Chalet Saunton Surf Fit Retreat

Chalet Saunton hosted a Surf Fit retreat in June designed by professional big wave surfer Andrew Cotton and surf fitness trainerAndrew Blake. Having surfed semi-successfully for a number of years I wasexcited to learn about the fitness and philosophy that goes into big wave surfingfrom a pair of bona-fide surfing experts.

We began with an intense yoga session in thegardens of the chalet overlooking the picturesque Saunton Sands. The Chaletenjoys uninterrupted views across the five miles of sand and the BrauntonBurrows that borders the beach, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a fairly rigidand immobile chap, striking Blakey’s poses was a challenge, however with hisguidance and insight we were able to strengthen and loosen muscles we wouldlater use whilst paddling in the surf and popping up on the board.

Surf school Walkingwith Waves drove us up the stretch of Saunton Sands, away from the crowdsto a point where the water was all ours. The swirl came in at a user-friendly2- 3 ft. and the smooth glassy waters made it easy to navigate the break of thewaves. With the help of Max from the surf school safari the beginners amongstus managed to stand up on their boards and the more advanced surfers were ableto refine their technique substantially. We all enjoyed the glassy, gentle spilling breakersof Saunton and the user-friendly currents. After a fewhours in the water we made our way back to the chalet with sandy hair and saltylips. We rounded off the day with a delicious plant based dinner courtesy ofThe Glorious Oyster. We lounged on the penthouse terrace as we tucked into theextensive selection of vegan dishes, watching the sun go down on the horizon.

Tom Hewitt MBE, founder of Surfers Not School Children, swung by to talk us through hisproject in Durban and Mozambique. The initiative empowers ex-street children onthe cusp of adulthood, journeying with them towards their own independencethrough surfing mentorship and psychosocial support. The inspirational story ofSurfers Not Schoolchildren has attracted the endorsement of a number of topsurfers, Prince Harry and even the Pope! £100 of the booking cost will go to theSurfers Not Street Children charity.

Day twobegan bright and early. The Andrews talked us through esoteric breathingexercises pioneered by mercurial ice-man Wim Hof. Hof can regulate his bodytemperature through controlled breathing to such an extent that he meditatestopless atop Everest. There was something quite meditative and hypnotic aboutthe controlled breathing and extended breath holds, the idea was to anchoryourself in the present moment. Andrew Blake described the body’s physiologicalresponses in a concise way and explained the practical application of the WimHof method, such as calming yourself before an important call or improving yoursleep patterns.

Nosebreathing drives oxygen more efficiently into the lower lobes of the lungsrather than staying in the upper lobes, as with mouth breathing. With nosebreathing, all five lobes of the lungs are used to breathe rather than just theupper two. The lower lobes of the lungs have more parasympathetic, calmingand repairing nerve receptors, which are activated during nosebreathing exercise. Euphoric meditative. The sessionwas very insightful and by the end I was able to hold my breath for twominutes!

We kicked it up a notchwith strength and conditioning on the sandy slopes bordering the BrauntonBurrows. After running up and down the dunes we polished off the retreat with foodfrom Home Grown Catering on the chalet’s sun drenched garden terraces. Theretreat gave me a fascinating insight into the mental and physical preparationthat goes into big wave surfing, made so enjoyable and accessible by AndrewCotton and Andrew Blake.