When I hung up the phone after speaking with Travis Bays from the Bodhi Surf + Yoga retreat center in Uvita, Osa, Costa Rica, I was smiling. Beyond that, I was stoked! As often happens in the world of watersports magazine writing, I had just connected with another likeminded individual who loves the planet, surfing, and other humans as much as I do. I’m stoked to go visit Uvita and the cast and crew of Bodhi Surf + Yoga at the next available opportunity. Here’s what you need to know about this radically different surf + yoga retreat center.
Co-founder Travis Bays graduated from the University of San Diego with a degrees in Economics and Anthropology. He transferred from there to a job at Wells Fargo and hated it. After a few years of trying to fit the norm, Travis joined the Peace Corps and was stationed in Uvita, Costa Rica to help teach the local community how to start small businesses, work in microfinance and develop community credit enterprises. He co-developed five community banking systems in the Southern Pacific Region of Costa Rica. But what happened next as Travis tells it is a love story. He fell in love… with his wife, the people of Uvita and the lush, laid back lifestyle of Costa Rica. After his two year stint with the Corps, he decided to stay and call this special place home. Bodhi literally means “light gaining consciousness”. Travis and his wife, Pilar Salazar, a local Costa Rican, decided to build a business together that focused on yoga, surfing, the natural environment and community engagement. Their intention was to share with others their love of the water, nature, and people in a responsible business model that gave back to their community.
What unfolded is the magic that is Bodhi Surf + Yoga. This exclusive retreat center sits near the Marino Ballena National Park, giving the participants a close up experience with an immersion in nature. Bodhi Surf + Yoga is a B Corp certified business, which means it meets stringent standards of giving back to the community and having a sustainable business model that bases its success on its social and environmental impact. Both Pilar and Travis believe business can be used as a tool through which individuals can enact positive change in the world. As Pilar asks in Bodhi’s documentary, “What about a business that is in service to others?”
The basis of their model is to give clients a surfing, yoga and nature experience that also includes community engagement. Through the teaching of surfing and the practice of yoga, they invite guests to become ocean guardians themselves. During the 7-day experience at Bodhi Surf +Yoga, tools, knowledge and encouragement are offered to guests in order to minimize their own environmental impact when they return home and to help them make changes in their daily lives.
Bodhi Surf + Yoga is so much more than learning how to surf. It is an opportunity to become more connected to and build a special relationship with the ocean. Pilar’s yoga classes offer an opening of the heart and attention to mindfulness. Once the guests are relaxed and sinking into their surroundings, the Bodhi team points out ways in which they can minimize their impact on nature, to - as they say in yoga - “leave a gentle footprint upon the earth.” They invite their guests to consider a lifestyle more connected to nature when they get home, and encourage them to make a pledge about some lifestyle change they can bring with them to help them deepen that connection.
As Travis says, “This giving is powerful since it is coming from love, because they’ve fallen in love with the ocean.” The Bodhi Surf + Yoga team’s role is to help facilitate this connection so that their guests leave with a deeper desire to protect the ocean and an awareness of their own daily actions where they can be of more service to the planet.
At Bodhi Surf + Yoga, the metrics of success have more to do with social and environmental impact than turning a profit. As a B Corp certified company they are a for-profit business but function in a different framework for success and sustainability. A part of the Bodhi Surf + Yoga experience is an opportunity to donate or participate in one of their community service projects, including the annual Smile While You Paddle Surf-a-thon. This is an example of how their business model is using surfing as a force for good. Each year, participants gather sponsors who commit to donate a set amount for every wave caught ($5, $10, $20, $100). Then, no matter what the conditions, it’s ON for the surf-a-thon! This year, the non-profit who benefitted from the Smile While You Paddle event was a local non-profit organization called In Oceana. The funds raised were donated to the Marine Conservation and Education Center at In Oceana to support their efforts in motivating local youth to become active ocean stewards. The 2022 event has raised a total of $16,948 to date.
That’s a lot of experience. This model of surf retreat, or company, is a remarkable movement away from the traditional profit- oriented mode of business. What Travis, Pilar, and the other staff members on the Bodhi crew offer is a chance to immerse oneself in the powers of nature, a chance to become mindful in the moment and discover the richness that is already there, and the opportunity to broaden the perspective of each participant’s own impact on the planet, simply for the sheer love of it. Stay tuned for MORE on this retreat center in our future summer issue as we travel to Uvita and experience the dream of Bodhi for ourselves. Mahalo.