Meet Bev Sanders

Water Sports

Age: 58
Stomping ground: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Job: Founder of Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women; surflasolas.com

BEV_SANDERS

Courtesy of Bev Sanders

In 1997, Bev Sanders realized she was learning to surf the hard way—bobbing in the shore-pound, on the wrong board, all alone. There were no long-format surf schools for women then, so she launched Las Olas and wasn’t alone anymore. Since then, she’s introduced thousands of women to surfing through safaris that combine surf lessons with yoga, massage, and local activities in a relaxing, supportive environment.

How did you get started? Where did you imagine Las Olas would be now, more than a decade after its beginnings?

I’ve always been excited about quiet revolutions. In the early ‘80s, I pushed for ski resorts to allow snowboarders, and drove our company to make women-specific snowboard gear. Now, snowboarding is a major part of mainstream mountain culture. It also wasn’t long ago that few women surfed, but that changed too. The year I learned to surf changed my life. I was filled with confidence and joy that I hadn’t known since grade school. I knew I had to share this experience with others. The idea must have been a good one because I got so much support from the people around me. Those I work with at Las Olas and in Mexico got the concept and made it happen. We suddenly had a waiting list.

Las Olas surf safaris’ tagline is “We make girls out of women.” How do you do that?

The line came to me while tumbling in the warm waves: I thought, “I feel like a kid!” We provide a nurturing, carefree environment, where women can forget their responsibilities and stress for a glorious week of fun in the sun. And we take care of every detail, so our guests can loosen up and surf. At Las Olas, it’s their turn to play.

How do you stay true to your inner “girl” too?

That comes pretty easy for me. I’m always looking for the next fun thing, which is what kids do. Besides surfing and snowboarding, I love to dance, hang out at the beach, sleep in, and play with my dog! I’m drawn to beauty, art, fashion, and nature. Basically, I love the shiny things around me.

What’s inspiring about your job?

I firmly believe women are instinctive as caretakers of the world around us. I believe that connecting women to the ocean will inspire us to take care of ourselves and stand up for what we believe in. And as strong role models, we and our sisters can surf through life.

At the end of a safari, when our guests leave moved, teary eyed, I feel like something clicks for us. Women quit jobs as investment bankers to become successful writers or ditch a bad situation to teach yoga after coming to Las Olas. That’s my reward—seeing how it changes us, seeing our joy, and seeing what we’ll do next.

What’s challenging about running a women’s travel and adventure company?

Everything… and nothing. Challenges are a matter of perspective. But I will say there’s nothing “part-time” about Las Olas. Even when I’m “not working,” I’m thinking about surf camp.

Share your favorite success story or adventure tale.

Every single surf safari is packed with stories that could fill a book. The rush of catching a good wave still brings tears to my eyes, but watching someone else catch a wave can be just as rewarding. Recently, I was surfing in Santa Barbara and a woman paddled up to tell me that her experience at Las Olas had changed her life. I knew she really meant it. She was there surfing with her teenage son. He was a great kid—really polite and connected to his mom. They were catching more waves than I was. That made me happy.

Last modified: June 24, 2013

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