Many people think of the Dominican Republic as a place for all-inclusive lazy holiday, the reality is that the Dominican Republic has so much more to offer than those big hotels.
Here at Swell, we deal with this question on a weekly basis.
Of the many emails we receive each week, we find that several of our potential guests are unsure how to class the level of surf experience they have: Many people call themselves intermediate surfers, but in our experience, it’s such a generic term, this is not applicable. Far better to judge the term by what you can actually achieve on your surfboard in the water, so we’ve put together a simple guide for you to help you decide which level you are really at and if you can still benefit from taking surf lessons.
How much surfing have you actually done?
We start by asking this question. The answer is that if you have only visited one or two surf camps, you have less than 20 hours of surf lessons, or you have not surfed regularly, we, and most reputable surf camps, will consider you still to be a beginner surfer.
I’d give myself as a good example to compare and consider your own level; I have been surfing pretty regularly (several days in each month) for two years, and whilst I am no longer a beginner, I still consider myself a Novice, not yet an Intermediate. Why? The answer is that I am still not comfortable in larger waves and despite being generally paddle fit (which many of our guests are not, having just come out of an office) I am not completely confident in catching green waves larger than chest high. And, whilst I can trim, I can’t yet carve.
The next question is: Do you need surf lessons?
Again, using myself as an example, I don’t take regular surf lessons, but sometimes, I will take a couple of hours of lessons to improve a particular aspect of my surfing that I know i need help with.
If you are someone who has taken say 10 to 15 good lessons in recent months and are able to paddle independently, select your own waves and pop up consistently, we might say that you just need practise rather than lessons and can get by on tips from our coaching staff (who are ever-present) to improve certain aspects of your surfing.
To help you correctly judge your level, we’ve made a list below which we hope will indicate the steps you should have accomplished to reach the various surfing stages.
When you have no previous surf experience at all, or maybe have taken a single lesson at some stage. Before entering the water, you will taught the terminology of a surfboard (rail, tail, etc.) and be shown how to lie on the board + how to ‘pop-up’ correctly once the wave is carrying you.
In a complete beginner lesson, you will be taught in the shallow water, using the power of waves which have already broken. Once you are able to pop-up regularly, you’ll be taught the correct stance to take and how you can start to place certain pressures on the board, allowing you to ‘turn’ to ride in one direction or another. A complete beginner can enjoy the benefit of having a surf coach give them a push to get them started on a wave.
When you have only done a few hours of surf lessons or a couple of surf camps. Most importantly, you are still a Beginner if you cannot yet achieve the following steps independently 1. Enter the water and paddle out to unbroken waves. 2. Select a wave to ride. 3. Pop-up quickly. 4. Turn the surfboard easily and ride down the line.
Much like a complete beginner lesson, our team will go over the pop-up with you to see if you have the basics (bad habits in a pop-up are certain to cause you future issues). Once you are in the water, our team will assess where you are with your paddling and your pop-up, moving you quickly on to new tips if you have already mastered those vital skills. Surfing depends so much on fitness, so even if you were rocking in a previous lesson at another surf camp, you may find that paddling again exhausts you fairly quickly, so you too will benefit from some helpful pushes from our surf coaches.
Let’s expel a myth about surf lessons: Just because you are not catching green, unbroken waves, it doesn’t mean you are not learning to surf. Every paddle, every pop-up, every ride, every turn; they all count, even in the white water. Everyone has to master those basic skills before you can move onto the unbroken waves.
This is you if you already have several months of regular surfing behind you and can achieve the following: 1. You feel comfortable paddling independently out to a line up on a smaller swell. 2. You can paddle yourself into a wave and are able to pop up and trim the surfboard to ride down the line.
Our staff can still teach you a great deal; tips on popping up more quickly, taking the correct stance, better trimming, even beginning to make bottom and top turns (carving).
When you are surfing regularly (every week) for at least one year and more importantly, you can achieve all of the following: 1. You can catch head high, unbroken waves independently (you certainly don’t need to be pushed by a surf coach to get into a wave). 2. You can control your speed on a wave. 3. You can carve or trim the surfboard whilst on the wave, changing direction easily. Giving lessons to a genuine Intermediate surfer is mostly dependent on wave co-operation (too big a swell makes coaching intermediates very challenging). We coach intermediates at Swell by being out in the water with you and giving tips and advice on improving certain aspects of your technique.
Top Things to do in Cabarete (other than Surfing & Yoga)
Caberete, the action sport capital of the Caribbean. Located on the North coast of the Dominican republic, 20 minutes from Puerto Plata international airport (POP).
The first words that come to most peoples minds when they think of a holiday to the Dominican Republic is: Lazy all inclusive holiday. Whilst this is true for most resort towns in the DR like Punta Cana, Sosua, Puerto Plata. It couldn’t be further from the truth for Cabarete.
No gated big all inclusive resorts are found in Cabarete. What you will find is lots of smaller hotels / guesthouses and B&B’s. Why? The people that visit Cabarete are not your average lazy all inclusive hotel guests that sit on a sunbed and drink horrible cheap rum & coke’s from a plastic cup. The average tourist visiting Cabarete is there to be active in, under or above the water.
So what are the Top Things to do in Cabarete?
1. KiteSurfing and Windsurfing
Cabarete is ranked as one of the world’s top Kitesurfing and windsurfing destinations in the world. Big beaches, side onshore trade winds make for safe conditions for kitesurfers of all levels. The other reasons that beginners, intermediates & pros all love Cabarete is the variety of kite surfing spots in and around Cabarete. From the flat water at la Boca to the waves on the offshore reefs or the flat water at Kitebeach cabarete that is ideal for beginners and intermediates
2. Snorkeling and Diving
A short drive from Cabarete is Sosua. Clear water makes for great snorkelling and diving. There are a few dive operators offering half day snorkelling trips. From Swell we usually organize a snorkeling trip to Sosua once per week. Ask our manager for the snorkeling schedule. It is also possible to do a Padi dive course in Sosua or Cabarete.
3. Canyoning through the waterfalls
Swell guests repeatedly say that the Cayoning trip organised by Helmut and Matt for Swell is one of the best adrenaline fun filled day trips they have ever done. Expect to see spectacular scenery, jumping off waterfalls, swimming through gorges.
4. Enjoy fine food and drinks at Cabarete beach
Cabarete beach has a great dining and party scene. Start of with a sunset drink on one of the beach side bars, under palms trees on a white sandy beach. Then enjoy some fine food, from new york steak to fine sea food. Top recommendations are La Casita de Papi’s sea food restaurant right on the beach.
Party scene: the bars and nightclubs start to getting going by 10 in the evening until …. well..late. Which days of the week? Any day although friday and saturday it’s usually a BIG party.
5.Take a day trip to Playa Grande & ziplining at Laguna Dudu
Playa Grande is an hour away from Cabarete and is a stunning white sandy beach, lined with tall palm trees, and no development. Laguna El Dudu is an exciting and mostly unknown attraction on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. It requires a bit of bravery before one is able to swim in the water as the lagoon is surrounded by natural cliffs from which to jump into refreshment.
This is just a short list of the top things you can do in and around Cabarete, there’s loads more stuff to do. Have a look at this video and see for yourself if Cabarete is the kind of place fro your active holiday.
Blue skies, turquoise-blue waters, and a fiery sunset.
The soothing sound of waves delicately caressing the shore.
The smell of salt water.
The tickle of sand on your bare feet.
A new taste for surfing.
They’re the fastest growing trend in wellness travel; designed to feed mind, body, and the senses. They’re called surfing retreats. And it’s something you have to try.
Surfing retreats are more than learning a fun, invigorating watersport. They offer so much more than the name implies.
You’ll leave your travel adventure with much more than you came with. Check out all the ways you can benefit from the experience.
Travel to a Beautiful Country For Surfing Retreats
Let’s face it. One huge reason you’re looking to get away is to relax in a place that oozes calm and serene. (But also has a great nightlife too!)
The gorgeous sandy beaches of Cabarete offer the best of both.
The Dominican Republic has some of the most consistent waves in the world, especially the local surf break.
And the off-site excursions take you deep into some of the most breath-taking scenery the Caribbean has to offer.
If you want to truly experience the Dominican Republic and escape to paradise, Swell surf camp is the place to go.
Combine Fitness with Fun
There’s a reason most surfers have slim, toned muscles and bodies to-die-for. A duck-dive under the waves isn’t easy.
Surfing engages the entire core constantly. It requires good endurance, muscle power, and flexibility.
Paddling uses arm, shoulder, and chest muscles.
Heard of surfies? They’re basically the burpee of the surf world. They’re what you need to master for a flawless pop-up onto your board.
Surfing may be challenging and physically demanding, but you’ll have so much fun learning you won’t even notice. (Until after!)
Make New Friends
Surfing retreats are extremely popular for solo travelers. You walk in on day one to meet a bunch of strangers and leave on the last day with ten new friends.
How can you not become close-knit when you spend all day encouraging and “whoop-whooping” for one another? The spirit of camaraderie is only made stronger by the team of supportive, friendly and skilled surf instructors.
Designed as a communal gathering place you can also spend time getting to know your surf mates outside of lessons.
A surf getaway is a perfect way to meet and bond with positive, like-minded travelers.
Learn a Gnarly Sport
Cowabunga dude! Hang loose. Watch me shoot the curl.
It’s such a crazy sport that it has its own language.
The best practice for surfing lessons is to the two-a-day approach.
The first session includes a thorough warm-up, dryland practice, and often one on one instruction. Instructors are knowledgeable and encouraging. Their goal is to make you feel comfortable while trying something new and unfamiliar.
The second session is a looser practice. Here you will practice what you learned earlier on your own. Instructors are present to offer tips, advice, and encouragement.
Remeber to manage your own expectations. Not everyone picks up surfing the first time they try. But every time you get out and try again is a step closer to riding the waves.
But every time you get out and try again is a step closer to riding the waves.
Eat Fabulous Cuisine
Part of traveling to another country is the anticipation of savoring the local cuisine.
The best surfing retreats have their own kitchen with in-house chef and cooking staff. Because the cooks are local, guess what that means? It’s like home cookin’ — Dominican Republic style.
Even the most health-conscious, diet-watching people need to fuel their bodies. The resort or company hosting your surf retreat knows the importance of this.
A light breakfast is commonly available before the first surf lesson (you don’t want to fill your stomach before getting on the water). Then a hearty, filling, healthy meal will await once you’ve completed your lesson.
As one Swell review says: “The meals I had at camp were some of the best I had the whole trip.”
And for the nights you feel like venturing out, you’ll find it hard to choose. Some of Cabarete’s popular eateries are within a 5-minute walk from the Swell surf camp.
Feel a Sense of Accomplishment
There’s no better way to build self-esteem than by tackling something new.
Instruction is broken down into small, manageable steps. But you can also expect to be pushed to your limits, without going farther than you can handle. Each day promises a new success.
Each day promises a new success.
Because instructors tailor their instruction to fit individual needs, you’re guaranteed to leave with better surfing skills than when you came. Even if you don’t manage to ride your board on the inside break you’ll experience the joy of simply trying.
Just remember, with any new skill you learn, it starts with baby steps. In this case, it starts with baby waves. Small, tiny waves today; big and wild waves the next.
In this case, it starts with baby waves. Small, tiny waves today; big and wild waves the next.
Surfing retreats are becoming more and more popular among women.
Most of us live in a constant whirlwind, taking care of others and sometimes forgetting to look after ourselves. When’s the last time you treated yourself to a much-needed break?
Get a massage. Read a book on the beach without interruption. Come back to a cleaned room every day. Talk with other women without censoring what you say. Get your workouts in daily. Enjoy a cocktail without having to answer a text, call, or request from a needy three-year-old.
Get your workouts in daily. Enjoy a cocktail without having to answer a text, call, or request from a needy three-year-old.
Whatever it is you need to get away from, transform and return rejuvenated.
Even those around you will appreciate it.
Feed Your Inner Explorer
Although you may find it hard to tear yourself away from the warm sand and soothing splash of waves, it’s a must-do to venture out.
Most surfing retreats are located in areas full of fabulous adventures.
In Cabarete you can choose from many different activities:
- Try kitesurfing
- Go snorkeling the beautiful bay of Sosua
- Into scuba? How about a wreck dive or night diving?
- A guided horseback ride takes you to exotic areas no cars can drive
- Mountain biking is available for the hard-core and the leisurely rider
Of course, your trip wouldn’t be complete without rappelling down the “Magic Mushroom.” Yes. That’s a thing. And yes, it’s something you’ll never forget.
Interact With Locals
The surfer lifestyle coined the phrase “hang loose.” And that’s the atmosphere you’ll be surrounded by when you venture into the local haunts.
Your surf instructor and staff can offer many great suggestions for food, fun, and fantastic people watching.
Local surfers are always out on the water. They are an extremely accepting and generous group of people. They enjoy shouting encouragement to newbies of the sport.
Reboot Body And Mind
Many surfing retreats offer a combination of surf instruction and yoga. Push your mind and your body to experience the fullness of what you are doing.
Yoga practice helps relax your body after long, physically taxing days in the water. Gentle yoga poses help stretch and loosen muscles and are perfect for post-surfing relaxation.
Surfing Retreats are the Trip of a Lifetime
Most surfing retreats are so much more than the surfing; “beautiful, chill location, great food, fabulous restorative yoga classes, fun adventurous activities, and relaxing with new friends.”
No matter what surf level you’re at, Swell Surf & Yoga Retreat is an experience you will never forget. And one you will want to do over and over again.
Ready to treat yourself to the adventure of a lifetime?
Your contact is Clare. And she’s ready to answer all your questions and help you book the perfect surf holiday.
Read our 5 reasons why a visit to the Dominican republic will satisfy all adventure holiday makers