What Surfing taught me about Sustainability.
There are so many areas to look at when talking about sustainability, and sadly I know that manpower is often the most exploited resource in the fashion industry. The fashion industry can be gruelling. I often joke about being over worked but I had never seriously looked at whether I was treating my most precious resource - myself - with the care and patience I expect the rest of the industry to show to their employees.
April was the end of a busy first quarter for 2018. As someone who is an advocate for slow fashion, and slow consumption I have to admit to not living a very slow life. For as long as I can remember, at least a couple times a year I catch myself teetering on the cusp of serious burn out. The never-ending search for the holy grail of balance always seems to allude me. Without close examination, I already know I could be a much better boss to myself. So this year I am pro-actively putting strategies in place to create balance. One of these strategies is to set down time into each quarter of the year.
To be creatively engaged it's important to create some kind of incubation period to grow thoughts into full concepts, and to give yourself time to reflect and recharge. Without time to reflect, I find that it is often my gratitude that gets lost, and it becomes too easy to just churn through the "to do" lists and pump out work that isn't very impactful. I am literally living the life I had once dreamed up for myself, but its rare that I allow myself the time to feel joy from that achievement.
Ironically, I usually come home from a holiday feeling like I need a holiday to recover. Im a massive fan of the sea, but I could never spend a whole week sunbathing on a beach or at in an all inclusive resort. I always want to explore and time wise, get the best adventure bang for my buck.
One lady you cannot force to a schedule, nor control is the Ocean. A huge element of all water sports is respecting the power of the waves and syncing with the rhythms of the tides and the moon. You have to practice patience and wait for mother nature to co-operate with you. It seemed logical to me that learning to surf would go hand in hand with learning to live a slower, more rhythmic life - and obviously, surfing is the physical manifestation of balance. So, I grabbed my BFF - Celeste (aka The Girl in the Cafe. Side note: Check out her website for living your best coffee fuelled life here.) and together we toddled off to Ericeira, Portugal to spend a week at Rapture Surf Camp.
Rapture Surf Camp doesn’t pitch itself as some Luxury Eco Retreat, and its not a 5 star resort either, but ethos wise, everything else about it is pretty close. It’s a modest and traditional Portugese building laid out over various split levels, yet its quite chic and very tastefully designed with multiple roof terraces you could lay around on. Complete with loungers, oversized cushions, rugs and potted plants that resemble some kind of Moroccan Riad (great outdoor wifi for keeping your emails in check if like me, you really cant let go completely).
The overall structure of the camp is very tuned into living along side nature. On one side of the camp was the beach, but the other side of the camp was surrounded by farmland, and fruit trees. Bowls of delicious Nispero fruit from the garden were on the table each morning (sadly we were a week or two early for the figs) They raise chickens for fresh eggs and have an open kitchen with an outdoor dining room so we had dinner under the stars with the other camp goers each night. I declined trying out the free skateboards on offer but being a keen cyclist I made a lot of use of the camps bikes to explore the local fishing village. There are also free paddle boards you can use in the river that runs behind the camp if you're not ready to brave the surf.
One of the highlights of camp was spending time with the staff. They live, work and play in the camp grounds so they are always nearby and enjoying the facilities with you. They are all keen surfers who work at the camp as a lifestyle choice. I was really taken by their enthusiasm for the lifestyle. I watched one day, as finishing their daily chores coincided with the tide and they literally RAN all the way to the water. Running down the street, half undressed, boards under arms, towels trailing behind them shouting to each other in excitement. That kind of enthusiasm for life is something that you only ever see in children, but sadly its pretty rare to see an adult so excited by play time that they want to run. Then I noticed it again each day, these people were so excited by the surf they would literally run to it. It dawned on me that there could be something to learn about life on land by spending time in the water.
By the end of our weeks stay a slow understanding had crept up on me that living sustainably is as much a philosophy and a perspective on life, as it is about recycling and circular economies. I can harp on about organic linen and reworking vintage denim as much as I like, but if I keep bulldozing over my life with to do lists and over committed schedules I'm still missing the point. Sustainable living can also be about connecting to the rhythms of nature and the people around you. Giving yourself time to breath and recharge, time to practice gratitude and do the things that really spark joy in you. When you are forced to slow down and plan your day around the changing tides its almost impossible for this realisation not to hit you over the head.
It turns out learning to surf is really not a scary thing to do. I would definitely suggest trying this particular surf camp as an easy introduction to surfing. For me it was absolutely the combination of the location and the people that really elevated the experience and gave me the extra insight.
Lessons are grouped into experience levels (no experience what-so-ever being the biggest group to join) You have a 2 hour lesson each day (waves permitting) with fantastic local coaches from Ericeira's 3 SURFER´S SURF SCHOOL to take care of you the whole time you're in the water. Rapture provides you with all the gear – board, wetsuit etc and it’s a 200m walk to the water from the camp. Breakfast and dinner are also cooked for you by the camps in-house chef. Speaking as a fussy vegetarian with food intolerances, I can confirm the food is great, fresh and seasonal. There is also a local yoga teacher who comes into the camp and holds classes on the roof terrace overlooking the insane view to help you stretch out.
I have returned back to London with an overwhelming sense of freshness that will hopefully see me through to the end of next fashion week, or at least my next surf trip! Whichever comes first.
For more info on Rapture Surf Camp check them out here: https://www.rapturecamps.com