Well, it’s October 2021, and we did it. We successfully completed the 2020-21 season. A season like no other, one that we weren’t even sure would take place.
It ended up being one of the best and most surprising and memorable seasons of our nearly twelve-year history. After thinking that perhaps we wouldn’t make it as a business, and then realizing not only that we did make it, and were in fact even stronger than ever…
Well, let’s just say that we didn’t take a single moment for granted.
We felt so grateful every single day this season to be able to work with the public, live our passion and purpose, and facilitate experiences that promote wellbeing.
Here are a few reflections on the season, and a quick look at where we’re going in the 2021-22 season.
Travel can still be done responsibly in the COVID-19 era
One question that we asked ourselves once it became clear that we were allowed to reopen, was if we should. If it was responsible to. It was a question that we did not take lightly. Ultimately we decided that we could indeed run our operations in a responsible manner that would protect both our visitors and local communities. Moreover, we believed that the benefits to both parties would outweigh the risks.
At the Bodhi Surf + Yoga lodge, our operations — which consist of outdoor activities, with small groups, and at a lodge that is very spread out and easy to distance in — had to change very little to adjust to this unprecedented, global situation.
We opted to defer to the recommendations (both official policies and recommendations) of the Costa Rican Ministry of Health:
- Distancing as much as possible
- Masking when that was not possible
- Increasing our cleaning and disinfecting regimen in every aspect of our operations
- Asking all collaborators: guests, staff, providers, to do the same
We are happy to report that we have not had one single case of COVID-19 at Bodhi Surf + Yoga. To date, we remain cautious in an effort to protect both our community here as well as our visiting guests. We know that we are not out of the woods yet with this virus.
The rights and responsibilities of travel in this new era
Travel is a privilege that is not available to all, and even more so in the COVID-19 era. However, human movement is something that will never stop. In fact, in our current global economic system, it is actually a massive industry that hundreds of millions of people depend on around the world for their livelihood. In short… without the economic benefit of tourism, there would be a huge swath of the global populace that would potentially be unable to put food on their tables.
Here in Bahia Ballena (and in Costa Rica as a whole), we depend on the economic influx from visiting tourists. In this and many other developing countries, there was not the same level of governmental support to stay home as there was in developed countries. So the ability to get back to work and find ways to do it in a way that would mitigate risk of COVID-19 spread was imperative.
We would not recommend travel to everyone. We recognize that it is a very personal decision and one that not only can many not afford, but one that for many is not appropriate at the moment. However, we are happy to have been able to offer a safe and beneficial experience for those adventurers who opted to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Surfing + yoga are perfect pandemic activities
We were thrilled to be able to surf and do yoga with so many awesome people this season. After months of being largely sedentary and indoors, these experiences were clearly so beneficial for our guests. Many of them told us stories of their pandemic routines: doing HIIT workouts or online yoga classes in their little apartments, going for regular walks around their neighborhoods, etc. Some of our guests had been unable to maintain a physical activity, and relished the week of surfing and yoga to jumpstart a positive physical exercise routine.
In their own way, surfing and yoga are such perfect activities for times of difficulty and uncertainty. At least at Bodhi Surf + Yoga (and in the way we teach them), surfing and yoga do the following:
- Move the body
- Highlight the breath
- Get people outdoors
- Foster connections (to self, nature, other beings, purpose)
- Bring a great sense of peacefulness and joy to their practitioners
These features are all very important and relevant, and even more so in the COVID-19 era. Above all, we were stoked to see how surfing and yoga fed positively into our guests’ overall wellbeing, and inspired them to go home and keep it up.
Being in nature is necessary for the soul
There are many studies which describe the healing benefits of nature, especially in moments of crisis. One of our favorite books, Blue Mind, documents how being in or around bodies of water make you happier, healthier, and more connected, and reduce stress and “red brain.” As surfers and coastal residents, we can attest to the veracity of this claim.
We have always personally understood the benefits of being in this natural paradise we call home — nestled between mountains and sea, surrounded by lush jungle and fresh ocean air. The priviledge we feel to have ridden out the scary beginning part of the pandemic in such an energetically rich and positive place is indescribable.
We witnessed firsthand how healing being here was for our guests, particularly those who are city-dwellers. They came down and were able to just be in nature; watching the birds from their porches in the morning, sitting on the beach or feeling the waves rolling in, breathing in deeply during yoga. Many of our guests seemed to leave lighter than when they arrived.
Human connection is the most important thing
This season showed the importance of human connection beyond any reasonable doubt. Humans are social beings, and thus one of the most detrimental and heartbreaking aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the isolation that it generated.
In Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s nearly 12-year history, we have realized that the most important component of our business is the human connection. Facilitating meaningful connections between guests, staff, and community members may very well be one of the side effects of our business that we are most proud of.
This past season, the standout takeaway from every single week of our surf and yoga camps were the connections forged. It seemed as though there was an electric energy most weeks, an excitement to be around people — and new, interesting people at that! We danced, we sang, we chatted, we swapped pandemic stories, we shared meals, we shared waves, we shared space.
It was beautiful to witness and be a part of, and especially sweet knowing that we could do it in a way that still felt safe and responsible. Our small intimate groups would meet without fail on Friday afternoons for the “Bodhi Graduation,” and everyone would go around and share what they had learned, what they were grateful for. Oftentimes, tears were shed because we all understood what it meant to have this type of connection once again, and we did not take it lightly.
There are always ways to share benefit with our community
As a small community that relies economically on tourism, Bahía Ballena was obviously hit hard. Seeing the ways that our community stepped up to collaborate, unify, and help out those most in need was inspirational.
During the pandemic, we at Bodhi Surf + Yoga renewed our own commitment to bring benefit to our community, though we had to find other ways than in the past as our own revenue streams had changed (or outright paused) during the era of border closures. We did so by donating our own time as owners and staff, or innovating ways to link our guests and our community. One such way as the first annual Surf-A-Thon, which raised $5,651 for the SELAL youth environmental leadership program.
We have been shown time and time again, that at least for us, there was no better place to be. Whether it’s when the world shuts down its normal operations, or when it reopens, bit by bit. We are so lucky to be able to do business here, and we will always look for ways to share the benefits brought to us by our visitors.
Taking all this good energy with us into the 2021-22 season
In a true testament of the times, we had no idea what to expect as we went into this past season. We felt we could offer the Bodhi Surf + Yoga experience in a safe, healthy, and responsible way. And it absolutely was.
This season’s lasting impacts will be because of how powerful and emotional it was. In a time where isolation, anxiety, and unease are at an all-time high, we managed to have moments of connection, awakening, and inspiration every single week.
We are currently regrouping for our next season (which officially starts on October 16, 2021) and refilling our cups. The next season is already filling up quickly — something that feels so amazing after the uncertainty of last year. We are excited to get going again, as it turns out that we very much love what we do!
The pandemic is far from over, and we are not dropping our guard. We will be practicing the same protocols that allowed us to have a safe and healthy season.
Above all, we want to thank every single collaborator this season. You helped get us through some very dark and scary times, only to set us up for this amazing season.
We are eternally grateful to this incredible network that we find ourselves a part of, and hope to continue being a part of your lives!