TRAVELS WITH NINA

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

HANGING TEN IN BALI

Sometimes, you just need to #treatyoself.

To a little you time. To some meditation. To some yoga. To some salt water healing.

After my uber-luxurious but hectic trip to Thailand, where I was constantly on the move and drinking waaay too much, I was in need of some serious self-love.

And so, I booked myself in to Salti Hearts, a new surf and yoga camp for girls in Bali’s latest hippie hot spot, Canggu. It’s founded and run by a gorgeous, pint-sized Venezualan surfer chick Yeni Canelón, who I actually met while reviewing another surf and yoga retreat in Bali last year.

Yeni’s the real deal. She grew up, as she puts it, in a family of “nomads and gypsies” in the Caribbean archipelago of Los Roques (Google image search this place, it’s absolutely dreamy). No one in her family surfed, but that didn’t stop little Yeni riding her first wave when she was just six years old.

“Once I’d done it, I got out of the water and told my mom, ‘I just want to do this and nothing else forever and ever'”, she says.

Well, she pretty much has. After studying oceanography on Venezuela’s Isla Margarita and working for an NGO cleaning beaches (yep, she’s a real-life mermaid, saving the planet one beach at a time), Yeni then started working in surf camps for kids in the Caribbean. Then three years ago she found her way to Bali where to start a river cleaning project in Canggu. “I just fell in love with the place,” she says. And the rest is history.

Over my three days with Yeni at Salti Hearts there wasn’t a moment where I didn’t feel her passion for the ocean, for Bali, for helping women come back to themselves, and for life itself, shining through.

During our deliciously healthy breakfasts at the Salti Hearts villas (her dragon fruit smoothies are the shiz), and lunches and dinners at Canggu’s best organic health food cafés including Bungalow, Avocado and Betelnut, Yeni glowed as she talked about the ocean and it’s power to transform.

“In the ocean you have to be aware, you have to be present every second. That’s why it’s my meditation,” she said, sipping a fresh coconut and nibbling a wild rice stir-fry during our three-course welcoming dinner at Watercress Cafe. “Every single wave is different, and every day you wake up a different person, so surfing is always new.”

All this before we even got in the ocean.

A bit of background for you guys: I grew up with a morbid fear of the ocean. I remember one day playing in the waves at about 6 or 7 when I turned around to show my mum, who was sitting on the shore, something I’d learned to do. When I finally got her attention, I’ll never forget her wide-eyed, terrified expression as she yelled out at me to “duck, duck, duck!” Behind me, an enormous wave had reared up and proceeded to dump 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 Yeni convinced me to get back in during the retreat I met her on last year.

Yeni makes you – well me, at least – feel completely safe and secure in the sea. She took me to Padma Beach where the waves are pretty tiny (although still scary for me), and started our 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” on a board on the sand and some gentle yogic stretches to prepare the body.

“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 through the whitewash and into the waves.

And I found myself doing just that.

I had no choice, really. With those waves behind me (small as they may have been), I found myself completely focused in a way I rarely am in life, completely intent on getting my body up into an even mildly upright position.

With Yeni’s help, I do it.

I do it! Over and over again, often falling off in the process, but my heart leaping for joy every time I do, until hours have passed and it’s time to drag myself, puckered fingers and all, back onto dry land.

My afternoons with Yeni are filled with surf-focused yoga and meditation sessions, massages with a magic-fingered Indonesia woman named Rai, a spot of shopping for Balinese treasures at Yeni’s secret spots, lots of heart-to-heart chats about life over Bali’s best organic food and juices, and just the right amount of down time by the villa pool. I fell asleep to little notes of gratitude placed on my pillow, and awoke at sunrise to gamelan music floating out of the temple next door to my villa. 

I left feeling refreshed, revitalised, and self-assured in a way I realise only afterwards that I hadn’t been in a long time. I left knowing myself just that little bit better. I left ready to take on the world.

Cowabunga!

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READ MY REVIEW OF BALI’S ULUWATU SURF VILLAS HERE

TRIP NOTES

NEED TO KNOW

Salti Hearts offers three and five-night surf camp packages, including accommodation with a healthy breakfast, daily surf sessions, daily yoga sessions, two meditation sessions, one in-house massage, welcome dinner, a Salti Hearts goodie bag, airport transfers and more.

Three nights USD $595 twin share; five nights USD $985 twin share.

Day trips and tailored packages also available.

For more info head to saltihearts.com.

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