All-girl sports camps are on the up. If you fancy learning to surf, rock climb or snowboard in an ego-free zone, there’s a camp for you somewhere. Here's our guide to the best.
Words by Amanda Maclean
Main photos by Alex Laurel
On snow, rock, surf and turf guys have hogged the limelight long enough. Judging by the invasion of all-girl extreme sports camps, the Monopoly game is over and the action girls’ revolution has begun.
Girlie Camps started the uprising three years ago with Europe’s first all-girl snowboard camp. Girlies begged for more and now skiing, skating and surfing have been added to the programme.
'In the last three years so many more girls have been heading into the snow and skate parks because they want to do what the guys are doing,' says Elissa Koskinen, Girlie Camps co-ordinator. 'Girlie Camps is responding to the pressure and giving a platform for all levels of girl riders to improve their skills in a safe, fun and supportive environment.'
And it’s not just a marketing gimmick that girls can learn better when guys aren’t around.
'Sports with a macho culture make it difficult for women to compete on a level playing field,' says psychologist Dr John Kremer. 'Single sex camps make a lot of sense because they provide the opportunity for women to explore their full potential."
Enough chat, here’s the Cooler guide to testosterone-free summer camps…
The camp: Zoco Boardriding's Girlie Kite Camp
The location: Caleta de Famara, Lanzarote, mid June - mid July
The campers: Game-on beginners from around the globe ready to get hooked on the adrenaline buzz.
The lowdown: Daily instruction by top pros and instructors on how to rig, launch and power the kite on land, and fly the kite in the water. 'Girls learn quickly in our safe, fun and supportive environment and soon show the guys that they can rip it up too,' says organiser Vicky Wraith.
The vibe: Laid-back and progressive. Kite and surf programs run all summer in Famara so campers will find plenty of like-minded girls and guys to chill out or party hard with. The village has a good mix of bars, restaurants and clubs.
Fitness level: You must be able to swim 50m in the sea. The fitter you are the better you’ll get (provided you grasp the techniques).
Cost: £480 per week, which includes 7 nights’ self-catering accommodation in a girls’ only shared apartment; 5 days’ kitesurfing tuition, 3 hours per day; all equipment; IKO Kiteboarder Card and level certification at the end of your trip. For more information contact email@example.com, visit www.zocotravel.com or call 01204 659 394.
- Kite Chicks is running a girls’ only camp in Egypt on September 7-14. More camps are planned for Rhodes and Portugal earlier in the summer. Visit www.kitechicks.com for updates.
- Waveriders is planning girls’ only kite clinics and camps this summer in the UK and Europe, coached by IKO World Champ Kirsty Jones. Visit www.waveriders.biz for updates.
The camp: Girlie Freeski Camps
The location: Are, Sweden, on April 2, and Les Deux Alpes, France, on July 1.
The campers: Good skiers and wannabe gnarly park and pipe riders.
The lowdown: Female pro-skiers and professional instructors give coaching and video analysis to help girls hit the park and pipe with more confidence and control. Expect to nail new tricks, hit bigger kickers, ride harder rails, and pull off air in the half pipe. Camp activities include equipment testing, yoga, soccer, tennis, climbing, mountain biking and partying - with or without the boys!
The vibe: Exciting, progressive and supportive. Freeski Camps are new this year and riders are already queuing up to jib, or freestyle, with the pros. 'Ski jibbing is an exciting, new youth culture and girls are getting in on the act big time,' says Elissa Koskinen at Girlie Camps. 'We want to encourage this by creating a safe and fun learning environment for them.'
Fitness level: You don’t need to be super-fit but a strong frame and legs will help you stomp big airs and stave off injury.
Cost: 590 euro for one week/1,060 euro for two weeks in Are, and 640 euro for one week/1,180 euro for two weeks in Les Deux Alpes, including accommodation, resort lift pass, four hours’ coaching a day, riding with the pros, goodie bag and other activities. Visit www.girliecamps.com.
- Powder Trip runs “Powder Girls" freestyle camps in Chamonix and Whistler throughout the year. Check www.powder-girl.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ski Club of Great Britain runs a Women Will Powder Week in Chamonix giving girls the chance to improve their off-piste skills and try out the latest Salomon skis and clothing. See www.skiclub.co.uk.
- European Snowsport runs women only clinics throughout the winter season. Visit www.europeansnowsport.com or call +41 (0)27 771 6222.
- Walking Women runs girls’ only ski and cross-country skiing breaks to Tignes, La Tania, and Norway. Visit www.walkingwomen.com or call 0871 8716782.
The camp: Club Vass Divas
The location: Club Vassiliki, Greece, on June 11 and September 3.
The campers: Beginners, intermediates and advanced windsurfers up for a good time on and off the water.
The lowdown: Divas are divided into groups that match their skill levels, and receive at least two hours’ daily instruction from top female coaches who understand how girls learn best. Campers can also sign up for girls’ only racing clinics, equipment talks, yoga, fitness sessions and mountain biking excursions.
The vibe: 'All the girls support each other, which means excellent progress and masses of fun,' says Jo Scott, head Diva coach and Level 5 instructor. Club Vass courses for guys run alongside Diva Weeks so boyfriends (or would-be boyfriends!) are welcome too. The club has gained legendary status for being one of the best windsurfing and party spots in the Med.
Fitness level: You don’t need to be fit, although you’ll make more progress if you are!
Cost: £584 (June) and £609 (Sept) per week, which includes room-only accommodation, flights, transfers, tuition and women-specific kit hire. For more information email email@example.com, visit www.clubvass.com or call 01920484121.
The camp: Girlie Surf Camp
The location: Biarritz, France, Morocco, Italy, Spain and Ireland
The campers: Girls of all nationalities from age 16 upwards. They also do a ladies' week for over 25'
The lowdown: Surf and yoga by day, bbq's and trips by night.
Fitness level: You don't need to be super fit, but surfing is more tiring than you think. Get in shape before you go and you'll be able to stay out in the water for longer.
The vibe: Laid back and girlie.
'My surf experience before Girlie Camp amounted to body surfing long boards in messy Cornish waters, too chicken to go out deep enough to catch a proper wave, but not wanting to be left on the beach. So as the trip approached, I was slightly apprehensive.
Arriving in Biarritz to blue skies, we were picked up from the airport in the camp's übercool 1970's Dodge camper covered with Girlie stickers. On the way to the campsite, I was relieved to find out I wasn't the only novice on the camp; in fact about half of the 20 girls had done as little surfing as me. A couple had spent a few weeks in Australia, but no one was pro and we were all as nervous and excited about learning as each other.
Camp was the Playa Acotz mobile home campsite in Bidart with the most breath-taking view of the sea (too rough for us girls but a good vantage point for oogling the hot surfer boys). The Girlie area of the campsite was an ensemble of very girlie pink and white gazebos, bean bags, tables and tea-lights known as the 'living room' where we hung out, had meetings, ate the wonderfully healthy food prepared for us by chef and pro snowboarder Peter Strom, and set the world to rights with a bottle of red until long after the sun went down and the candles burned out.
The vibe of the camp was very chilled out, and the timetable fluid; we surfed when we liked, took trips on a whim and ate when it was ready. "There's time, and then there's Girlie time" was one of the many catchphrases of the week after one of the later than anticipated meals, for which Peter always had a story.
Our first full day didn't get off to a good start with rain cancelling the Quiksilver Pro France comp we'd got up early to watch, so no one was that keen when the surf school turned up to take us to Hendaye; a mellow bay with clean waves just perfect for beginners. Split into three groups, each surf session started off on the beach warming up and being taught moves on the board before putting them into practise in the water. The beauty of it being an all girl camp is that there was no competitiveness, just encouragement and whoops of joy when someone caught a good wave.
By the end of the first surf session nearly everyone was standing up, including myself, and when I came out I couldn't believe I'd been in the water for nearly three hours!
On the third day, after seeing me sticking to the small waves near the beach for too long, Christophe Reinhardt, head of the surf school and one of France's first surfers, encouraged me to go 'out back'. He pushed me off on a wave, yelled 'stand up, stand up', and watched me ride it all the way in. Needless to say, I was straight back for more.
When we weren't in the water, there was yoga on the beach, an evening in Biarritz watching the surfers as the sun went down, shopping in Hossegor, 'Kelly Slater watching' at the Quiksilver Pro France, tapas and ice cream in San Sebastian, and bargain hunting at the famous Roxy outlet.
When the time came to leave, I didn't want to go. Life is too good as a Girlie girl.' - Poppy Smith
The verdict: Not for serious surfers as there are only 2-3 hours taught surfing a day, Girlie Camp is for action loving girlie girls who want to improve their surf skills, make friends and have a fun and structured summer holiday.
- Zoco Boardriding runs all girl surf camps in Lanzarote between May and October. Visit www.zocotravel.com or call 01204 659394.
- Board ’n’ Lodge runs 14-day girls’ only surfing camps at Mimizan, in the south of France between May and September. Visit www.boardnlodge.com or call 0207 419 0722.
- Pure Girls Vacations runs year-round Girl Only Surf Tours in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Europe and Africa. Visit www.purevacations.com or call 01227 264264.
- Animal Surf Academy runs Surf Diva days at Polzeath, Cornwall, all summer. Visit www.animalsurfacademy.com or call 0870 242 2856.
- GSD runs two-day 'Women Only Surf Weekends' in Gower, Wales. Visit www.gowersurfing.co.uk or call 01792 360370.
Mountain Bike Camp
The camp: Dirtgirls from Mountainbike Holidays
The location: Morzine, France, on July 1 and August 26
The campers: Adrenaline junkies who fancy trying a new sport, or keen bikers needing a confidence and skills boost in a non-testosterone environment.
The lowdown: Pro-rider Emily Horridge and other elite riders will be teaching trail skills, dirt jumping and downhilling techniques to bikers of all abilities. Campers will be split into two groups - beginners/improvers and advanced - so all levels get dedicated instruction and rewards. Other activities include yoga, nutrition talks and sports massage as well as a rest day mid-week with spa treatments and wakeboarding laid on.
The vibe: Easy-going, friendly, non-macho. 'Lots of girl riders feel left behind in the male-dominated world of mountain biking and want to redress this balance,' Says Sara Burdon, who launched the summer camps this year due to popular demand. 'The camps will give women the know-how to ride some wicked trails and have fun.'
Fitness level: Mountain biking experience is not necessary but the fitter you are the longer your days will last!
Cost: 675 euro for the week including catered chalet accommodation, lift pass, guiding and tuition. Visit www.moutainbikingholidays.co.uk or call 020 8123 5654 or +33(0)450 747555.
- Saddle Skedaddle runs women-only weekends and weeks in the UK and Europe, graded according to their difficulty. Otherwise try a mixed trip - Cuba attracts up to 80 per cent women. Visit www.skedaddle.co.uk.
- Spokeswomen MTB camps take place throughout the summer at Whistler’s awesome trails and terrain parks. Top female pro-riders will help you overcome your fears and take your skills and confidence to new levels. Visit www.spokeswomen.com.
The camp: Our Camp/Intergirlactik Camp
The location: Tignes on July 1, plus dates for next winter.
The campers: Girlies looking to push their freestyle riding in a non-competitive atmosphere.
The lowdown: UK pro riders Gilly Seagrave, Emma Rogers and Sonia Shaw hand over bucket-loads of tips so riders can take their tricks to bigger kickers and harder rails. Campers hit the park and pipe most of the day and then chill out in the evenings with yoga and then dinner, before hitting resort bars and clubs. On summer camps extra activities are laid on for the sporty girls.
The vibe: 'An all-girl vibe, very chilled with loads of high fives and truck loads of "yeah, stomp it",' assures Our Camp co-founder and coach Emma Rogers.
Fitness level: Emma says the camps are “full-on", so stamina and commitment are important. So are strong legs for hitting kickers and rails all day.
Cost: Prices start at £280, which includes accommodation, coaching and equipment. Visit www.ourcamp.co.uk
- Girlie Camps runs summer snowboard camps on July 1 and 8 in Les Deux Alpes. Look out for winter 2006/07 dates in Avoriaz, Laax, Mayrhofen, Are in Sweden and Les Deux Alpes. Visit www.girliecamps.com.
- MGT (More Good Times) is running two all-girl summer camps in Whistler, Canada in July. Visit www.mgtsnowboardcamp.com.
- Rude Girls runs winter girls snowboard camps with a focus on freeriding. Former snowboard world champion Angelique Corez-Hubert will be coaching next winter. Visit www.rudechalets.com or call 0870 068 7030.
Rock Climbing / Mountaineering Camp
The camp: Chicks Unleashed
The location: Mountaineering and climbing camps run throughout the year mainly in the Scottish Highlands. The big event this summer is Journey Through Scotland, May 20t-29.
The campers: Girls with a passion for the mountains.
The lowdown: All courses are for women, designed by women and guided by women. On the Journey Through Scotland expedition girls climb, mountaineer or hike their way around the Highlands. En-route, campers stay in mountain bothys, sleep under the stars or go luxury in a B&B.
The vibe: Fun and adrenaline-fuelled. 'The atmosphere on and off the hill is fantastic - lots of learning and banter,' says Founder of Chicks Unleashed Rosie Golden.
Fitness level: Being fit is a big advantage on multi-day climbs and hikes.
Cost: Chicks Unleashed has a daily rate: £85 per day for mountaineering, £105 per day for climbing. Both include expert tuition and equipment. Camping/B&B or youth hostel accommodation is extra.
- Rock and Sun is running Girls on Rock camps in Costa Blanca on April 15 and 22 and in October. Visit www.rockandsun.com or call 0871 8716782.
- Chicks with Picks runs rock and ice climbing camps and clinics in Colorado, USA. For more information visit www.chickswithpicks.net.
- Walking Women is running a 5-day girls’ only climbing camp on August 2 in the Yorkshire Dales. Visit www.walkingwomen.com or call 0845 6445335.