Sally Fitzgibbons Surf & Wellness Retreat Recap
Words by Tropicsurf Guide and Travel Designer, Asia Carpenter
Indonesia is one of my absolute favourite places in the world, so naturally, I was thrilled to be invited attend the Sally Fitzgibbons Surf & Wellness Retreat in Bali (One of the perks of my role at Tropicsurf!).
The humid air and smell of incense was a welcome greeting after a long haul from California. Straight off the plane, I was whisked away in comfort to the COMO Uma Canggu Resort, my home for the next four days.
Arriving at the resort was an experience in itself, as I instantly transitioned from the bustling, busy side streets of Canggu into the serene oasis that is the COMO Uma Canggu. The resort felt private, relaxed, and intentionally minimalistic.
The beautiful COMO Uma Canggu from above
Tired and a little jet-lagged, our first evening provided the perfect, relaxed opportunity to mingle with the rest of the girls attending the retreat, and of course, meet the star of the show, Sally Fitzgibbons! – an inspiring female pioneering the path in women's surfing. The vibe was relaxed and fun. It was wonderful meeting women from all over the world, being able to hear each other’s stories and share what we hoped to experience at the retreat, all whilst overlooking the long peeling lefts at ‘Old Mans’ and sipping cocktails.
Our days began early, with our itinerary offering a mix of core intensive Pilates class, strength training or yoga to raise the heart rate, release endorphins and set the tone for the rest of the day. Oh, and the strength training was no joke, leaving the majority of us hobbling around for the rest of the day (in a good way!) – nursing sore muscles we weren't even sure we had to begin with! I had never taken a Pilates class before and was amazed at how the smallest movement could be so significant. The guidance of COMO’s health and wellness experts ensured that growth and learning was possible through all of our activities and Sally’s involvement was amazing as she pushed us to keep going, dig deeper and to try harder.
Sally motivating one of the participants to get through those testing final reps.
It was inspiring watching - and learning first hand - how passionate Sally is about health, wellness and educating others.
Refuelling after a morning workout was easy at COMO, with a tailor-made retreat menu to enjoy that was clean, healthy, and nutrient-dense. The menu featured raw, dairy-free, and inspired options true to the COMO brand, and inspired by Sally's healthy lifestyle. The avocado "toast" (my personal favourite!) was to die for, boasting a hearty, gluten-free bread made primarily of flaxseed, slathered in avo and sprinkled with vibrant cherry tomatoes.
The first few days of surfing coincided with a pumping swell. We had a mix of all abilities – ranging from complete beginners catching their very first waves to experienced surfers working on cut-backs and more vertical manoeuvres. We had a little bit of everything, from fun pool sessions, technical in water coaching at Old Mans, to tandem surfing with Sally at Batu Bolong. We all came in exhausted and stoked after long days in the surf and sun.
Post-surf bliss with Sally Fitzgibbons. Sally was great in the water providing great insight to all participants.
The afternoons were filled with various spa treatments from the COMO menu, affording us the chance to unwind in solitude and reflect on the morning’s activities. The retreat itinerary managed to strike the perfect balance of intensity, fun and relaxation to keep us well poised and motivated for our daily surf sessions.
Each evening, we would congregate for a sunset drink and to watch the day's highlight reel of surf footage. This was so much fun and filled with laughs, wipe-out applause, and "wave of the day" nominations. Sally would keep us on track by helping us set an intention for the following day, whether it be skill progression, finding more balance in the water, or just having fun.
Our last evening in Canggu took place in the COMO penthouse, with unparalleled views of the surrounding breaks and a sunset framed by the stunning, circular architecture of the Penthouse. This formed the perfect setting to enjoy an après surf champagne and dinner amongst such great company. It was indeed something special – and the flawless ending to our time in Canggu, before heading to COMO Shambhala Estate the following morning, where we spent the second stage of the retreat (after one more dawn surf, of course!).
Our last night in Canggu in the COMO Penthouse
Making some friends back home very jealous...
Shambhala was our time to slow down. The resort is majestic, and overlooks a deep canyon laced with dark green jungle. The resort itself was stunningly simplistic, and the entire grounds seemed to sing with wildlife.
Pranayama was a highlight for me here, and was our first introduction to this stage of our retreat. Here, we were guided through an active meditation, using our breath to ground and recalibrate ourselves. The session took place in a beautiful yoga pavilion surrounded by jungle and the calm, centred voice of our instructor guiding us through the process ensured that our thoughts didn't wander back to our respective "to do" lists.
"Glow" is the main restaurant at Shambhala, and true to its name, left you feeling like you MUST be glowing following every meal! The cuisine was incredible – fresh and vibrant with local produce in bright, vivid colours. The Big Raw Salad was always my go-to, with spiralizer vegetables in every colour of the rainbow, topped with seeds, nuts, and a Dijon mustard and apple cider vinaigrette – I need to recreate this at home!!
Our evenings were filled with Shambhala Estate spa treatments. I undoubtedly had the best massage of my entire life - A Taksu Massage, designed to increase blood circulation and ease stressed muscles.
One of my favourite activities at Shambhala Estate was venturing outside of the resort to explore the surrounding area by bike. The neighbouring countryside was lush and green, with terraced rice fields surrounding us throughout our journey. Our guide would stop us along the way, pointing out everything of cultural significance, explaining that the offerings adorning every home had two separate meanings; those placed up high on an alter were an offering to the gods, whereas those placed on the ground near the foyer of an entryway were to ward off evil spirits.
Rice terraces in Ubud area
This was such an amazing experience, and we got away with only one tumble into the rice paddies (although we had a few more close calls).
We ended the week with a beautiful group dinner at the estate, surrounded by tea light candles and hanging palm fronds cut into wispy, overhead decor. It was the perfect ending to a perfect week in Bali.
Overall the Sally Fitzgibbons Surf & Wellness Retreat was such an amazing experience, filled with so much laughter, personal growth, learning, fun waves, and amazing women! Now, I'll go back to counting down the days until my next trip to COMO Bali!