completely safe and secure in the sea. She began this first surf session with a talk about the ocean and what to expect from it, followed by a demonstration of how to paddle and “pop up” (surf lingo for standing up) on a board on the sand, and some gentle yogic stretches to warm up our bodies.

“Surfing is about patience, presence, connecting with nature and not overthinking things. It’s more about the heart than the head. Just feel it,” she said as we walked me through the whitewash and into the waves. Easier said than done, I thought, and yet somehow I did. I had no choice, really. With those waves behind me (even if they were only two feet high) and that cumbersome board beneath me, I found myself completely focused in a way I rarely am in the real world. And with Canelón’s help, I miraculously managed to “pop up”. Over and over again in fact, my heart leaping for joy every time, until hours had passed and it was time to drag myself back onto dry land, puckered fingers and all. That night during the evening meditation session, I realised that conquering those waves had left me feeling stronger, more confident, and maybe even a little bit proud of myself.

My two remaining days at Salti Hearts were filled with more yoga and meditation sessions, a massage on the deck, a spot of shopping in buzzing Seminyak, lots of heart-to-heart chats about life, and of course surfing, at Canelón’s favourite organic health food cafés including Bungalow and Betelnut, and just the right amount of down time by the pool. I fell asleep with uplifting messages that had been placed on my pillow playing through my mind, and awoke at sunrise to gamelan music floating in from the temple next door.

I left Salti Hearts feeling refreshed, revitalised, and self-assured in a way I realised only once I was back home that I hadn’t been in a long time. And that part of myself that had slipped out the back door? It had come back.

The writer travelled with assistance from Salti Hearts.



Leave a Reply