Cruising about with your mates is all well and good but sometimes you need a kick up the arse to amp up your riding. Whatever your poison, we preview the best freesports camps...
Words by: Cherry Martin
Best for snowboarders: Burton All Girls Camp, Tandadalen, Sweden
Burton Snowboards is the pimp daddy of the snowboarding world, so you’d expect their snowboard camp to be the number one choice for all-girl powder hunters and park goddesses in the making. And you’d be right.
Nicola Thost, one of Burton’s Olympic gold medal winners, runs the camps and her ethos is simple – it’s all about the riding. You rise at 7am, fuel up for the day ahead with a hearty breakfast, then there’s yoga on the slopes to warm up, quickly followed by five hours of expert tuition, with a break for lunch, if you’re good.
No snow is left unridden and they’ll even have you riding switch on your merry way to the park. Coaches are armed with a multitude of learning techniques, which, coupled with video analysis, will boost your confidence so that whatever you dream of hitting – be it kickers, bigger kickers, boxes or rails, with or without grabs – by the end of the week will be a reality, as you stomp your landings and cruise away knowing that it was all caught on camera to brag to your friends about later.
Pro view: “I just love to see so many girls loving their sport and being so inspired to do more with it. I’m proud to lead them to their next level of riding." Nicola Thost, Burton Pro rider.
Punter view: “We each set our own private goals and by the middle of the week were on such a natural high from achieving them. The progression on this camp is amazing." Cherry Martin, UK
Who goes: Girls who can link turns comfortably on a blue run are fine to come along and ride with other snow-loving chicks from all over the world.
Downtime: Stretch and soothe muscles with a daily hour of yoga, relax in the spa or chill out with a coffee before devouring a well-earned feast.
More info: £575/800 Euros includes your accommodation, all meals, lift pass, exclusive Burton and Red kit hire, 25 hours’ tuition over five days, a jam-packed goodie bag and prizes for everyone at the final day party. Check out the Burton website for dates.
Best for mountain bikers: Dirtgirls Mountain Bike Camps, Champery, Switzerland
If racing like a nutter down the side of a mountain while testing out some of the world’s best mountain bikes gets you all quivery inside, see a doctor. Or, check in for a week of sheer heaven mountain bike riding in the Champery region of the Alps.
Dirtgirls bring you face to face to ride and race with pros and learn the safe techniques that will enable you to return home having mastered jumps, steeper gradients and cornering. Get ready to churn up vats of mud in the skills sessions and then put your all into battling it out with your camp mates at the end of the week to win sponsored prizes. The Alps are ready to be taken over by the Dirtgirl Army – recruiting now…
Pro view: “There were definite improvements to be seen all round. Everyone got something out of the skills week and we had a great week riding some awesome terrain." Emily Horridge, Dragon Downhill 2007 winner.
Punter view: “I built my speed up over the week and can’t believe how much I’ve improved, while having so much fun and meeting so many wicked girls. It was definitely the best week of my life!" Christa Thompson, UK.
Who goes: British and European girl riders who just want to have fun charging around the Alps in summer.
Downtime: Go wakeboarding on the nearby lake, or if your leg muscles won’t move in the direction you want them to anymore, de-muddify and relax in the spa before the evening’s entertainment.
More info: Dirtgirls offer amazing value at £540/750 euros for the full week, which includes lift passes, transfers, accommodation, breakfast, packed lunch and afternoon tea every day. You also get a three-course meal every night with wine or beer, and prizes. Check out the website for more info.
Next: Kitesurfing and Skateboarding camps...
Best for kitesurfers: Animal Kitesurfing Tarifa Academy, Tarifa, Spain
Escape the spine-crackingly cold winter winds and head down to Tarifa to kitesurf in style. Relish in the fact that the academy is based on the southernmost tip of Spain, which means wind is guaranteed for your trip.
Sound good? Then listen up because there’s two camps and you have to choose the right one for you: go from zero to hero on the four-day beginner course, which will have you mastering basic kite-control before learning water skills in a shallow lagoon. If you’re an experienced rider you can join the specialist camp and spend your days doing five-mile down-winders along the coast to be picked up by the Animal truck at the other end, or you can get some serious air time learning the secrets of those elusive sbends to blind.
Either way, with some strategic video analysis of your technique, your coaches will push you to attain your windy goals.
Pro view: “Kitesurfing needs more girls! Build your confidence on the camp to really push your riding. Go for it." Kirsty Jones, Animal rider and world champion kitesurfer.
Punter view: “I’ve nailed handle passes this week – I’ll be back next year for sure." Hayley Compton, UK.
Who goes? Beginner and experienced kitesurfers. Girls and guys come together to join the camp best suited to them and have an epic week of sailing.
Downtime: Try out windsurfing or mountain biking or just chill out at the beachfront apartments before heading into lively Tarifa for some serious Spanish dance action.
More info: Prices start at £450/630 Euros, which includes 16 hours’ tuition per week, self-catering accommodation and transfers. Camps run throughout the year. Visit the Animal website for more info.
Best for skateboarders: Etnies Girls Get On Board Skate Camp
Etnies took the world by storm last year with the introduction of 22 pro rider-led camps worldwide encouraging more and more girls to put the 8 into sk8te. Turning up to coach their favourite sport were Evelien Bouilliart, Lisa Schairer, Louisa Menke, Ianire Elorriage and Kristina Westad to name a few. Impressive, huh.
Now, if you’re a beginner and don’t know your grip tape from your Magic tape, no worries as etnies pro girls know how to teach skateboarding as well as they ride their boards. Each member of the pro team has the patience of nine saints to guide you through every element of skateboarding to ensure that they get you rolling along and totally hooked by the end of it.
If you’ve got your balance and are already rolling the bowls and throwing yourself mercilessly off half pipes, the pro team will then show you how to take your ollie to a nollie and have you nose grinding the rails. Full-on protective gear is necessary as well as a full-on stubborn attitude for success.
Pro view: “The camps bring girls of all ages and nationalities together that have one interest in common – to learn how to skate better. That’s where we come in to help them achieve this goal and it’s very satisfying to watch them when they do." Lucy Adams, etnies pro rider.
Punter view: “To be taught by your idols is unreal and brings you closer to your own skating dreams." Ashley Bennett, UK.
Who goes: Girls of all abilities from the UK and Europe.
Downtime: Go true skatergirl and buss out your steez in the breakdancing lessons, or swim and play tabletennis. Hang out in the coffee bars and watch the pros battle it out in their mini comps.
More info: Prices, dates and locations TBC so keep checking the etnies Girl website.
Next: Surf camps...Best for surfers: Girlie Surf Camps, Hossegor, France
Frolicking in the sea? Not on this week – these surf camps are all about stretching, getting wet and riding those waves. Based in Hossegor, European mecca for surfer dudes and now surfer chicks thanks to Girlie Camps, who run two different types of coaching camps throughout the summer months.
If you’ve always dreamed of learning to surf, the seven-day beginner camp will teach you everything you need to know to get paddling and standing up within a week. Instructors will push you to retain the correct stance to make sure that your technique is good from the start and to ward off any bad habits.
If you’re already at one with the waves and have a high level of physical ability, the more advanced group will push you to your next level. You will travel in Jeeps every day to find the perfect wave and then stay in the water for the maximum amount of time learning how to improve on your existing technique.
On either camp, you will bond with your new girlfriends and use their cries of, “Paddle, paddle, paddle…now" to give you the impetus to catch the best waves of your life.
Pro view: “It’s so good to see the progression and passion shown by the girls in just one week. It makes me proud of my sport." Melanie Redman-Carr
Punter view: “I have never paddled so hard in my life – but then I’ve never caught so many waves in my life. My technique has improved so much. Thank you Girlie Camps!" Katy Pullinger, UK.
Who goes: Girls from all over Europe travel to this camp and places sell out fast so get online quickly to book your spot and then get ready to eat, sleep and breathe surfing.
Downtime: The action doesn’t stop with the surf – yoga, skateboarding, BBQs and pro-spotting in downtown Hossegor are all on the cards.
More info: £425/590 Euros includes catered accommodation, daily tuition and all the kit you’ll possibly need for the week. Check out the Girlie Camps website to book your spot.