HOW TO ADVENTURE IN MARRAKECH: BETTER TAKES ACTION IN 72 HOURS

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A recent challenge set by my friends at KEEN saw myself and buddy (and Editor of Cooler Magazine) Lou Boyd truss up our backpacks and shoes to see if we could find adventure with just a weekend to do it in.  

Settin' forth to Marrakesh, check out the video edit of our wild ride we had out in Morocco exploring Marrakesh and it's colourful souks, hiking the Atlas Mountains and immersing ourselves in this vibrantly wild place, and Lou's guide to adventuring Marrakesh!

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MAD TO LIVE RETREATS MOROCCO WRAP-UP

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As the African sun sets on a wildly epic adventure out in Morocco for Mad To Live Retreats, we dust off the golden sand and wipe the zinc off our noses, minds blown after sharing an incredible week with a group of stunning souls from around the world.  Alexandra, Lissette, Ashley, Gabrielle, Kerry, Jess (her FOURTH retreat with us.  We love ya Jess!!) from the US, Elissa, Sabina, Nichola, Elly and Beth (welcome back ladies) from the UK, Lily and Yasmin from Portugal and Sara from Spain.   Check our highlights below and the full video wrap!

Our Mad To Live Retreats babe cave for the week, a private villa at beautiful Banana Beach was the ultimate magical Moroccan surfer girl HQ, nightly dips outside with the setting sun a daily highlight (hands up who's missing 630pm dips dudes?!).  A haul of gifts from our radical brand partners including Billabong, Decleor, The Raw Chocolate Company, Pip & Nut, Kinn LIving, Imsy Swimwear and Mad To Live hats and tees greeted the guests on arrival, an ultimate swag package.

With surfing and getting the girls ripping a key focus of the week, our instructors for the week Bashine and Charlotte went to all lengths to coach the ladies during the week.  The progress was pretty astonishing, and returning retreaters including Lisette Sieholtz and Sara Guel from New York City and Barcelona showing incredible progression, and new surfers Kerry, Ashley and Nichola blowing our minds.

Adventure is around every corner of the raw and beautiful shores of Taghazout, and with camel rides, horse-back riding on Arabian stallions, visits to the all-female run Argan Oil Collective, Paradise Valley to hike, trek and rock jump for the brave, surf-fitness focussed training, an adventurous itinerary complimented by the zen of yoga sessions at the rooftop shalla and a meditation to welcome the new moon led by in-house yogi & bastion of soulful energy Lucy Sweeney, a visit to the local hammam and trips to the souks rounded out an all-time week.

Feasting at the Villa Mandala, wholesome and locally sourced Moroccan feasts fed hungry bellies and souls at the end of a full day adventuring and exploring, a group toast to all the epicness of each day.   Yeah, we LOVE to eat at Mad To Live Retreats!!

A journey to the valhalla of long boarding that is Insouame, punctuated with camels dotting the road, goats chomping argan from trees and staggering views brought the week to an almighty crescendo.  Heading off into the soft-sand desert for a hike and sand-boarding an adventure we won't ever forget, a nirvana of wild beauty. 

The endless possibilities and capacity for adventure and growth when surrounded by a supportive troop of women, when facing fears, when allowing happiness and an endless stoke for living are part of what we champion and part of our DNA at Mad To Live.  Morocco and all these brilliant women were a crucial reminder to us too how powerful and transformative that is, as we tip our hats to the African sun, Hakuna Matata forever engrained.

 

 

 

Book your own Mad To Live Retreats adventure Here and stay tuned for 2019's Morocco dates landing soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAGHAZOUT TRAVEL & ADVENTURE GUIDE

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Agadir, Taghazout and its surrounding areas is a veritable treasure trove of adventure and wellness activities.  The azure-hued oceans and gold-dust deserts rich in culture and with super-friendly locals makes it’s a no-brainer as a Mad To Live Retreats base.  We’ve been exploring the epic terrain out here the last year and check out our guide to the top wellness and adventure activities below!

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CAMEL & HORSEBACK RIDING

Taghazout, with its breaktaking vistas boasts an endless shorelines of sun-kissed panoramas.  The best way to take it all in and explore is by horseback or for a more local option, camel. With an array of riding schools catering to all levels, get wild and take in the wild terrains on a magnificent horse or doe-eyed camel.

 

SURFING

There’s a reason Taghazout is a globally-renowned surf mecca.  With infamous spots welcoming pros including the likes of Kelly Slater of the years, the land of the rights, with killer beaks including Anchors, Devils Rock and more is a must-stop for wave-hungry travellers.  Accommodation is cheap, and operators like Surf Maroc offer an abundance of options that include bed and breakfast and surf touring.

 

DUNE BOARDING

Once you’re done with the waves, heading out into the wildly raw and beautiful sand dunes is a must-do experience.  The scenery is unparalleled and one for the memory bank, and you can surf down the soft dunes for a thrilling experience.

 

YOGA

Namaste’in loving yogis are spoilt for choice with a number of choice-yoga options.  Take in all the incredible beauty of the coastline with roof-top yoga classes at spots including boutique hotel Amouage.

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HAMMAM

Surf-weary bodies and spa-lovers must check out a traditional Moroccan spa for a Hamman experience.  Relax in the sauna spa before having a scrub down with face and body wash, leaving gleaming and fresh.

 

PARADISE VALLEY TREKKING

The other-worldly Paradise Valley, nestled in the hills less than an hour from Taghazout is serious-bucket list territory.  The Palm-laden valley welcomes you as you approach, and a short hike later, exploring the running rivers, streams, tucked away tea spots and raw nature you’ll find yourself at natural pools and waterfalls (in the right season).  The brave will hurl themselves from the natural cliff jumps into the clear-water pools, a scream-inducing jump for most.

AWESOME SUMMER ROAD TRIPS TO DO WITH YOUR GIRLFRIENDS WITH BILLABONG WOMENS

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Summer is finally beginning to cast it's glow across what has been an unfathomably long and cold winter.  Buoyed up by sunny vibes and a road trip to California, I've penned a piece for my fav women's all-time rock n' roll surf brand, Billabong Womens, hot off the back of the launch of their New Wave collection inspired by Billabong's long-time heritage in surf and the wild and rad bonds of a badass crew of friends.  

If you've seen me on the beach and in the waves you know I have a penchant for all the 80s high cut bathers, and I love this heritage blast collection and all the radical girl power vibes around it, the campaign featuring powerhouse surfer Laura Enever, Josie Prendergast, Alissia Quizon and golden girl Flick Palameeter.

Check out my guide to awesome summer trips to do with your girlfriends over the summer!

 

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Book now on Mad To Live Retreats

All photos by Alan Krespan

A SALCOMBE SEAFOLLY MAD TO LIVE RETREAT

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The first budding blossoms of spring bring with it a taste of a summer to come, and with a hot spell stretching it’s giving touch across Europe to the UK, we were blessed with the hottest April on record for a Mad To Live hosted Seafolly Australia Retreat in Devon.  Devon has long been one of my favourite places in the world to explore and adventure in, it’s clean waters, rambling expanses of lush green lands and vast unparalleled beauty.     

Our retreat home for the weekend in the near-mystically beautiful Salcombe, our own Seafolly babe palace, perched on the beach overlooking the crystal green waters of the West Coast.  It wasn't hard to imagine that Tennyson was so inspired by this very place that he penned poems such was the inspiration the otherwordly scenery inspired him with.

 

With Seafolly beach vibes in abundance and a brilliant crew of women for the weekend, we tucked into a hearty spread by the Potency Team, a vegetarian menu over the weekend fueling us for our endless hours of fun.

Dawn’s golden fingers creeping through our curtains on Saturday, my surf-fitness high intensity class kicked off our first day, introducing the ladies to pop-ups and getting sweaty whilst tesing out the new season Seafolly fitness gear.  

I love the detail of the products, and radical bright coloured designs.

Chowing down some of Potency's award-winning energy balls, we headed beach-way for our stand up paddle boarding adventure.  

 

All aboard the SeaFolly Express!

 

Exploring the beautiful bays and breathtaking waters of the bay with our girl gang was an all-time adventure, the endless smiles, team-ditch into the fresh waters and post-SUP beach play with Gracie the puppy leaving us sun-kissed and stoked.

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A quick stop of at the local pub The Winking Prawn for fresh grilled prawns slathered in garlic butter and we headed back to our girl-gang abode, ready for a restorative, candle lit stretch.

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Toasting the day with cocktails courtesy of Potency and a generous feast, a dance-off as we checked out next season collection of Seafolly (it’s off the chart awesome), and we cosied up for a viewing of the all-time classic chicks surfer movie.  Yup you guessed it, Blue Crush.  

Waking up to another blue-bird morning and a generous serving of poached eggs with crisped coconut flakes over rye with avo, we took the workout outdoors, for an energising conditioning session underneath the sunny skies.

An incredible weekend with the Seafolly girl gang.

To find out more and book on to Mad To Live Retreats, cruise here

Enquire about corporate and brand Mad To Live Retreats at sophie@madtoliveblog.com

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PRESS: SURFGIRL MAGAZINE FEATURE MAD TO LIVE RETREATS

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We are stoked to feature in the latest issue of SurfGirl Magazine's Travel Special roundup of top summer destinations for Mad To Live Retreats x The Surf Experience in Portugal.  Pick up a copy & check it out, SurfGirl rules #printisntdead, or else keep reading to scope the full piece, with an interview from yours truly.

The Portugal weeks are nearly sold out, snag your spot whilst you can to the ULTIMATE Women's Surf, Fitness & Adventure Retreat now on one of our 6 dates over summer, book here.

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CALIFORNIA LOVE STORY: A ROAD TRIP GUIDE

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California's long been on the top of my list of adventure and surf trips I’ve been hankering after.  An avid consumer of most west-coast ocean and thrill-seeking literature, from Kerouac and Beach Boys beat days, to Steinback and Point Break fantasies, Into The Wild fuelled Gidget dancing mirages. My mind had long been littered with images of tip-toeing down the line of perfect right hand breaks, peaking Pacific shorelines of perpetual swell, the great wide yonder of open-spaces and palm & cacti-crested wild lands. 

Check out my handy one-stop California guide for my favourite spots to hit up, best activities, places to stuff your face, where to stay and how to travel! Check it!

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HUNTINGTON BEACH TOP TIPS

The Pasea Hotel

On arrival late at night in Huntington Beach, creeping out onto our balcony at the Pasea we pretty much had our minds blown from the offset, our immediate view being of the incredibly iconic Huntington Beach, the sound of waves piquing our excitement at what was to come.  For a one-stop hotel with ocean-facing rooms, gym, spa, a stones throw from the surf, beach cruiser bikes out front ready for you to take and explore (the best way to check out the town), Pasea is the spot.

 

Tanners

So-Cal style food with generous servings.  Try the Huevos Rancheros and Green Thumb Bowl stuffed with Avocado, Almond Butter, fruits and Honeycomb.

Sessions Sandwiches

If you’ve been busy making the most of the swell or skating the park, chances are you’ll need refuelling.  Sessions Sandwiches is the one for generous served portions a stones throw from the surf and park.

Blue Gold

Try one of the local speciality “Steam Kettles”, pots of incredibly delicious shellfish you’ll be dipping hunks of hearty crab-topped sourdough into.  One of my best meals of the trip.

Toes On The Nose

What’s a surf town without your local friendly surf shop? I headed out for a surf with the Toes on The Nose crew who offer easy rentals, have lockers and changing rooms on site, and knowledgable instructors and guides.

DownTown Huntington Beach

Picking up a cruiser and exploring Downtown Huntington Beach, which is packed with super-cool old-school architecture, vintage stores rife with hot-finds, coffee shops and bars.

International Surfing Musuem

The International Surfing Museum is pretty much like no other, packed with surf and skate original artefacts and a real insight into the rich history of California surf and skate culture.

Vans Huntington Beach Skatepark

40,000 feet of skatepark, the ultimate utopia packed with different obstacles and terrains, changing rooms, lockers and snack bars. 

PALM SPRINGS TOP TIPS

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Hike the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation

Make this hike as challenging as you want - head up to the top in 3 or so hours or just cruise up for half an hour.  The views across Palm Springs are mind blowing no matter the height. 

Avalon Hotel

The Avalon Hotel is a dreamy, must-stay stop in Palm Springs.  The heady, floral-scented grounds are the ultimate in R N R.  Spacious, chic bungalos, excellent eateries and an on-site spa mean you barely need to leave the grounds.

 

Estrella Spa

Surf-weary muscles can check into Estrella and make the most of the full range of massages, scrubs and holistic health treatments to get your zen on.

Chi Chi

The health-conscious will love the offerings of CHiChi, and I pretty much had one of the best salmon gravalax beigals of my life here (a cute touch, our waiter replaced my beigal one morning, insisting, as the baker had just delivered a fresher batch which he wanted me to have).

 

Yoga at the Saguaro Hotel

The kitschy-cool brightly-coloured Saguaro has pool-side yoga classes non-staying guests can attend, down-dogging under the nearly permanently azure-blue Palm Spring skies, and follow up with breakfast at the brilliant Rocco’s Electric.

 

Cycling The Coachella Valley

Get Into The Wild (Chris McCancles famously explored here) and explore the wildly-beautiful desert valleys on bike.

 

Two Bunch Palms

The breathtaking grounds of Two Bunch Palms transport you to otherworldly realms of zen. Sheltered by ancient palms and giant tamarisk trees, explore the alternative-wellness treatments on offer like Mud Therapy baths, where you are immersed in mineral-rich clay and peat moss.  

 

SAN DIEGO TOP TIPS

Surboard lessons and rentals from Surf Diva

Any trip to La Jolla should include a trip to the righteous Surf Diva.  Founded by renegade sisters Izzy and Coco Thiyani, Surf Diva was the world's first all-girl surf school. No matter if you’re lacking the Y chromosome, Surf Diva provide board rentals and lessons, and have a killer selection in their store.

 

Cheese Sandwich Shop

Work up an appetite surfing the incredible breaks of La Jolla and duck into the Cheese Shop for a huge array of sandwiches, vegan options available. 

La Jolla Kayak

La Jolla’s marine life is unparaplled partly due to the purity of the waters.  Head out on the kayaks and dive to the underwater world of the kelp forests, which apparently the scientific laboratory on the pier is finding that kelp is a highly energy rich renwable source.   Spot local friendly sharks, seals and dophins like we did and have your noggin' blown.

Hotel La Jolla

For proximity to all the activities on offer and the beach  Hotel La Jolla, with its 11th floor rooftop restaurant and bar, beach cruisers on-site and plush rooms is ideal.

Dukes for brunch

Find out about the iconic Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku, the first man to bring surfing to Australia and California at brunch spot Dukes.  Overlooking the crystal waters of La Jolla with an outdoor terrace, spot spouting whales if you're lucky.

 

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MALIBU TOP TIPS

Surfing, pick up londboards from Malibu Surf Shack right in front of the iconic Malibu break, a quick walk across the road.

Climbing

Malibu State Park has a huge range of climbing options including sport climbing, bouldering and top toe routes.  Escape the bustle of LA and find the dreamy solitude of Malibu

VENICE BEACH TOP TIPS

Kreation Kafe Abbot Cinney

Get your green-fix at Kreation Kafe, where even the tap water has drops of green, mineral-rich solutions mixed in front of you.  Pressed Juices, a smorgasbord of egg and veg dishes and killer coffees make this a must-stop for healthy foodies.   

Surfboard rentals from Jays Venice Beach

Surf the iconic Venice Beach and pick up a rental from Jays, a friendly on-beach store which also rents bikes and cruiser.

Deus Café 

Need to hot-desk and be fuelled with a killer cup of coffee at the same time?  Pitch up at Deus, which has strong wi-fi, a good snack selection and great coffee.

TRANSPORT

By far the best way to road trip and explore California is with your own set of wheels.  We picked up an adventure-ready SUV from Hertz less than 10 minutes from LAX.  Gas is cheap in California and we only had to refill twice in 2 weeks.

 

Get Out There Guys

Stay Wild ✌️

 

Stay tuned for more travel stories, landing soon on the Mad To Live Blog.

 

Greater Palm Springs

Huntington Beach

San Diego

 

 

 

 

PRESS: FEATURE IN SURF GIRL MAGAZINE

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SurfGirl Magazine are a staple read and favourite at Mad To Live HQ, and we were stoked to feature in their latest Sofa To Surf Travel Guide, where they take a look at Mad To Live Retreats x The Surf Experience epic dates in Portugal.  

Check out the feature below and book a spot to Mad To Live Retreats here!

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PRESS: FEATURE IN WOMEN'S HEALTH MAGAZINE

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So excited to find Mad To Live Retreats included in our favourite bible of all that is health, wellness, travel & awesomeness, Women's Health UK's run down of the Top 21 Fitness Holidays of 2018!

Check out the feature below, and thanks to Women's Health UK. You rule!

Book a spot on Mad To Live Retreats here!

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THE ROOTS OF WELLNESS, BALINESE STYLE

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Wellness, in its many guises, fads and fashions, seems to have well and truly adopted its western assumed cloak of green shakes, downward dogs, gluten-free-gilded £15 a-pop avocado eateries and butt-skimming lycra.

I was keen to explore wellness and it's real roots and meaning through seeking out it's authentic Eastern beginnings, the real heritage of what the big W truly means. Trussing up by bag, I set forth for the heady, wellness and surf soaked shores of Bali, and the Tugu Spa Hotel.  Well versed in Bali's surf and adventure culture, I was excited to delve deeper into Bali's roots, its history and the truer meaning and heritage of "wellness".

The Tugu, owned by an Indonesian who has been collecting antiques since the early 1960s, is home to one of the largest original art collections in Southeast Asia.  Setting foot into it's impressive grounds, an Indiana-Jones esque level of intrepid discovery quickly beings, as within every nook and cranny of the grounds are collected pieces of Indonesian history, some dating 100's of years back.  The main building, the Bale Agung, features distinctive architecture inspired by a secluded village in Central Bali, whereas some of the public areas are original hundreds-years-old structures moved in entirety into the property.  

A showcase of Indonesia and Bali's fascinating history, something not many tourists may look into, forms an intriguing backdrop to a look at the heritage of wellness, from it's birth-place in Indonesia.  With original artefacts from the Puputan War including the desk used to sign the Dutch/Balinese war treaty and a salvaged Love Temple, the "Bale Sutra" – a whole Kang Xi period temple from 1706 saved from demolition, the inner explorer in me was in artefact heaven. 

For centuries the people of Java, the Peranakan, and the people of Bali have been adhering to their authentic indigenous health treatments that we now know and call “spa” in the West.  These traditions combined aspects of spirituality with the physical healing arts to achieve the ultimate in mind, body and soul harmony to enhance total deep relaxation. For the more well-off, a certain ambience was created, some called it ‘magic’ ✨, whereby the secluded atmosphere and the ministrations of the healer would bring a kind of hypnosis on the patient and it would send them into a state of peacefulness.

Healers, knowing much about the power of nature, it's affect on our sense of smell, the ability of its colors to elevate or soothe the mind, used ‘magical’ flowers to create the atmosphere of the treatment rooms. These flowers, Frangipani, Tropical Magnolia, Rose, Jasmine, and Ylang Ylang were believed to be the flowers of the supreme deities. Incense, or ‘dupa’ as it is called, also was known to have magical properties, some of which are used at specific times and for specific purposes. The Çiva, called ‘kemenyan’ is believed to have a powerful effect on the soul when burnt under an old banyan tree on a Thursday evening. 

Long before the Spa concept was introduced in the West, the Javanese were incorporating flowers and incense to stimulate the spirit and accelerate the relaxation of the mind. Only after the relaxation process begins, the physical treatment could commence and often short prayer or ‘mantra’ would accompany it. It was believed that this approach allowed the treatment to really penetrate the soul, and when the hands began to touch the body, they brought a mysterious power that is increased as the rhythmic movements of the hands massage the entire body.

The Balinese believe that to bathe in water perfumed by the fragrant petals of the frangipani flower under the light of the full moon will wash away your impurities.  Purnama, in Balinese means Full Moon, and Tilem means New Moon. These two days are special according to Balinese belief, and during these moons, purification ceremonies are arranged to wash away sins, and celebrate “Rwa Binneda” – the two energies of life, the good and evil, darkness and brightness.  During the Purnama, Balinese worship the Goddess Sang Hyang Chandra, whereas during Tilem, they pray to God Sang Hyang Surya.

Through generations, for more than hundred of years, the Javanese were doing research and observations through trials and experiences to get the real use of all those herbs and spices which are found in their surroundings. This belief was quickly spread among the villagers especially in Central Java which almost all of the villagers use “Djamoe” in their daily life for healing and rejuvenation.  Djamoe, a mixture of traditional herbs and spices, which are used for healing and rejuvenation. Djamoe includes mixtures that are drunk and mixtures that are applied to the outer part of the body. Traditional ‘Djamoe’ comes from the island of Java, and have evolved since hundred of years through generations. 

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The heady, intoxicating history shared with me makes for a stimulating immersion into the post-surf wellness experience, settled in the woozy, frangipani scented grounds of the Tugu.  My love of wellness and health is wholly linked to a deeper experience, and a discovery of it's more magical roots in Indonesia left me with a more mystically rewarding understanding.  I can't wait to explore this beautiful culture even more 🌙🌙🌙🌙🌙

 

With Thanks To The Tugu Bali

Fly To Bali with Emirates, Qatar, Norwegian Air

 

 

 

MAD TO LIVE RETREATS WRAP-UP BY BLOGGER DAYS OF CREATURE

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Recent Mad To Live Reteats attendee and friend for life Natalia Fludra is a woman after our own heart.  To me Natalia perfectly epitomises exactly what I have endeavoured to showcase about Mad To Live Retreats: being a modern, successful woman (Natalia works in law) who also is passionate about actively following her interests and dreams and does not sacrifice them.  A regular traveller in search of dreamy waves and adventure, Natalia is also an incredibly talented writer, penning the whimsically stunning blog Days Of Creature.

We were stoked to have the brilliant Natalia join us on a recent leg of Mad To Live Retreats x The Surf Experience in Portugal this summer, and even more so when we read her righteous piece she penned after her travels with us.  Check out the full story below, and cruise over to the retreat page to nab your space on one of our legendary retreats.

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BLOGGER YOI DOCHI'S TAKE ON MAD TO LIVE RETREATS

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"One of those tales I'll be telling my grand kids one day...."

How I love running women's surf retreats.  It could be selfish but sheez, I am just getting to meet the MOST radical awesome ladies doing this, and making incredible new friends.  So from a selfish perspective, I LOVE IT as I am making so many brilliant new friends, women that are inspiring me in turn to be creative and do epic things.

"Over the week every single one of us progressed so much. It was an awesome personal achievement, we really turned into a little community and felt stoked for each other improving and catching some great waves. I never thought I'd meet a group of strangers and immediately get on so well with them."

Our most recent leg of retreats in Portugal with our homies at the Surf Experience had all-round legend, founder of the kick-ass blog YOI DACHI (check it out.  It is EPICNESS on another level) join us for our week of surf, shred adventure and general bad-assing.  Hanging out with Bec, a martial arts, surfing, wolf-owning, fellow metalhead enthusiast was a highlight of my trip and I loved seeing her throw herself at everything on offer, a true Mad To Live-er if there every was one.

"Sophie and the SE guys and girls put in a hell of a lot of effort to give you the best week of your life. And no, I'm not exaggerating. It literally was that for me."

Check out what this radical soul made of the trip below, and stay TUNED for all the retreats landing in 2018, book here!

"I made some friends in the space of a week that I hope will last a lifetime — people that have made me think differently about my own life, given me a fresh outlook..."

 

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WHY I: INTERVIEW WITH MAUD LE CAR

I was lucky to spend a few days with the Vans pro surf-team recently in the lushly wild Mundaka, a pocket in the Basque region of northern Spain that brims with adventure, surf, and a raw, primordial energy that is apparent and palpable in it’s vast mountains, Neolithic cave-painting remains and breath-taking vistas.

Sharing waves, camp fire stories and heart-pumping hikes with the Vans team, I sat down with 25 year old French-Caribbean surf queen Maud Le Car to chew the fat, and find out more about this intoxicating force of nature, delving deeper into her motivations and passions.  

Settle down for a read with the phenomenal Maud Le Car.

25 year old Maud Le Car Rips. Whether she’s busy following the WQS  (Women's Qualifying Series) surf tour circuit (where is is currently ranked in the top 30), free-surfing for shoots and videos (including this video of her surfing in high heels, which went viral some time back), or exploring her creativity through art, Maud seemingly throws not just vast amounts of hard work into her work, but equal parts of passion.  I love watching her surf, with a radical, unique style that is highly impressive and always fun to watch.

Maud has been surfing since she was 12 years old, practically considered old in the modern day, with groms taking to the water younger and younger.  But if there is something that is apparent from talking to Maud that has clearly stood her in good stead, spurring her on, progressing, seeing her take on a number of wins on the QS, is her ethos towards bettering herself and continuing to progress and move forward from both successes, and failures.  Reflecting that

I think in everything you’re doing in life, you sometimes hit a wall, in that you have bad moments and good moments, and you just to grow from these experiences…”.   

 

Competitive surfing, and sport in general, can be a double-edged sword, and with the mental game playing as big a part as the physical, Maud shares that

There is a quote I love, they say you fall maybe 8 times but you stand up 9 and that is the real thing… this is how a contender and a champion make the difference. Because it's not about the same talent, we all have the same capacities.  It’s a matter of how you’re going to use it, and how you handle the failures and bad moments, how you’re going to rebound”.

Failures can be formative in any profession, and I love how Maud attests that this has been a major motivation and impetus for her to continue prospering as a professional surfer on the tour.  I wonder what else helps her to stay grounded and to not let the pressure overwhelm her?

“I just remember…the simple things and why I’m surfing, and my passion...I’m super grateful for everything surfing brings to my life, and just the simple fact of being in the ocean and connected with nature”.

Seeing Maud playfully surfing during our sessions in Mundaka, I was struck by her unique style, fusing aggressive, hacking manoeuvres with a creative, powerful feminine style.  It is brilliant to watch, and excites me when I ask her when is in store for her with her surfing now?

“I just want to keep improving my surfing…push myself a little bit harder every day. and just be the best I can be.

"This is my full motivation, to be at 100% of my capacity, … we have no limits, so I just want to go further than I can, and be proud at the end”. 

With positive role models like Maud flourishing on the womens pro- circuit, it seems there has never been a more inspiringly progressive time in women’s surfing.  With champions like Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright and more holding a motivating flame, illustrating that the days of women needing to surf like the guys to be considered on their level is long extinct, that feminine creativity and expression, fused with strength and powerful executions, makes for an incredible display of surfing.

Close friends with fellow pro surfer Coco Ho, Maud expresses that “its just just good to always be with passionate people who are always pushing themselves surfing”.  With a dominant force of female chargers on the competitive circuit, the professional side is prospering.  In the every-day surf realm though, sometimes it is still common to see a more masculine-heavy lineup at most surf spots.   I ask Maud why she thinks this could be, why aren’t there more women in the water, it is, after all 2017?  “I think the problem is that women sometimes have limits because that’s true it's a physical sport, and there's a lot of men doing it, and you won't want to look shitty at the beginning doing it

The thing is ..some people are like oh you're lucky. you're a surfer, you're blond, tanned, it's super sexy…No, surfing is NOT sexy! You have water in your nose all day, dreadlocks, sand everywhere and you fall, you fall, you go in the sand… You just have to get past those things... It's like ok, maybe the boys are good at surfing, but it's not only exclusively for boys… I truly think a girl surfing is way more graceful and more beautiful to watch."

There Is nothing shameful in the fact that sometimes women may worry a little more about what we look like, seeing as we are still often judged on our outside cover.  Maud shares that her girlfriends have similar fears when she pushes them to try surfing expressing that, “everyone's gonna tease me.  I’m like bah, no one cares, we all begin from a point, nobody is looking!”.

I think that as Maud proposes, once we let go of the fear, of worrying what we look like or what people are thinking of us, then we can really embrace the task at hand.  Fear can be a paralysing obstruction to personal endeavours, and once we shake off those fears, it is incredible what can be achieved.

Maud’s passion for surf goes hand in hand with her passion for art, with much of her inspiration stemming from her travels on the road as a professional surfer.  I wonder where the main sources of inspiration for her art stem from on the road?  “I think it’s a period in life…I know my drawing is a lot inspired by what I’m feeling at every moment in my life, and it’s a way of expressing for me, for what I’m feeling.  I think I’m inspired by everything I’m living around, especially my travel, you go to countries, the Caribbean, or Australia or America, and the art is so different.  I just love to be inspired by the art I see in the street, or local artist and what they are doing and what inspired them, and just looking all around, and change your perception of things.

From holding her own art shows, displaying her art which is a mix of paintwork, sprays and drawings, I enquire as to what exciting projects she currently has on the go? “For the moment I'm doing my quiver, it's half animal half woman.  I love to draw women’s faces, it really inspires me;

"Because I love women, and I think they are really beautiful.  There’s something strong that makes me (think) ...ok I really want to that way, to be a bit feminist (haha)”.

Two thumbs up to that.  And with surfers, the marine-dwellers that we are, spending so much time in nature’s great soup-bowl, conservation is often is at the forefront of people’s minds, and is also playing a big role in Maud’s art with a forthcoming project “drawing… mermaids with recycled plastic glass just to raise awareness to people for recycling … I give money to an association to give money to recycling, getting plastic out the water, cleaning the beaches…”.

It’s good to see professional surfers like Maud playing a critical part in not just raising awareness of the importance of the conversation of our marine life, but also being an active participant.

 

After we wrapped up a busy few days in Mundaka, one thing that really struck me about Maud was an infectious, happy energy that was palpable in talking to her, and watching her out in the water.  Asking what stokes her out most in life, she visibly glows as her shares :

"I love the sparkle in life...and just enjoying the little, simple things. I'm just stoked by a brief...moment in the day, by watching a wave, and having a good feeling on my board”.

And with that, we're off for a hike through the verdant forest of Mundaka, smiles on our faces, and adventure in our hearts.

 

The new Vans Ultrarange versatile shoe is out August 1, learn more at Vans.com/UltraRange

 

STAY TUNED FOR MORE IN THE WHY I SERIES, COMING SOON.

SURFGIRL ARTICLE ON MAD TO LIVE RETREATS & TRAINING

The recent leg of Mad To Live Retreats hit epic Lagos, Portugal for our annual collaboration with the righteous The Surf Experience,  bringing together all-time crews of women for the ultimate surf & fitness adventure.

We were psyched to have the brilliant Carly Truss, surfer, warm-hearted soul, badass, and journalist from our favourite women's surf journal, SurfGirl Magazine, along for the ride.

We love this piece Carly detailed on why the retreats are put together the way they are.  Want to know why I put together surfing with horse-riding, boxing, yoga, trail running and mountain biking?  Read on...

With thanks to the brilliant Carly and SurfGirl Magazine.

Like what you see?  Book on to the next Mad To Live Retreats x The Surf Experience adventure this September HERE!  Only a few spaces left!

EXPERT'S CHAT: ARTIST HARVEY SAUNDERS

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I first came across artist Harvey Saunders whilst we were completing our surf instructor course on the familiar shores of Newquay, Cornwall, earlier this year.  As I always find with surfing, conversation is made easy, as you already find a common interest with a fellow human being in riding waves.  Discovering Harvey was an an artist, through small, smart-phone imagery, I was quickly drawn into, and entranced, by his art, and ethos’ around it.

An almost fate-like coincidence days later saw me at the new boutique hotel Amouage by Surf Maroc, admiring some large-scale geometric collages hanging through the hotel.  Created by, coincidentally, none other than Harvey.  Delving further into Harvey’s art and creativity, I loved how his incorporation of symbology, geometry and earnest stoke for surfing is visibly manifested in his art.  I was keen for him to create an artwork in the vein of Mad To Live, leaving a brief open to his interpretation.

Settle down for a piece with the phenomenally talented Harvey Saunders. Artist, surfer, creator and one of my favourite, and most interesting interview subjects to delve into to date.  

Harvey Saunders, somewhat like me, seems to thrive on his work being closely linked, and interwoven, with his love of travel and surf.  Growing up outside Brighton, in the south of England, and currently based on the South West Coast of Spain, Harvey’s work now sees him taking up artist residencies around the world, most recently having completed a stint at Amouage by Surf Maroc.  I found myself mesmerized by the huge works which so beautifully rest in the break-side Taghazout hotel.  A project that lasted over 3 months whilst Harvey created 2 large collage pieces for the new hotel,  Harvey shares that

"Surfing and creating everyday in such a location was a great experience, and I'm real grateful to the whole crew. The first piece I created for them took exactly one lunar cycle to complete, full moon to full moon. I'd work, see there was a wave, jump in, surf, jump out, and do it all over again. “

An active interest as a child in  “hanging out in trees, being mischievous in the countryside, football, ice hockey, chess, symbolism, mythology, archeology, geology" saw his passion for both art and surf ignited early on.  A former pro inline-skater, a couple of concussions saw Harvey drop the blades and turn to skateboarding and surfing.  Surfing since the age of 12, having badgered his dad for years to take him, what really stoked the surfing fire for Harvey was “my Uncle giving me a video over from Oz called Good Times, a Taylor Steele film which had just come out at the time. It had some sick sections and a rad SoCal punk rock soundtrack. That was my introduction to punk rock bands like Strung Out, Pennywise, The Vandals, Bad Religion, Blink 182, AFI, and heavily influenced my music taste from that point onwards."

Family seems to have played a rich role in his development as an artist, and I love talking to Harvey about his grandparents, “both great artists in their own rights, and I have always been inspired by their sense of style in one way or another…" 

"I didn't know my grandfather very well, he was a master printer and the founder of a very successful design company. Recently my Dad found some  8mm videos my grandfather shot in the mid 60s in Italy and the footage is golden. I have a clear memory of being in their Brighton Flat overlooking the sea on a sunny day sitting on a Charles and Ray Eames lounger chair with my grandfather spinning me round listening to Enya, haha say what you will, Enya is bliss!"

Harvey’s recent art works sees him “specialising in large scale geometric collages using found imagery.”  His large-scale works are staggering, and the intricacies of utilizing materials such as magazines, which are “simple and easy to work with whilst travelling, and easy to get a hold of” make for breathtaking works of art.  Harvey is also keen to “make some pieces out of wood. To work in a wood shop and develop works in a sculptural format would be fun..."

"Wood is great, all the concentric rings that form as it grows each year. . . Stone as well, working with both wood and stone is a very hands on intimate process, which is what I appreciate.”

On research I found out sacred geometry is something highly influential in Harvey’s work.  Admittedly not being overly familiar with what exactly sacred geometry is, I asked Harvey to explain.  "Geometry was originally the measure of the earth, practiced by the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Sacred geometry takes it to another level where there is a  philosophical and symbolical connotation to the forms, the patterns, the proportions and the relationships that one finds in the geometric realm.

“Sacred Geometry looks at the way that geometry manifests throughout all the levels and realms of creation, from the microcosmic to the the macrocosmic and everything in between and how geometry serves as a unifying body of principles or relationships that ties all of those domains together. That includes the human domain.”

The layers of his inspiration seem to mirror the physical layers of his art’s materials, which also so visibly to me tell stories about his other sources of inspirations.  So rich the tapestry of his works, they feel as though they reflect many a story and indeed, Harvey attests that his inspirations also include “ancient civilizations and cultures, religion, board riding culture, fashion, music, art.  I've been particularly inspired by Native American culture. …

“I had an interesting moment with a Native American friend, when I first met him we talked, and a second went by where it felt like a freight train went by my ear.  He felt it too, and later told me that he was told that I should look after his peace pipe that was given to him by Native Elders, for the evening. I had some strong dreams that night . . .”

I have often wondered, where an artist’s work, and the act of creating it, can take them, if anywhere.  Harvey answers:

"I would like to say a zen like state, but It's basically a form of meditation for me, building a work by making thousands of cuts of paper. It definitely feels to me like a form of therapy, cutting the bullshit and making a microcosm.”

I was incredibly excited to see what Harvey had created with his brief of MAD TO LIVE, and with such an open brief, I wondered where he drew his inspiration from:

"I got a good feeling from you Sophie, you were an inspiration to the people around you. Energetic and fun! After looking at Mad to Live and developing an understanding of what the essence of the vibe of the blog is, I was inspired to create a vibrant piece, energetic and fun, and which worked with the colour palette of your logo."   

 

(Thanks Harvey ;))

"I started working on the piece in England using some of the imagery that I found whilst creating my pieces for Surf Maroc. I then travelled to the south west coast of Spain and finished the piece using surf magazines spanning 1 decade that I acquired from a friend."

I am blown away by what he has created, and how it completely captures the MAD TO LIVE vibe, so beautifully and patently in an art form.   The piece comprising "the central octagon (which) has some pictures of microbes from the an Arabic Monthly from the mid-seventies, as well as circuit boards.  I think they are special parts to this piece, as I like to hint at the natural and the digital realms. "

A well-travelled surfer (Santa Cruz, West Coast of France, Eastern Oz and Morocco include some of his favourite places to surf) Harvey is now, like me, in Lagos, Portugal over summer, busy working on projects, including developing a clothing brand, which he finds “fun because it's the project that I feel draws from all my areas of influence.”  

Travel appears to be a central nucleus of Harvey, and I ask where is next for him: “I've been reading about Bhután quite a bit recently, I would love to go there. You know Bhutan is the only country whose largest export is renewable energy. It's also the only country in the world which absorbs more CO2 than it gives out.

But Mexico is at the top of my list. The Cave of Naica maybe. Peru, Indonesia, Cambodia, Hawaii, The Philippines, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Japan, New Zealand, The Pyramids, Kailasa Temple, Mount Kailash, China. “

A future rich in creating and travel looks to be on the cards for Harvey, who is looking to

"Stay happy and healthy, live close to some good waves, surf, create, innovate, and learn, become wise and grow a wise man beard."

Amen to that!

To find out more about Harvey and his art, head to

https://www.instagram.com/harveysaunders1.0/

https://www.facebook.com/harveypaulsaunders/

 

STAY TUNED for more Expert's Chat landing on the Mad To Live Blog soon!

 

 

 

 

Travel Piece For Cooler Magazine on Morocco, and Why The Waves Are Always The Best Place To Make Friends

I love fussing my love of travel and writing, and with my recent trip to Amouage in Morocco, I penned a piece for the bible of all that is women's surf and adventure, Cooler. In this piece I explore the emergence of new luxurious surf destinations, and why waves will always be the best place to meet new friends.  Check the piece below!

With thanks to Amouage at Surf Maroc

http://surfmaroc.com/en/location/amouage/

 

 

 

 

MOROCCAN MAGIC

I love to travel.  Sometimes, you think you've found your spots, the places that set your soul on fire the most, somewhere you might keep returning too.  I love being surprised, finding a new love for a place I first visit, and falling completely head over heels for it.

Morocco is a close neighbour to us in Europe, and whilst I have been to Marrakesh, I'm not quite sure how the coast of Morocco, a staple surf destination for most European surfers, has somehow evaded my visit.  Setting off for the dreamy,  spice-scented shores of Taghazout, with my good friend Victoria along for the ride, we pitched up at Amouage, the new boutique hotel concept from long-time Taghazout surf-trip experts, Surf Maroc.  

I was interested to discover more about this metamorphosis of surf-trip offerings, with surfing having entered the public consciousness in a big way, and so many people around the world now surfing, the choice in surf trip and accommodation has expanded dramatically.  Enter Amouage, a luxe offering, newly opened at the closing of 2016.  

A new concept with a premium edge, Amouage, the new flagship hotel from surf Maroc, sits atop Anchor Point, one of Taghazout's most infamous breaks, and is a distinctly more premium offering than other spots in the town.  Perched on the edge of the ocean, the woozy, hazy, golden glow of Agadir quickly enveloped me into it's arms, and as they say it was love at first sight.  Sitting down to huge communal tables with the other guests, feasting over heaped plates of fresh vegetables, fruit-soaked tagines, colourful beetroot grains and fresh fish, fast bonds and easy conversation are quickly made.

There's something beautiful about a place which manages to embrace surf culture and also stay true to it's own heritage and roots.  With Amouage taking the heat of searching spots yourself, every day our guide would take us to the best wave, enabling us to see much of the coast, from the infamous Devils Rock, to a right-hand break of dreams which I'll keep my lips sealed on, but had me going until my arms couldn't paddle anymore.  With wandering camels, the scent of grilled fish and the smiles of locals every day, the charm of this unbelievable nook of North Africa is unparalleled.  There is an authenticity to it, to the people and it's locals which is genuine and enveloping.  

Our surf guides Yacine, Elias and Tariq were always on hand with any coaching advice and answers to questions about the breaks.   The guides at Amouage and staff on hand are second to none, and the whole vibe of the hotel allows for you to make friends as soon as you pull a rug and cushion up to a table of strangers, or else stay secluded and enjoy downtime, in one of the many hidden chill zones of the hotel.

Zenning out to yoga on the roof every evening, overlooking the navy hued ocean and saluting the days surf with varied-themed yoga sessions, I found a special calmness in this unique spot of Africa, feeling both totally at peace and free.

MAD TO LIVE TIPS: AGADIR, MOROCCO

FITNESS

-SURF!!! (This will always be number one on my lists, ha!) Amouage make it super easy, you select what level you are at and are put in the according group, where they provide lessons and take you to suitable breaks

-Yoga:  Surf and yoga go hand in hand in Agadir, and with yoga and surf inclusive retreat packages at Amouage, you can choose whether you drop in at the morning or evening classes, or both if you're a real brother for yoga

-Paddle boarding across the clear waters on a day with smaller swell, you might be lucky and spot a dolphin

HEALTHY HOT SPOTS

-A trip to Paradise Valley, with it's rock pools and waterfalls in the Atlas Mountains

-Indulge in a hammam, where you will be steamed, scrubbed, masked, doused and cleaned to within an inch of your life.  I swear my skin reverted to back of that of a 12 year old after this! 😂

-Browse the Wednesday weekly souk market and pick up local spices, jewellery, goodies and more

Check out my full video edit of my trip to Morocco below !

With thanks to Surf Maroc and Amouage

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Balinese Wanderings, Waves & Wanderlust

There seems to be little that gives me more joy these days then trussing up my backpack and hitting the road, surfboard bag under arm and a dog-eared map of the world stuffed down a pouch.  Setting off for another Indonesian oddessy this December, I was hungry to find somewhere that felt like a home-away-from-home, where I could mix my love of the yin of high-energy, outdoor pursuits in Bali like surfing, with the yang of needing (and wanting) r N r, chill time, and a place to maintain my healthy eating, love of yoga, and a place where you can make friends .

Enter The Chillhouse in Canngu.  Owned by the brilliant Alexander, a German surfer and stoker of life of the highest order, and armed with my best friend, radio presenter Georgie Rogers in tow, we set off for the secluded mecca that is The Chillhouse.   Nestled off of the hipster high-road Pantai Batu Balong leading to the seminal surf spot of Berawa, Batu Balong, The Chillhouse has a near Alice-In-Wonderland-esque feel as soon as you arrive, tumbling down the rabbit-hole through the lush and verdant pond-spotted paths to your room.  Exploring through our stay, we happily stumbled across the yoga studio, two swimming pools, massage spots and numerous chill-inducing dotted long beds.

Armed with the keys to our Treehouse canopy, the Gerry Lopez (an ICON of surfing, who near single-handedly put Bali on the map as a staple surfing destination) Treetop Canopy is a room that has both relaxation and fun written across it.  The turquoise painted (as is all the branding and decor of The Chillhouse, apparently it helps to open the lines of communication between the heart and the spoken word, and also reflects the colour of Bali's stunning Indian Ocean) retreat was so exciting to take our first steps into, climbing the stairs (heck, I always wanted my own tree house) to a beautifully nestled haven.

I loved the outdoor bathroom with double shower and double sink - perfect for couples, a laugh for two best friends, and balcony with long couch to toast a surf with a local Bintang beer looking across the pink and peach dappled sunset sky.    

Handily, The Chillhouse easily provides a full-run down of all the different activities they they organise daily, including surfing lessons, trips to dive with Manta rays, mountain biking, excursions to the centre of the Island (including the infamous Ubud), even PT sessions and grooming (manis and pedis) and of course, massages to sooth surf-weary bodies.  We had one thing on our minds, and surfed until our sun-scorched bodies couldn't take anymore.  Once at that point of exhaustion we both had incredibley soothing massages to sort our happily knackered bodies.

Even though I was travelling with a friend, I always love to meet people during my travels, and in my eyes, this is one of the highlights of travelling.  Communal-style long dining tables, epic barbecue evenings with freshly grilled fish. prawns and more, and coffees at breakfast made for a perfect setting to toast a cup of coffee to the surf ahead or bintang at the end of the day with newly made friends.  And with a menu selection bursting with healthy, nutritious meals, it is easy to keep up healthy habits, and try local specialities like dragon fruit smoothie bowls (drool).  

Check out my health-hot tips for visiting Canggu!

MAD TO LIVE TIPS: CANGGU

FITNESS

-Surfing is obviously activity number one once you hit the shred-heavy Indonesian island.  There are a multitude of incredible breaks to choose from, and Batu Balong, just a scoot down the road from The Chillhouse, is a notorious beginner friendly spot (once you've had a lesson on dealing with currents, etiquette and where the reef is!).  Can get PACKED but consistent, warm waves and a number of surf schools by the beach + rental make this a great choice.  I won't mention my other favourite breaks to let any secrets out!

-Working out whilst away on your holiday and maintaining your training routine is totally feasible thanks to numerous gyms dotted in and around Canggu.  Bali Fit boasts a number of awesome conditioning classes and surf-specific training.  Ask for trainer Claire, she is the BOMB

-Volcano hikes leaving in the dead of the night so you arrive as the sun is rising are sure to blow your mind and are a must-do

-Yoga is a huge draw for visitors to Bali.  If you aren't heading to Ubud, fear not, for there is a proliferation of brilliant yoga spots around the island.  Resort Desa Seni in Canngu right by the ocean front has some of the best classes in town

-Bike life:  You will notice an abundance of motorbikes and scooters zipping round: It is the best way to get around and avoid the traffic congestion, but be careful: accidents can be rife.  Go drool over the sexiest wheels in town at The Deus Temple Of Enthusiasm.

HEALTHY HOT SPOTS

-The Shady Shack is one to check out if you're feeling parched after a long morning surf: icy coolers, shakes (duh) and iced coffees in a cool and verging on too-trendy spot make for a chilled out stop-off

-Poke Poke is as the name states, a damn delicious poke-bowl (fresh raw fish layered over rice/veg + toppings) spot where you can stuff your shmoosh on these insanely good bowls of radness

-Having conducted extensive research on local massage spots (without complaining ;) ) I found my favourite spot for soothing out surfed-out muscles: Therapy by Echo Beach. Seriously, their masseuses have magic hands. Check. It. Out.

 

Check out the full adventure of my Balinese trip below!

With thanks to The Chillhouse, www.TheChillHouse.com