Are you looking for a women’s surf camp? One that not only offers great surfing, but amazing instructors, delicious food, and an awesome community of women? Oh and do you want to visit the amazing, beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii?
Enter Maui Surfer Girls. I had an amazing week re-learning how to surf with this female owned company. And I would whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone even just thinking about it. It would be an understatement to say it was one of the best weeks of my life.
But you’re here for the details though right? Like what to expect for each day, how much surfing is there, what are some other activities, and so on right? Well I got you. Below you’ll find sections on our schedule and each of the questions I had.
But first a tiny bit of background. Maui Surfer Girls was founded by Dustin Tester way back in 2000 when she launched the teen surf camps. (I wish so much I would have discovered the camps as a a teen girl in the early 2000s, but alas.)
Since then she’s not only started one of the best surf schools on the island for daily instructions, but starting in 2016 launched the womens surf camps. At the moment there are around 4 one week women-only trips a year. And they are popular. As of March 2021, all of the camps are sold out for the rest of the year.
They are that good you guys.
I first discovered Maui Surfer Girls when I visited Maui back in 2016 and took a surf lesson with Dustin herself and a past instructor named Sharky (I think…). And I instantly started to follow them online to plan my return via one of their women’s surf retreats.
I finally booked in 2019 for 2020, and, well, it was rescheduled a few times before I attended the March 2021 camp. Since this was still pandemic time, things at my camp were a bit different. But I hope this will still give you an idea of what to expect.
Read Next: One Week Itinerary for Maui
Covid Note: For all concerned (since I attended camp in Spring of 2021), all covid precautions were taken. We had to test before we boarded the flight and we took a rapid test on Wednesday during the week. Until the results of the rapid test were received, we wore our masks at all times excluding eating and being in the ocean. We stayed in our own little bubble and did not interact with the public.
General Daily Schedule
So each day follows a general schedule. There are special things, but this will give you an idea of the rough outline of each day. I get into the specifics in the next section, but know that your “special activities” may be very different from mine!
6am: Coffee’s On
Yep the day starts super early. For me this was a piece of cake for the first few days due to my jet lag. My body was rearing to go at about 5am. I liked getting up and being one of the first ones to get coffee. It gave me some quiet, reflective time in the morning to relax and watch the sunrise. (Something I don’t see too often.)
I’ll get into the food below, but breakfast was usually set out around 6:30am or so and we had about 30ish minutes to eat a leisurely breakfast. Then it was off to get dressed and packed up for the day because…
Hawaii time is loose. So we usually left before 8am to get to the beach. Ukumehame Beach Park (where all of our surfing was located) is only a couple of miles away from camp so it’s like a 5 minute drive.
Each day we started off with a beach lesson. For the first few days this lesson was quite long as we were taught the pop-up, paddling technique, surfing etiquette, and more. We also each talked about our intention for the morning and what our goal was for the day.
I get stressed out about goals, so I ended up making my daily goal to have fun. And though sometimes I got into my head about not being as good as the rest at times, I always tried to refocus back to my goal.
Then we’d hit the water and surf until 11ish, or so before we all paddled back to the beach. Then it was time to put the boards away and have a post-surf session powwow.
Once we got back to camp, lunch was served around noon or so. And we were usually super starving. We’d also have time to shower as well if anyone wanted to do that.
2pm-5pm: Afternoon Activity
In the afternoon there was usually some activity planned. This could be an extra surf lesson, yoga, hiking, sightseeing, or more. Depending on if we needed to drive to it, we’d usually leave around 2ish and then return before dinner. See the My Schedule section below for examples on what this activity consisted of for us.
After any afternoon shenanigans, there was always an amazing dinner. The time for dinner really fluctuated depending on the day. One day we ate at 6pm, another at 7:30pm. Every day the schedule will be posted so you can figure out the mealtimes.
For our group, we’d usually hang around together after dinner. We’d sit around the fire, chat, dance, puzzle, laugh, and just have a good time until about 9ish or so when people started to trickle to bed. Due to my jet lag, I was usually one of the first to head off to the cabins.
My Maui Surf Camp Schedule
You should plan to arrive by plane (or car) by 3pm on opening day. The opening circle occurs at 4pm and, if you’ve seen the photos, this is when you paddle out and make the circle on the surfboards.
For us though, this didn’t happen (thank you rain), and if you’re coming from the east coast, this could be very hard to do. The earliest I could arrive was 4pm. I wish I had actually flown in the day before so I could have slept and had an extra day to get over my jet lag. If you’re coming from the east coast, think about arriving a day early.
After I got to camp, I was placed into my surf pod (basically just the van you’ll ride in) and then introduced myself to the others. Then it was dinner and some post-dinner chat about the next day’s schedule. I honestly went to bed as soon as dinner ended at about 8pm due to my jet lag. But the others stayed up and chatted for a bit.
This was our first surf day. After breakfast we headed to the beach where we had a lengthy beach lesson that covered channels and the break zone, Bob the buoy, paddling, popping up, and the general flow we’d be using that day.
Then we headed into the water where we proceeded to surf kind of one by one. So many women who had never surfed before started to stand up and the rest of us cheered them on.
Plus there where whales.
After heading back to camp and eating lunch, we rode out to Lipoa Point (northwestern side of the island). Our hope was to hike down and swim in some tide pools. But the waves were rocking that day and it was a bit too dangerous.
But it was still super beautiful and showed us a side of Maui that we may not have expected.
That night after dinner, Kelsey our wonderful surf instructor, led a yoga session. I, however, didn’t make it and ended up going to bed early.
This was perhaps my best day of surfing. The water was perfect. Calm, glassy, and with waves big enough to catch. And with help from Kelly and Kelsey, I paddled into some of my own waves – something I had never done before. And I learned what my biggest problem was (doing the J.Lo basically).
The surf lesson ended with me and another camper surfing next to each other. It was the best surfing moment of the whole trip. (Sadly no photo of it.)
That afternoon we tried to head to Iao Valley State Park but were turned back by a downed tree. (We had pretty rainy weather the whole trip which was extremely rare. A camper that had come 4 times before mentioned she had never seen this much rain.)
We did explore a bit of the heritage gardens right at the entrance to the state park. Then we headed over to Waihee Coastal Dunes for a hike. The refuge was beautiful and rugged. I loved seeing all these different sides of Maui.
Back at camp we ended the day around the fire, debating if a Hershey’s chocolate bar or a Reese’s cup make the best s’mores. (It’s totally Reese’s. Mind = blown.)
This was perhaps my lowest day surfing. I just got way too into my head about sucking at popping up, falling off, and my arms being tired. And the more I thought about it, the more I focused on it, and the more I just kept “messing up” and giving myself a hard time.
If you at all do this, just try to remember that it’s not a competition. And the main goal of surfing is to have fun. (Or at least that’s what I think the main goal should be.)
After surfing, the day really turned around. I went for a quick snorkeling session off the beach at camp and saw some beautiful fishes and even a wonderful sea turtle.
Then it was time for our 1 hour massage. The tables were set up right off the beach and the massage therapists were wonderful.
Confession time: I had actually never had a massage before. And oh my god it was one of the best things ever. I asked her to concentrate on my shoulders and they felt revitalized afterwards.
After the massage, we all got dressed up for a happy hour and a fancy, 3 course dinner. I’ll go into this more below, but the food was incredible!
This was our full beach day. The water was a little choppy and it was a little rough, but it was still one of the best days of the whole trip. Plus, we got to sleep in an extra hour since we were planning on spending the afternoon at the beach.
The beach instruction on this day was minimal. We had learned about surf etiquette the day before, so we were allowed more free reign in the water. We could paddle out to the line up and then surf as much as we wanted to.
Honestly my arms were a bit dead within an hour. It started to feel like I was paddling through molasses instead of water. So I only caught a handful of waves before I just couldn’t get going fast enough.
I did get a nice long ride in and I figured out a few strategies for how to get my speed up if my paddling endurance is starting to wane (butterfly strokes, bending my knees, and/or catching the white water).
Lunch was brought to the beach and we sat around chatting for several hours. A few women went back into the water for an afternoon surf session, but most of us sat out and just hung out. Even though I didn’t surf again, it was an amazing morning and afternoon.
That evening we headed to Olowalu Landing (just a short walk from our camp) to watch the sunset and have an evening circle. It was a great way to end the day.
This was our last full day. And was supposed to be the last day we surfed. Unfortunately it rained extremely hard through the night. So hard that the streams near our surf spots had flash flood warnings and the water off the beach was incredibly murky.
Since things sometimes “lurk in the murk” we didn’t surf that day. Which was a bit of a bummer, but with this amazing group of women, we managed to make the most of it.
We played games and went for a short hike nearby. Some of us used the stand up paddle boards while others just relaxed on the beach.
Luckily the rain didn’t cause our mystery adventure to be cancelled. I was wondering if I should mention what it is here on the blog. But maybe you want to be surprised. Hmmmmmmmm…….
If you want to see what the adventure is, you can check out my instagram post about this day for more details. But I won’t spoil it for those who want to be surprised. Just do know that ours was slightly different than normal years due to Covid, but it would be incredible no matter what.
We left for the mystery adventure around 3:30pm and returned for a late dinner. That night we stayed up, played music, danced, did some yoga shenanigans, and put together a puzzle. A bit random? Yes. Super awesome, incredible, and fun? Also yes.
This was the day we left. People started to trickle out starting around 8am or so. I had an evening flight so after saying goodby to everyone, they wonderfully dropped me off at Paia Beach around noon or so.
How’s the surf instruction?
Overall, pretty amazing. These women listen to you, to your goals, and to your fears. They watch you so they can assist the next time. And they give you as much help as you need.
In terms of how each lesson went, the first couple of days we’d wait in the channel (the non-wavy area) and paddle out in 2s or 3s to the lineup. Then the instructors would help us catch a wave. This could mean pointing one out to us, giving us a push, and/or telling us when to paddle, arch, & popup. Or a combination of any of the above.
They were there to give us as much help as possible. Though they did push us to become more independent surfers. If they thought you could paddle into the wave, they were going to see if you could. However if you told them your arms were exhausted and the ocean felt like molasses when you tried to paddle, then they’d give you a little push. (This was me sometimes…)
Earlier in the week there was also more instructors in the water with us. Sometimes all 4 were out there with us at times.
As the week wore on though, they let those of us who were ready try to catch waves on our own. There might have been just 2 instructors out there, but they were able to assist more of us at once as we began to spread our little surf wings.
If you are a more experienced surfer, see my section below on who this camp is good for to read about how your experience may be different.
I honestly felt like I learned so much during this week. I had forgotten a lot since the last time I was on a board. My last surfing “lesson” was back in 2018 on Bali where a dude just pushed me into every huge wave and told me to stop turning left without actually telling me how.
But these ladies were incredible.
On the second day, Lucy, one of the instructors, asked me what I was working on. So I told her my focus was to look up and stay low after popping up, as I kept falling after a few seconds. She then mentioned that to help stay low, I needed to tuck my tail (aka bring my hips in line with my torso).
This was a game changer. She had probably seen me getting all bootylicious on the surf board (as you can see in all the photos unfortunately), and easily knew what was causing me to be unbalanced. My ass and chest hanging out over the surfboard.
The next ride I stood up and heard her words in my head. Instantly it got easier and resulted in the best ride of the whole trip.
So yea…you’ll learn how to surf. Or become a better surfer if you already know how.
Who’s this camp good for? (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced?)
I’m obviously a beginner. And so were the majority of girls at camp. And we all felt like the lessons and instructors were top notch. We all couldn’t wait to take what we learned and go surfing again. So if you are a beginner, you couldn’t ask for a better camp.
But what if you are an intermediate or advanced surfer? We had two girls with us who had lots more experience. They each had goals they were working on. An one of our two main instructors (Kelly & Kelsey) or Dustin herself would work with them on their goals and/or techniques.
They’d also surf at an adjacent break from us so that our rotation wasn’t slowing them down. This was possible since they already knew how to catch waves and paddle into them. And even one day Dustin took them to a different surf break on another side of the island to surf some larger waves.
So if you want to surf, get help with learning some new techniques, and possibly surf in some different spots around the island, then this camp would be great! You will have some help in and out of the water, but they’ll also let you be more independent.
We had 3-4 instructors everyday in the water with us. So this isn’t private coaching or 1-on-1 teaching. It is group surfing. But I think the intermediate and advanced surfers (based on the experienced surfers we had with us) would still enjoy camp. (One of the experienced surfers had attended camp every year she liked it so much.)
How’s the food?
Oh my god you guys. The food. The food was incredible.
Now you may be thinking, but it’s camp food. No. It’s so much more. Every breakfast, lunch, and dinner was some of the best, cleanest, brightest, and most colorful food I’d ever eaten. It was 5 stars all around. Joy & Meadow (the two main chefs) are rockstars.
You’ll also have a wide variety of food. But it was healthy, filling, and delicious. There were so many different types of salads. And for someone who doesn’t really like salad, I couldn’t get enough of them.
And they will accommodate food allergies and sensitivities, so be sure to mention that when you book.
Here are some examples:
- Breakfast: cinnamon apple oatmeal, yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, egg/ham/veggie/potato cups, croissants, hard boiled eggs, bacon, ham, and more!
- Lunch: potato salad, macaroni salad, wraps, enchiladas, stuffed peppers, chili, cobb salad, guacamole, grilled veggies, falafal & pita, and more!
- Dinner: deviled eggs, pulled pork, so many colorful/delicious salads, barbecue chicken, pork & fish tacos, shrimp kebabs, and more!
- Dessert: chocolate covered strawberries, s’mores, cupcakes, and more!
And that’s not even touching on our fancy meal. Which started with a salad, then scallops and pork, and ended with chocolate mousse.
How’s the accommodation?
The camp is based out of Camp Olowalu. Which is basically a really fancy campground. You are separate from the main campground since it’s the group camping area. There are 6 small A-frame cabins in a half circle.
Each cabin has 3 women. The beds themselves are simple bunks so don’t expect anything fancy. However after the surfing and jet lag, I had no issue falling asleep at night. Plus I kind of liked bunking and bonding with my two roommates.
If you want your own private cabin, I’m honestly not sure they can accommodate it since there are only so many cabins and the rest of the campground will most likely be booked.
There is one main bathroom with 4 toilet stalls and 2 shower stalls. The cabins don’t have their own bathroom so if you have to go in the middle of the night, you’ll have to walk outside to the bathroom. (This was me every night.)
The accommodations are not luxury. They are a bit rustic. But you can’t beat falling asleep to the sound of the ocean literally 30 feet away from you.
Should you buy a photo package?
Ok this is a big question. You can purchase one when you sign up, but you can also get one in the weeks/days leading up to camp. The photographer will email you all (about 2 weeks out) and confirm who wants a photo package.
I bought my package a week before camp.
Our photographer, Rachael Zimmerman, offered two packages:
- Bronze Package for $120 that included Surfing Photos & Group Photos
- Silver Package for $240 that included Surfing Photos, Group Photos, Lifestyle Portraits, Adventure/Activity Photos, & Fine Art Landscape Photos
I’ve indicated every photo from Rachael in this post via the caption. So you can see examples of the kinds of photos you would get. But I think some caveats should be made with the packages above that weren’t exactly clear from the get go.
How many photos will you get? I purchased the silver package and received 272 photos. For two women who got the bronze package, one got 141 photos and the other received 81 photos. That’s a big difference for the same package.
How many days will she photograph surfing? We were supposed to surf 5 days (due to rain we surfed 4). However, she only photographed the first 2 days of our surfing. Some women were very upset about this because they started to do better on the 3rd and 4th day, but didn’t have any pictures of it.
What can you expect from the lifestyle and adventure/activity photos? Rachael will attend the afternoon activities, when there is one. For us that was our 2 hiking days and the mystery adventure. Since she didn’t take any surfing photos on Days 4 & 5, and those were our massage and full beach days, I have no photos from her of these days.
Also – and this is a big also – you should have ideas of the photos you want and ask for them. Before our mystery adventure, Rachael came to camp to take our lifestyle photos. She took one and then asked if there were any more I wanted. Since I wasn’t sure, I told her that. I was basically expecting for her to have a list or ideas of shots. When I’ve hired a photographer in the past, this has usually been the case.
However, that one photo was going to be it. This honestly shocked me. Just one lifestyle photo?
But I was lucky in that my roommate had also gotten the silver package, and had tons of ideas. And she didn’t mind that I basically followed her advice and asked for the same photo she wanted as well. I’m glad I did this as I now have several I like.
So if you go for the silver package, have a list of lifestyle photos you want. And when you are out on the afternoon adventures and she’s there, don’t be shy about asking for photos. This will ensure you’ll get more photos. (I didn’t do this but should have.)
What package should you get? I got the silver package. I also have this website and, well, I try at social media. That was a big consideration. If you want some nice lifestyle photos (and follow my advice above), then maybe you should get the silver package.
The main reason to get the bronze package in my opinion is actually for the group photos. We were lucky in that one of our campers loved taking photos and shared them all with us. I have so many pictures.
But I’m also glad I have these high quality group photos as well. I love them. I love looking back at them.
For the surfing photos though… I would have liked it better if she would have been at the beach everyday. Though it is nice to have a photo of me surfing.
But is it necessary though…
I think the best thing to do if you are on the fence would be to send Rachael a reply to her email and ask some questions and clarifications. How many photos to expect, how many days taking pictures of surfing, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Some of the girls I know were disappointed and I think this could have been avoided if expectations were set from the beginning.
What should you pack?
Ah the big pre-camp question. Maui Surfer Girls has a whole packing list you can reference. But I’ve included everything I packed & used as well. It also includes things I wore on the plane, like the jeans. And I’ve indicated if something was purchased there.
- 3 swim suits
- 1-2 surf leggings – this is really needed if you are new to surfing since you’ll be on their soft top boards. Any non-cotton leggings will work. I used a cropped yoga/workout legging. Nothing fancy. (I only brought 1 and wished I’d had another, but that’s also because it rained at night and got our line items wet.)
- 1-2 rash guards – you can borrow or buy one there if needed. I packed 1 and then bought 1.
- Reef safe sunscreen – I like Sun Bum and had one for my face and one for my body. They also gave us one which was super nice.
- 2 beach towels – I packed 2 towels. One was a Sand Cloud towel which was quick drying and perfect. The second towel I mostly used as a bath towel, but it was nice to have 2 in case one wasn’t finished drying. (Or it rained while it was hanging up to dry.)
- 2 reusable water bottles – I thought this was excessive but it was not. I drank (and finished) both water bottles after surfing each day.
- 3 shorts – I brought 1 jean short, 1 athletic running short, and 1 board short.
- 4-5 tank tops – I packed 4 and bought 1 .
- 2-3 t-shirts – I had 2 and received one free camp shirt.
- enough underwear and bras
- 1 pair of jeans – I only wore these on the plane on the way there.
- 1 sweatpants – I packed a pair I never used because I bought a pair that I fell in love with.
- hoodie – I actually packed 2 lightweight hoodies. One was solely for the plane, but the other I wore all week.
- Pajama bottom – I brought a pair of soft shorts for bed.
- 2 pairs of socks
- flip flops
- tennis shoes
- 2 nice floral dresses/shirt s- I brought a dress which I wore for our fancy dinner on Day 4. For the mystery adventure, I wore a floral tank top and some jean shorts.
- optional: hiking sandals – I wish I had brought my keen sandals. A girl wore Chacos on the hikes and I was jealous.
- hat – I packed 1 and also bought 1. But I only needed 1.
- daypack – something that can carry your stuff to/from the beach. You may also want something for the hikes if you want to carry stuff with you. (I brought 1 tote for a beach bag and then my camera bag for the hikes. Many campers didn’t bring or need a bag for the hikes.)
- headlamp – for walking to bathroom at night.
- $100-$150 in cash for tips – this is for massage therapist, mystery adventure, cooking staff, and surf instructors.
- toiletries & shower bag – shampoo, conditioner, soap, glasses, contact necessities, deodorant, wash cloth, etc.
- something to put dirty clothes in
- optional: camera/Go-Pro/Kindle/iPad/journal – I obviously used my camera, but I used the Go-Pro only once. And I never used my kindle/iPad, but others may want one for the plane or to chill.
- charging cords for the above items (& your phone)
- optional: sleep mask – I never travel without one.
And that’s it! I wholeheartedly recommend the Maui Surfer Girls Women’s Camp. It was one of the best weeks of my life. Not just for the surfing but for the community of women. I miss and love those amazing souls and I deeply wish I get to surf and laugh with them again.