Episode 54: Meet Elizabeth Sans- Founder of Dryft Watersports, Yoga Instructor, and Energetic Surfer

How would you like to have the most exhilaratingly memorable adventure of your life? Talk about an epic getaway where you can escape the daily hustles or move on from a bad relationship. How about an irresistible retreat where you can shop with the sweetest deals, explore nature, fall in love with the desert sunset on a camel tour, or just be in the ocean and surf all day! Your adventure is your choice!

Elizabeth “Mama Liz” Sans is the legend behind Dryft Water Sports. They began offering custom and prepackaged surf and yoga tours in 2017. They also design hand-shaped custom boards of quality craftsmanship. Mama Liz was a professional ski instructor before a knee injury forced her into the financial world. After rebooting into surfing at 51, she began her surf ventures. Today, she’s making a change one surfboard at a time driving her ’74 antique “beetle”.

This week, we get to hear Elizabeth’s incredible Nicaragua and Morocco adventures, her business model, and her cool surf and yoga retreats, which you definitely should include in your bucket list. She also lets us in on the concept of Reiki, surfboard-making, woman surf retreats, and her own unique way of advertising. Elizabeth has done all the things she wanted to do, and her secret to doing just that? Tune in and you’ll find out!

Listen to the episode here:

Episode Highlights:

  • 03:04 The Best Thing in The World!
  • 13:50 Great Waters, All-Day Surfing, and Adventures!
  • 24:15 It’s A Girl Thing
  • 31:26 How to Do What You Aim to Do
  • 36:33 Creating the Perfect Surfboard
  • 41:09 A Unique Way of Advertisement
  • 43:48 Reiki- A Healing Art
  • 47:55 Just Go For It!

I’m really stoked to be back behind the mic and to be diving into a brand new season of the Oceanriders Podcast. I hope you like the new jingle and the new format. This year I’ve got an amazing set of guests lined up and I’m looking forward to delivering every other week an exciting and aspiring conversation with one of my guests. If you’re listening to the Oceanriders Podcast for the first time, the reason I came up with this podcast in the first place, is my fascination of how the ocean and surfing in particular really shapes your life. Most of my guests are building a lifestyle that is compatible with their passion and have either built businesses or projects to fit with their passion. My guests are crushing it and really busting the surfer stereotype.

“If you want to do it, just do it. If you want something, just go for it. It’s okay to fail as long as you try. It’s not really failing. It may not work but the next thing will work.” -Elizabeth Sans

Today’s episode is a conversation with Elisabeth Sans aka “Mama Liz”. I had a whale of a time recording this episode and talking to a woman who’s had a thousand lives. Liz has reached the summits in terms of sports and financial success. A few years ago, she rediscovered surfing and got absolutely hooked. As an Oceanrider listener, you probably know the feeling.

Elisabeth has sculpted a new lifestyle and developed a handful of surf-related businesses in Nicaragua, Morocco, and the US with her company Dryft Watersports, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I’ll let Liz tell you her story. I loved this conversation because Elisabeth is so inspiring in many aspects and in particular with her youthful spirit. So without further ado, please enjoy my exchange with Elizabeth Sans.

I hope you enjoy this episode.

Take care, have fun, and enjoy the waves.

Ciao,

Imi

Connect with Elizabeth:

Quotes:

  • 26:15 “Women learn better if men aren’t around.” -Elizabeth Sans
  • 32:04 “Seeing that you can do it on your own makes you want to do more on your own.” -Elizabeth Sans
  • 35:00 “End the wave before the wave ends you.” -Elizabeth Sans
  • 43:06 “Better to be talked about no matter what they say. They can say whatever they want as long as they say something.” -Elizabeth Sans
  • 48:08 “If you want to do it, just do it. If you want something, just go for it. It’s okay to fail as long as you try. It’s not really failing. It may not work but the next thing will work.” -Elizabeth Sans

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Transcription:

Imi Barneaud: That was Elizabeth Sans, and this is the Oceanriders Podcast.

The Oceanriders Podcast, conversations with creatives entrepreneurs, thinkers and dreamers, who also happen to be surfers, my name is Imi Barneaud and I am your host.

I’m really stoked to be back behind the mic and to be diving into a brand new season of the Oceanriders Podcast. I hope you like the new jingle and the new format. This year I’ve got an amazing set of guests lined up and I’m looking forward to delivering every other week an exciting and aspiring conversation with one of my guests. If you’re listening to the Oceanriders Podcast for the first time, the reason I came up with this podcast in the first place is my fascination of how the ocean and surfing in particular really shapes your life. Most of my guests are building a lifestyle that is compatible with their passion and have either built businesses or projects to fit with their passion. My guests are crushing it and really busting the surfer stereotype.

Today’s episode is a conversation with Elisabeth Sans aka Mama Liz. I had a whale of a time recording this episode and talking to a woman who’s had a thousand lives. Liz has reached the summits in terms of sports and financial success. A few years ago she rediscovered surfing and got absolutely hooked. As an Oceanrider listener, you probably know the feeling.

Elisabeth has sculpted a new lifestyle and developed a handful of surf related businesses in Nicaragua, Morocco and the US with her company Dryft Watersports, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I’ll let Liz tell you her story. I loved this conversation because Elisabeth is so inspiring in many aspects and in particular with her youthful spirit, so without further ado, please enjoy my exchange with Elizabeth Sans.

Hello, Liz and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast, how are you today?

Elizabeth Sans: I’m terrific. Thank you so much, Imi.

Imi Barneaud: It’s a pleasure to have you on the podcast today, and thank you ever so much for getting up super early in America for this podcast. I wondered if you could introduce yourself to the listeners and explain how you see yourself as an ocean rider.

Elizabeth Sans: Well, my name is Liz and I live in Westhampton Beach, which is in Long Island, New York, and I’ve lived in New York, my whole life. I spent my summers out here and I finally moved here full time nine years ago. I see myself as a renaissance woman, I guess. I began my career as a skier when I was a teenager and in my 20’s. And then I worked on Wall Street in the finance business for 20 years. I spent all my vacations skiing, any weekend I could, even my business trips revolved around skiing. Then in 2007, I had a very bad second knee injury and stopped, kind of left finance, and we lived in Florida for a few years. I realized that I really was tired of that financial world, it’s right before the big financial meltdown in 2008. So I got out at a good time.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: Yeah. So I could still ski, I had to take a year off of skiing. I still continued to ski and didn’t really do anything, but raise my children. And it was my first time really being, I always took Fridays off after my children were born, but I was really a fulltime mom, which felt really good. And then we moved back to New York and we lived out in {inaudible] full time. And I had breast cancer in 2013. I was fine, they caught it early, but I did have a full operation. And I ski professionally, like I taught skiing, and skiing was my life. You know how surfers talk about everything related to surfing, every single thing. Well, everything was related to skiing. It was like, Oh, man, it’s a battery day. Oh, that was a gnarly run. Like, everything had to do with skiing. Every single thing I did was related to skiing, then my daughters were in surf camp and I was like, I kind of want to do this, co’z I water skied a lot. So I got on a foam board, I basically kind of remembered what it was like, but I made a lot of mistakes. I took a lesson with a guy that I knew and I got like, I’m not kidding, like 20 waves. He just kept pushing, I didn’t realize he was pushing me into these waves. I’m like, how am I getting so many waves? Like, this is unreal. And it’s like, Oh, I’ve been pushing. Like, Oh, my God. So that’s like not surfing. He’s like: “No, you’re getting up on the board.” I’m like: “But how? Because you obviously have a really good balance.” So then, I took my kids to this surf camp in Nicaragua, and I was surfing. I was like, my first ride, it wasn’t in whitewater, but it was like big whitewater. And I’m like, Oh, my God, I can do this. And then they’re all talking about like out the back, I’m like, isn’t it all the same thing? But is this like the back. We never talked about the back, we didn’t have whitewater where I lived, it was all out the back. So I’m like, I’m just going to go out there because we don’t have an inside where I live, and I was catching waves. And I was like, Oh, my God, this is like the best thing in the world, I’ll never ski again. So I thought, well, we need to go to a surf camp. And someone said, Oh, you should go to Nicaragua, these great girls surfing, doing these great women’s surf camps. And I thought, okay, terrific. And my friends and family were like, Nicaragua? I’m like, yeah, why not? It’s only eight hours to get there, it’s like going to Europe. Why not? So we went to Nicaragua, fell in love with Nicaragua, we were all surfing, it was fantastic. It was like a dream week. Fell in love with it, and ended up going back a month later to get yoga certified. Almost every day, my surfing water time went up. I came back and I’m like, I want to change my life. I want to teach yoga. I want to be a surfer. I was still searching for the perfect surfboard so I partnered up with a guy who sells surfboards in California, Equinox Surfboards, and was going to rock his boards and I could get free surf boards. So we did that for a while, then we decided to start our own surfboard company, but that’s a whole different story. So we did.

Imi Barneaud: How old are you when you reboot your surf?

Elizabeth Sans: I was 51.

Imi Barneaud: Wow. The energy is amazing.

Elizabeth Sans: I was practicing yoga very rigorously so I was in very good shape, and I’ve always maintained good physical shape. So I had good balance, it was easy. I think I had a strong arm balance. And I had water skied so I knew that sort of balance and skied, and I was a ski instructor, I always had very strong so I took to it right away, of course, there’s periods where you do very well and there are periods where you don’t do well. It was very frustrating. I would lose my competence, then I would get it back. And surfing where we live is very difficult. So if you can surf here, you can surf anywhere. I mean, look right now, I’m going through what I call a dry spell where I surf terribly the last five days, like terribly. But the week ago, I was amazing. I mean, I surf the best surf ever. Then this last five days, it was like struggling to catch waves. So I’m making myself a center board because my board is 24 across, I need like 22, I need two less inches so my arms can get fully in the water. I realize I’m handicapping myself. So anyway, you learn these things when you’re making boards and so forth. So after that, we bought a place in Nicaragua and we stopped going to Europe because we’re always traveling to Europe and only went to Nicaragua, counting like 19 times in three years in Nicaragua. I also went to Costa Rica, to surf camps. I continued going to surf for the Migos. And in one trip, I met my friend and future partner, Liv Hung, and we were stuck in a hurricane in Southern Nicaragua. We had great surf for like two days, and all of a sudden this massive storm came in. But what we didn’t know was it was this hurricane that wiped out Northern Costa Rica, Southern Nicaragua. And my husband had called me and said: “There’s a hurricane coming.” I said: “Oh, no, we’re just getting some rain.” He said: “No, no. There’s like this massive hurricane.” And of course, when you’re in central America, you don’t have CNN and all that stuff or anything. And there was this huge hurricane. We had to evacuate out of certain rooms of this hotel and go to this dormitory structure. And there were 18 of us in these four rooms, one usable bathroom. I mean, we’re stuck for two days and live and bonded, we’re like, we should make it, and this is not certainly the — fault, it was the hotel’s fault. But we were like, we should do our own retreats. And we spent two days like machinating ideas. And then we decided we’d do them at my house in Nicaragua. Because not only did I buy one house, I bought like another house. We were like, Oh, my God, this is the greatest place in the world. Surfing so awesome. It was a nice latch in front of our house and made this beautiful house. And then we became really good friends with the hotel next, just Coco Loco Eco, which is where I get yoga certified. That’s like sacred ground for me, and where I had the site of the first surf retreat I went on. And then all of a sudden, the political situation in Nicaragua reared its head while we were there, I was there with my husband. I was there alone, it happened when my husband flew down. And when we left, that was the last time I’d been in Nicaragua.

Imi Barneaud: So when was that?

Elizabeth Sans: 2018.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: And so I haven’t been back since. I miss it. We have a caretaker that watches our house, thank goodness. He has some pictures, it’s still in good shape, and then coronavirus, so in the meantime, because we couldn’t go to Nicaragua, we decided to do Morocco, and we found a place in Morocco. I became really good friends with the fellow that was the main partner. So somehow they were absorbed, I went to visit, but can’t retreat there. And because the girls are young, I flew out there and we bonded, and they brought me in. We bought a piece of land, and we’re building a hotel eventually. Because of COVID, everything’s backed up, and we’re partners now, we bonded like best buddies. We’re married, but we bonded like really good friends. So there’s four partners, Duncan, Hassan, and Houcine, two Moroccans, a British and an American, and my husband, of course. So we were about to build a hotel this summer, but then COVID happens, no nonessential construction. I’ve been doing Morocco, he spent like probably the equivalent of four months there in the past year.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: Four different trips. And we love it there. I mean, I love Nicaragua, we’ll always have a place in my heart and I hope that that gets back up and going co’z we’d like to do some trips there. We’ve had some very successful trips to Morocco, and incorporate surfing, yoga, exploring camel tours, desert camping, glamping, if you will, Marrakech City Tours. And we did it all ourselves.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: Yeah. Spot-M is the travel company that I’m now a part of, and they helped us do this. We rented villas for people. You could really call it a socially distant type of thing. There were no other people, it was just us. So when travel happens again, we can make it very socially distant. If you want to come, because four friends came on one of the trips, so it was four friends, and then two, and two other friends, and two other friends. So it was really people that knew each other. So when it continues, we could advertise socially distant travel if that’s how the world can go, you know? Or we could rent three villas and put floor one, two, and one, and two others in one because we have that access. The town that we’re in, a lot of people rent their villas out, so we had access to probably 20 villas. We can really make it socially distant. At the time, we weren’t looking at it that way, but that’s how we could do it. And the surfing, there’s amazing. And there’s several different options. If it’s too big at one place, or if it’s not suitable for beginners, we have one beach where it’s really good for both. There’s a lot of whitewater. Whitewater is a concept that we just don’t have where I live, it’s like everything’s out the bat, there is no whitewater. If you’re a beginner, it’s sink or swim. That’s why everybody here is such a good surfer because they’re sort of thrown into the fire. And you can surf here, you can surf anywhere. So that’s how I sort of in a roundabout way started. So what I’m doing now is trying to teach yoga via zoom and sell surfboards at the beach. I drive around in my little beetle, it says Dryft on the side, and people see my boards and they order them off the beach, and teach yoga, practice Reiki, and just hope to travel again.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. Excellent. I love that business model that you have of going to a country, visiting it, buying land or buying a property. And she sort of starts out everything that is so fortunate and to be able to have that go in and do it that way. It must be fantastic. It must be super exciting working on projects like that.

Elizabeth Sans: Well, thanks to working on Wall Street I was able to do that. But I think the pots dry right now, I think we have to, I don’t think we can go into another country and do that again, but we were fortunate. So the focus is now in Morocco, which we love. I speak French so it’s very easy to go there. My Spanish, I learned going to Nicaragua so I sort of lost it. But I think once I landed there, I probably would be able to speak it again. And I love Nicaragua, it’s still have a special place in my heart, but the focus right now is obviously Morocco,

Imi Barneaud: Whereabouts in Morocco is the hotel going to be based.

Elizabeth Sans: It’s in a town called Mirleft, the Southernmost, no, there’s others Southernmost towns, but it’s South of Taizhou, South of [inaudible], South of Swara. And I’m not saying this because we have a place there, but it has the best water, the least polluted water. Taizhou, everything I’ve heard and seen is really sort of sketchy. And we were in Bali, my daughter and I were in Bali a year ago and I was fine, so my eyes got really, really red. We were surfing in Canggu and we were supposed to go to — but that day my daughter got really, really sick and my eyes were red, red, red, red. I’m sure it was from the water because we ate the exact same thing. Although I love it, I would go back. I love Bali. I think I had some of the best surfing days of my life. I mean, we got off the plane, we landed and we’re in our hotel by 2:00, we were surfing by 3:30. And after 24 hours of flying or whatever, it was two days of flying and I still can surf. It was wonderful. “This is so great Can we live here?” I’m like: “I don’t know.” “Let’s buy something here.” And I’m like: “I was already in Morocco.” She’s like: “We could have surf camps here. It’d be so awesome.” And I’m like: “No, no, no. I think daddy would flip.” But that’s something I have to say, I’ve thought about it. If it wasn’t such for us such a long travel time, maybe I think more seriously about it co’z I love, we loved it there. She wants to go back and live there for six months and I’m like: “Go ahead. I’ll visit you.” But it was fantastic. So that said, where we are in here because of the way the water flows and the water’s super clean. You can’t drink the top water, but you don’t have to be afraid of the ocean water. Obviously, I’ve swallowed tons of water and nothing’s ever happened, it’s clean. There’s a small town, but there’s enough to do. I’ve been there for five weeks. The longest I’ve stayed was five weeks. I had enough to do that I wasn’t like, when am I going home? What am I going up for? It was fine. I had enough to do, and I was alone. Five weeks with clients, but not with any family or friends. I mean, my partners. And I was fine. I was sad to leave. I was happy to see my family, but I was sad to go home.

Imi Barneaud: That’s lovely. That’s where you feel at home.

Elizabeth Sans: Yeah. I felt instantly at home. The first time I went there was like, maybe it was the European culture, but it was just so inviting. Yeah, there are other countries, I’ve been to a lot of countries, but there in Nicaragua, they’re very similar yet completely different, but very welcoming.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, the people of Morocco. I don’t know about Nicaragua because I’ve only visited Costa Rica, but the Moroccans are just fantastic people, and they’re very friendly and welcoming. And yeah, it’s definitely a great place to set up shop.

Elizabeth Sans: I think a couple of times and I found, not that they weren’t welcoming, but the people in Nicaragua were much more welcoming in Costa Rica.

Imi Barneaud: So could you describe your hotel in Nicaragua.

Elizabeth Sans: Oh, it’s not a hotel, we just have a very large house and sleep up to 14, we could sleep eight comfortably, we can have a woman’s [inaudible]. We can have a co retreat for maybe six, like we had three couples, or we could have a women’s retreat for 8 that would be comfortable, or we could have a very, you know, a much lower budget retreat for about 12. Not a cheaper treat, but something, a little bit less private, or we can have a super luxury one, and it’s right on the beach, Santa Maria Beach. There’s a nice left point break right in front. Or you could walk about 11 minute walk. It’s not bad, I’ve done it a lot down to a Bay where it works left and right. There’s tons of whitewater in front so beginners can spend all day. It’s kind of like big whitewater, I guess I should say, so you actually can catch some reforms so you don’t feel like a beginner, or you can start way at the back, which is fun because you get super long rides, and it’s awesome. And a physical little sheltered area you can sit, there’s a couple of cafes right there so you can stop and have a coffee, or a Coke, or a snack or something if you’re tired of surfing. You can literally spend all day there and surf. There’s a couple of restaurants in town. People go volcano boarding, people go zip lining. I mean, there’s like little day trips like we do in Morocco we can also do in Nicaragua.

Imi Barneaud: Right.

Elizabeth Sans: So you try to add culture. If we have older clients that aren’t really so stoked on surfing, there’s other things they can do.

Imi Barneaud: And in terms of Morocco, what are the trips that you can do as a day trip or a half day trip from Spot-M?

Elizabeth Sans: In Spot-M what we do is we either start with a couple of things we do. We can either do an overnight camping trip, and then wake up and surf at first light. Or we can do a day trip to another town visiting different markets or souks, or we start or end with a day or a day and a half and a night in Marrakesh visiting the different, and I keep it to a day or day and a half because really there’s only so much of that you can take. I mean, some people like to spend three days there and they know where they’re going, and they want to spend three days buying everything inside. But it’s like, we’re the Riyadh that we like is right in the middle of the souk so it’s like, everything, it’s the best part of it. So it’s like, it’s all the same everywhere. These are the 15 best stalls so just shop away here. Or I go to the fixed price market and like to take everything here, maybe 10 Durham, more expensive, but it’s better quality. You can pay with a credit card. So sometimes, depending on the group, I may take them there. If they’re super shoppers, it’s like, spend four hours here and you’re done. If they’re more adventurous and they don’t want to do that, I’ll take them and do the thing that the market. And then we drive to the deserts, but it’s a four hour drive, spend the night. And if they don’t want to do camels, we just wake up, go to the castle, hike, have a meal drive back to Mirleft, and that’s about a day and a half. You can do that in the middle of the trip, it’s a lot of driving, or we can do it at the end of the trip. We can also add the camels, which is for me, I’ve done it so many times, so I’ll do it. But I’ll usually send somebody else at this point and you’d take the camels to the glamping sites. There’s like beautiful, nicer tents in my living room with beautiful rugs, and tapestries, and beautiful lamps, and lighting, and beds with full of beautiful blankets, tassel blankets. And then they have your breakfast, you have dinner, and some Berber dancing at night, it’s usually a party. Then you wake up at dawn to watch the sunrise over the desert. It’s beautiful.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: Everyone loves that. And I love that part too, I’m just a little over the camels. They’re treated well, we always make sure that we have an ethically sourced camel option because some are and some aren’t, but our guys always know. Everyone there’s related. So someone has a cousin, or a nephew that does camels, everyone’s related. We make sure that they’re ethically sourced because some are not, and we always try to stay away from them. We put that in the end or the beginning. And if someone really doesn’t want to surf, we can take them down to a beautiful beach where there’s this rock arch formation and we spend a day there and we can do an extra yoga class. Or somebody’s hurting, I can practice Reiki on them. We can go to another town and just, there’s a town called Essaouira, which is more for people surfing there, but it’s more for kitesurfing because of the wind. They can go there and they can walk around. It looks a little bit like Greece, if you can imagine Greece and Morocco, and we can drive back. I mean, there’s a lot of day options. There’s one time that is famous for its silver and gold market, so some people love that, and you are getting a deal. So people love buying, you know, Oh, I’m getting it. Yeah, you actually are getting a good deal. And then you can find any kind of sneaker. Like if you’re looking for Nike’s, you’re looking for Stan Smith, you can find them there for nothing. My daughter’s like: “Why are you going back? I need a new Stan Smith.” You can get the Gucci copy. People that are into the copies of everything, they have that too. And it’s unbelievable what they have, they’re better than in Chinatown in New York. Actually, people love that, because some people are into the surf part, and some people are like, 10 years ago, I was probably still into all that copy stuff. I was into all that Chanel and airMAX, and now I’m just like, ugh, I just want Moroccan dresses, wetsuits and stuff like that. Like I could care less.

Imi Barneaud: Fantastic.

Elizabeth Sans: I’ve got like three of them. I’m able to change into my wet suit from this dress. That’s all I care about, and sandals. We have clients that are really, where can I shop? When can we shop? When we’re going shopping? And then we have other clients that would be, all they want to do is surf.

Imi Barneaud: So is your clientele mostly feminine, or do you allow husbands or boyfriends over as well for the retreats?

Elizabeth Sans: We co-ed retreats. But mostly, a lot of them are women that want to get away. Their husbands don’t surf, or their husbands are much better surfers, or don’t like to surf that much, or some people would like to bring their, we are going to start doing more family trips because some people like to bring their whole family and some women just don’t want men around, they only want women. So we thought we might start doing it when things pick up again, like put the women only in one Villa, and then have families in another, and do things like, because we can, and we have that luxury of being able to do that. So we’ll do that.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. Excellent. So what’s the vibe when you get women that are on their own learning to surf and doing these amazing experiences? What difference do you find when there’s a single sex environment?

Elizabeth Sans: At first, the first time I went on a single female thing, it was the first time I’d ever, I mean, since I was in college that I was around a bunch of single women because I went to an all female private school. At first, an all female college and then I transferred to a co-ed college. I thought it felt very weird, it was like, they’re all women like, and then there were some men that ran the resort. So I was like, I found myself trying to glam up them to have male conversation, and I don’t know, I’ve always had a lot of male friends growing up, like platonic male friends so I didn’t get the whole women thing. And there were some male surf instructors and I was glamming onto them. I didn’t speak a word of English, but I was like speaking French, like [inaudible], and I’m like, [inaudible], help me, like how does it help me in Spanish? And I’m like, I was like trying to glam onto them, and then I would talk to the resort owners at night. How long have you been down here? Because they were Canadian. So the girls like, Oh, that was so awesome. Can you kind of a little odd that there were no guys around? And they’re like, because my kids were young. My daughter was like 13, the other one was like eight or nine. And they’re like, yeah, I guess, I don’t know. I mean, Jamie and Ben were there. Like I know, but it was weird. So then when I went to the yoga thing, I’m like, I hope there’s some men, and I’m married, but I just, you know. And then when I went to the yoga thing, it was co-ed so it didn’t seem as weird. But then when I went on more surf retreats, I don’t know, I didn’t feel uncomfortable, but I just thought I’m here to learn to surf, but I can’t explain it. And I was like, why do these women want to go away alone? Like I’m married so it doesn’t like I’m here to learn to surf, but are they here to meet other women? I have nothing against that, but I have a lot of women friends who are gay, but I said: “Are you here to learn to surf? Or are you here because you’re escaping a man?” And one girl she’s like: “Oh, yeah, I got a really bad relationship and I just need to be around women.” I’m like: “Okay, I get that.” You know? So then I asked some of the instructors, like we just find that women learn better if men aren’t around. And I’m like, okay, fair enough. I’m like, I kind of liked it when that really hot guy with the long hair was teaching me how to surf, I kind of liked that a lot. I did whatever with the hot guy. He had this really long hair, the typical surf instructor with muscles and that hair. And he kept calling me Mama Liz, that’s where it became ‘Mama’ Liz because he’s like Mama Liz, Mama Liz. It was like, Oh, man, he kept saying that. And I liked doing better and better because he’s like Mama Liz, Mama Liz. And I was like, that’s a lot better than, you know, Liz. I think it’s his attitude. You need to be more positive. I was like, I can’t do this today. And I was like, slapping the water. I think it’s his attitude. I was like, I don’t need to hear that. I need to hear Mama Liz, Mama Liz.

So anyway, we have to do all women because women like to be around women, they just don’t want guys around, but they don’t mind a cute surf instructor. So when we did our thing, we had like Houcine, who’s kind of good looking, and Muhammad who’s like the long hair and he’s learning how to speak English, and he only wants to speak English and he’s like, yeah. He’s like, you look good. So I’m like, just keep saying, you look good, you look good. You just keep saying that. And he’s like, okay. I’m like, just say, you look good. And it was amazing. Some of the women were bothered. We had a woman with us that we had met on a circuitry, and she was the yoga teacher and she also teaches surfing. We’re like, Carly, you’re going to come with us, we’ll pay you. And if you don’t mind and you can help me teach yoga, she ended up doing a lot of the yoga, and you can help surf and teach the women that don’t want to guide. Because some of the women were like, can I get a female instructor? I’m like, well, there are not a lot of female instructors around, but we do have Carly. I want Carly. And I’m like, okay. I mean, Carly could have been horrible, probably be great. They did say, we want Carly. Okay. Some of them, when they saw the guys were like, Oh, I don’t mind that guy over there. But it was so funny, we’re like, do you prefer the question, or do you prefer a female or male? I want a female. And it’s so funny. The funny thing was when I was a little girl, learning to ski, when I was like three, four or five, I would say to my dad, I’ve got you hooked up with this instructor. Like, is she pretty? Does she have long hair? And he’s like, does it matter? I’m like, I want someone with long hair. You’ll get what you get. I’m like, but I want someone with long hair, you know, I had cried. I wanted them to look like my Barbie dolls. It was so funny, you know? But then as I got older, I was like, Hmm, I kind of want Hans. I want Hans. I was like eight or nine. My dad’s like, Oh, you do, do you? And then we get like an old guy. Like, well, you got Hans. So I’m like, no, I want a young Hans, like Gunther. Because I knew them all. But you know, things like, you don’t need an instructor anymore, you can teach them. So it’s funny how you change. But I personally would want Mama Liz. Anyway, so it’s just funny. So a lot of them would prefer having a female teach them. And I don’t know what that is, but I know for me, I want the hot guy with the long hair teaching me how to surf or teaching me how to do anything.

The funny thing is we’re taking guitar lessons. My husband and I are taking guitar lessons via Zoom, electric guitar lessons right now via Zoom with a guy that I knew growing up, and he used to have long hair and he’s a surfer. I don’t think I had a crush on him when I was younger, maybe I did. I mean, everybody did so I probably did too. And we’ve been following each other on Facebook and Insta, whatever. He always has these cool pictures, and he’s written some songs, and he’s gotten some of them published, and they’re really good. He advertised, he was doing guitar lessons. And so I said: “We should do this because we have these guitars that are sitting around, we should do this.” And so we are, and my husband’s like: “You only want to do it because he has long hair.” I’m like: “He doesn’t have long hair anymore.” And so when we did our first lesson, he’s like: “I know why you want to do guitar lessons.” Because he looks like Victor in Nicaragua. I’m like: “He does not look like Victor in Nicaragua.” I’m like: “Yes, he does.” I’m like: “Would you stop?” He’s like: “That’s your stereotypical type.” I’m like: “You don’t look like Victor in Nicaragua.” He’s like: “No, but that’s your fantasy type.” I’m like: “Oh, would you stop?” And like: “He’s in the Bahamas, okay. And he’s married or he has a serious girlfriend and I’m married to you.” I’m like, it’s so funny. So he’s Victor in Nicaragua who said Mama Liz.

Imi Barneaud: That’s hilarious. That’s really interesting. Yeah, it’s interesting that women want to be around women much more, especially when they’re booking their retreat. So that’s interesting. It’s amazing the way this interview and this conversation is going, you’ve been into so many things in your life and I just want to know what happens, is it of curiosity? Is it a sort of drive? How do you get this energy to start all these new projects? It’s fantastic.

Elizabeth Sans: I don’t know. I guess because growing up, it was expected that you, I mean, I grew up in the generation where women really didn’t, women weren’t expected to work, they were expected to get married, and have children, and be housewives, and marry like a very successful man and make him successful. I just didn’t follow that path. My dad worked on Wall Street and I really wanted to do that too, so I did. Although he never helped me, I mean, he may have helped me get my first job or get my first interview. But after that, everything was done on my own. It was up to me to get promoted, up to me to get my other jobs. He never helped me get clients. I mean, not, but I’m not slamming him for that. I think it was good that he made me do everything on my own, but everything I did was on my own. And so doing that and then seeing that you can do it on your own makes you want to do more on your own. And I think that once you can do something on your own, it makes you want to do more on your own. So I had that drive of like, I know I can do it. And I don’t know, I was doing pearls one day and made these pearl necklaces and I was like, Oh, maybe I’ll sell them. So I did, and it wasn’t like a mass, it wasn’t like millions of dollars, but I was successful enough. Then I started making them for this charity in Nicaragua called Waves of Hope that the fellows that own the hotel started. And so I started giving them to the hotel and said, you keep the profit. And that money went to Waves of Hope which helped get clean water in the community, and help build the school, and helped improve the nature of the schools, and it helped beach cleanups and things like that. So I thought, well, here I am doing something and I’m helping. I started selling them for about three years, and then for two years, everything I made went to charity. Then I stopped doing it because I got rheumatoid arthritis, plus my vision got really bad. So it was difficult for me to make them, and I gave them my inventory, and they sold them, and they may still have some, I’m not sure. I felt like, well, I’ll just do that. So everything I did was reasonably good. And this travel thing came, it seemed like a good time, but then this COVID thing happens.

I was in Germany visiting one of my oldest friends who I was going to try and donate a kidney to. But unfortunately, I’m a 50/50 match for her and that’s not a good enough match apparently. And then I was on my way to Morocco to do clients and so forth, and then Covid happened, the country shut down and I had to get back to the States right away. And I was actually talking to a girl that I met in Nicaragua on one of those surf trips, and another girl who had been there vacationing and wanting to help me do a yoga trip for her for next year. First, we were going to do October, obviously, that’s not going to happen. We’re talking about planning something else. She’s a Swiss yoga teacher, so that’s on hold. I still want her to do that. I want to help her do that, but I don’t know when that’s gonna happen. I’m still learning, you know? For example, I went down to Mexico in February to Siren Surf Adventures. Do you know Cat and Kristy? Have you ever interviewed them?

Imi Barneaud: No.

Elizabeth Sans: You should. They’re amazing. I love them. I’ve heard about them, and I was really curious so I went down and they got me, their motto is “Stay busy on your board.” Like don’t just pose on your board because you get these really long rides in central America. So don’t just stand there, you know, be busy, step, drop me, turn. And they’d get on the wave with you, they’re like, cool step now, drop me turn, you know.they’re on there, you cannot cheat. They don’t want you to just stand there looking pretty for three minutes, they want you to be busy on that board and that’s their motto. Like, end the way before the wave ends. Don’t just take it in and then fall off. They want you to end gracefully, kick out. And I learned so much like I had crossed at once before, but I actually have a picture of me cross stepping, and all I wanted to do was cross step and have more style to my wave, not just to stand there. And they’re like pumping for sissies, you need to be doing stuff. And Kristy was a longboard champion. Cat has coached some of the best longboarders, they are amazing. They have this fabulous farm, they take you to their farm, they have donkeys, and it’s just amazing and fabulous. I love them. I had the best week of my life. It was fantastic. I was so happy I went and I learned something. So you can always learn, you never stop learning as a surfer. I haven’t like, okay, now I can paddle out and get up, that’s it. I don’t need to learn anymore. So I’m always learning. I didn’t go to poach them, to take their tricks, I went there so I could personally learn more so I could offer more to people. I brought that up because, for me to grow, I have to learn from others too. Same thing with Liv, Liv tries to get coached once in a while so that she can learn more so that we have more to offer people. Because if we just sit, sit, stand still and just do the same thing over and over again, it would be pretty boring. So you need to learn from others also. Not that we copy them, but yeah.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. It’s all growth. That’s amazing. And please tell us about your surfboard shaping venture.

Elizabeth Sans: So I was looking for the perfect board, I couldn’t find a board. I think it was either I hated bum boards. I had such a hard time getting up on a foam board, it was like, I didn’t trust it or something so I went and I started on like this 9'9 board. To me, it felt like the weapon of mass destruction. Like I was like, Oh, my God, this sport is way too big, I can’t do this. And then an 8' was too short, and then a 9'9 was too long, and then a 9'4 just even sounded too long, and so I started playing with different boards. It was either too narrow, or too this, or too that. So it was like, I need an 8' wide in the center and in the back, and then it was too thin. It didn’t float enough, but I didn’t have enough because I needed more paddle power. So finally I said, we’re going to make our own boards. And I said, I’d like a 9'4, really wide, really thick. Basically, I want a 9' for Walden, but under our own label, Dryft Watersports. And he made that for me so I was good at that. I said, okay, now let’s drop down a foot. I need 8'4, exact same thing. So I was able to drop down a foot and still catch waves. And then I was like, okay, now I’d like it a little narrower in 9'. So we got a little narrower in 9' and I was like, okay, now let’s be bold. Let’s make that Walden into an 8', but not really a Walden, we changed the measure. We didn’t take the exact thing, but we made it kind of floaty fat. Let’s make it 8'. Well, I sort of screwed up and that’s what I’m on now. And it’s too wide, my arms don’t go all the way in the water. So I will go up here. So on a really powerful day, I’m up and I’m fine. But when the waves are sloppy and slow, I can’t get into it. Like yesterday, I paddled for two hours, did not get one, they went right under me. My surf buddy, my friend Nancy who I surf with, said: “You need a thinner board. Why are you doing this yourself?” I’m like: “But last week I was amazing. I had like seven in a row, great days, the waves were bigger and they were more powerful.” She’s like: “Why are you denying yourself inches? You wouldn’t deny yourself inches in other areas.” I’m like: “Oh, my God, Nancy, you didn’t say that.” She goes: “You need longer and thinner.” And I’m like, well, usually you want longer wider, Liv always says that. She goes: “You want fat and thick.” I think she posted that on my Instagram. She’s like: “I know you’re like them. I’m fat and thick.” I’m like: “Well now, I’m looking for thin and fat.” But anyway, long and narrow rather. So he’s making me more now on board so I’m back to my 9', 22 across. And today’s supposed to be terrible, tomorrow supposed to be terrible. We’re supposed to get an amazing swell this weekend, like big, like 8', which is big for here.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: But it’s different when it’s 8', it’s a lot different. 8' here is like 16' in Nicaragua, it’s a lot different. It’s like, Oh, my God waves. Once you paddle out, you gotta stay out. Can’t take it all the way in, you have to just get up and then go right back out otherwise you’re never getting back out again. So it’s kind of like, I’m a little nervous, you know?

Imi Barneaud: So do you actually make your own boards, or do you design them, and then you get somebody’s shape?

Elizabeth Sans: We have a shaper who’s like 20 minutes from my house. He’s pretty famous out here locally because he shaped for a lot of local board companies. And I tell him the designs, he makes them, he gets all the blanks, everything’s USA made, which is really important for people here. For some reason, they want everything made in the USA. The only problem with that is they’re a little heavier than if we got like those Chinese super carbon blanks. And they’re much more like the old fashioned surfboards, like logs of the 70’s. They are very reminiscent of that, which is kind of cool. They’re literally retro looking, and they feel it, they’re heavy. They’re not light boards, but they’re kind of what you want out here. So that’s kind of the process that I’ve been looking for with him shape boards, and if we had the room here to do that, I absolutely would. And we’re actually selling our house so it’s been chaotic here. People are in and out looking, and we’re moving hopefully to a larger house in which case we’ll have a garage where I could actually make my own boards, which I’d like to do.

Imi Barneaud: Wow. So you sell them out at the back of your convertible Volkswagen bug. Well, my first car was a Volkswagen bug and sadly I sold it to [inaudible] and everything. But tell us about your Volkswagen.

Elizabeth Sans: Well, we found it in California three years ago, and it was white. I don’t really like white, but it seems it’s the best for the summer. So it’s white on white and we’re rebuilding it. The floor boards are rotted, you can’t drive it in the winter, you can only drive it in the summer because there’s no point in putting the heat on. And right now it’s dead because I stupidly, last week, left the top down and we had this torrential rain and it shorted out all the wires so I couldn’t start it on, I guess, Friday. So we’ve left it drying out, then last night, it rained again, but I put the top on it. So we’re hoping that once it completely dries out, we can start it again, but otherwise, it has to go to the shop. So we’ve been rebuilding it and putting in a new interior, a new top. The engine was great, spent a lot of money fixing the car, and I love it. It actually goes up to about 50 miles an hour.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: Which is good for that 74, so it’s 10 years younger than me. I was born in 64, so it’s 10 years younger than me, but it’s an antique, considered antique. It runs really, really well. It’s hard though that clutch is so high. At first it’s like I had to really far in front, I can’t get my leg down, and I love driving. I have a mini, my real car. So now the minis become like the surf mobile for the moment. Either I shoved the boards in the back and kept the door open, or I tied them on top. So that’s become the ad hoc surf car for the moment. But I prefer having the boards in the back because they stay there, and then my surf buddy can sit in the front seat with me. If I’m in the Dryft car, the green car, the mini, which actually has the British racing stripes on top, it’s pretty cool. No one can drive with me because I had to put all the seats down, which is hard also, the board scratches each other and stuff. So hopefully the car will get fixed by the end of the week. I’m hoping, but I love that car, it’s awesome. Everyone knows me, even the police that patrol the beach are like, they know the girl in the Dryft mobile. She and her friend, they’re always surfing, or they might be saying this old lady surfing. I don’t know what they say. Better to be talked about at all, no matter what they say.

Imi Barneaud: Exactly.

Elizabeth Sans: I think they can say whatever they want as long as they say something. So it’s been so much fun. I love that car. But in the winter, this can’t be driven. It’s like a May through October car, which is pretty much the only time you want to surf here in a way because after October and November, I need more than a 5'4, I can’t paddle. Arms don’t move, it’s awful. Even the 5'4, it’s impossible and that’s not a fun experience.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And about being a Reiki instructor, could you explain what Reiki is for the listeners who may have heard about it but aren’t quite sure what it is.

Elizabeth Sans: Well, Reiki is basically a healing art, but everyone thinks it’s a form of massage. And I guess it kind of is, but it’s more of a healing art where you’re placing your body heat is connecting with other people’s body heat at certain points. You start in the back of the head, you start here and then you go onto the back of the head and then different points in the body. You go down to the seven different meridians in the front and back, and you place your hands over, and your heat is connected with their heat as a form of healing.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Elizabeth Sans: And a good practitioner would not do it on a day that they’re feeling off, if you’re feeling sick. If you have a cold, you shouldn’t do it. You should cancel your session because whatever you’re harboring can be transferred to the other person. So ideally you want to do it on a day that you’re well co’z you’re trying to help them. Then you would start, and your heat is transferred to their heat, and you want to close your eyes, you go through this little meditation process and then you begin, it takes about 40, 45 minutes. Some people opt for a half an hour for a half session, some opt for a whole session. Some people use their little, we have like a little compass, we call it crystal, and you drop it on each point. And if it goes a certain way, it means that meridian’s off and you want to adjust it. If it goes a different way, then that Meridian is not blocked. So it’s basically a way of, you can call it, whether it’s opening your chakra or balancing a chakra. I like to say meridian points co’z some people think chakra were like [inaudible]. but I do a lot with crystals, so I call it meridian points so people aren’t as weirded out by it. And some people that talk about chakras, I’ll use the word chakra, but some people are just too weirded out by it. So I do use crystals. I charge them in the full moon, and I do a lot with them. I do a lot of intention setting or burn ball sessions, burning all the negativity. A little paper and you burn it, you put it into a bowl and you get rid of it that way and try to set positive intentions. Doesn’t necessarily go with, you know, they can go hand in hand with the Reiki session, they don’t have to. And I learned all this from my friend, Amanda, who I do yoga with and who brought me into the Reiki world, and the shopper world, and the crystal world. And I’m very thankful for that. She really got me back into yoga. I kind of slipped for a while and she got me back into it. So I’m very thankful for her.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. And can you do Reiki on yourself?

Elizabeth Sans: You can. You can — yourself and you can also do distant Reiki, although I haven’t done that yet. You can take a teddy bear or a doll and you can practice distant Reiki on a person. So for example, if you weren’t feeling well, I could take a teddy bear and could do distant Reiki on you.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. Co’z I have a friend who’s, I don’t think he calls himself a Reiki practitioner, but he does that, yeah. So you got a migraine, and from the other side of France he’ll say, well, lie down, and blah, blah, blah. And then half an hour later, your migraines disappeared or something like that. I didn’t realize it was, you use a doll, a teddy bear or something like that to actually do those, to practice those.

Elizabeth Sans: — because they’re softer, although a doll does make a person better. If you have a doll that has actual features, these old fashioned dolls, they’re good to have because they have actual features like a person.

Imi Barneaud: Wow. That’s really exciting, and that’s a great way. So can people expect to have a Reiki session with you if they go on a Dryft retreat, or Spot-M retreat?

Elizabeth Sans: They can. Right now, I’m not doing it because of social distancing. I can do distance, and I can do it by a Zoom. I haven’t done that yet though, but I have been doing yoga via Zoom.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. Excellent. I guess we’re about to park the bus in terms of the podcast and I’m so fortunate to have this conversation with you, it’s been really inspiring. And to think that you’ve done so many things in your life and with all this enthusiasm, it’s just so uplifting. I’m sure the listeners will love this episode too, because —

Elizabeth Sans: I hope so.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. I just wanted to know what your next set of projects for the next six months.

Elizabeth Sans: I’ve always been kind of like, if you want to do it, just do it. If you want something, just go for it. And it’s okay to fail as long as you try. Because you’re not really failing, you went for it. It may not have worked, but the next thing will work. I’ve always been like, just go for it. Nothing is ever, I mean, obviously, as long as it’s legal. But for the next six months, I am going to try to do as many homegrown things that I can do because we can’t travel. I mean, as Americans, we’re not even allowed to go to Europe. I’m not sure if we’re going to be allowed in Morocco. We do have some clients scheduled to go to Morocco, but I don’t know if that’s going to actually happen because those of us coming from America might not be allowed in, that’s number one. Number two, Americans from New York will not have their global entry status because of a deal the president made so a lot of New Yorkers don’t want to travel because of that. Coming back in, they’ll have to go, you know, instead of coming right in and punching a few buttons on the machine, we’ll have to stand in line through customs for hours so a lot of people are turned off by that. It’s just kind of a wait and see in terms of the travel business. I know for Liv, right now in Vancouver or intended as a whole, she can’t leave the country and then come back, and it’s just a quarantine, that won’t work for her because of her two boys. So I don’t know what in terms of travel is going to happen. I know I can continue selling boards, I can continue teaching yoga, I can continue planning for what I might do once all this travel is lifted. All we can do is make plans so that when the travel ban is lifted, we can hit the ground running.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Excellent. Excellent. So could you remind us how to get hold of you online.

Elizabeth Sans: We are dryftadventures.com, dryft to the Y, D-R-Y, adventures.com. My Instagram handle is @dryftwatersports and @mamaliz644, or you can follow, if you’re in Long Island in Westhampton Beach or around, you can see the little Dryft mobile, or you can see the green mini with the British flags, it’s the only one. Or find me on Instagram and tell me if you’re interested in a trip. Or you can look for spotm1, spotm_1, on spom1 on Instagram as well, or spotm.com, you can find us there. Shoot us a message, shoot me an email, you know, be happy to talk to.

Imi Barneaud: Perfect. Well, we’ll put all these details in the show notes of the episode so people can actually look you up just by clicking on a button, that’ll all be in the whole package of the episode. So thank you, Liz. Thank you for ever so much, it was wonderful. Thank you.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. I must say that Mama Liz’s energy is contagious and I felt so uplifted after having this exchange. I hope you did too. It also goes to show that nothing’s stopping you from achieving your goals. From setting up surf businesses to teaching yourself to repair cars or becoming a Reiki therapist. It reminds me of my conversation with James Victore in episode 23… you just have to start. I guess these troubled times perhaps this is the perfect moment to sort out your priorities and change direction?

This conversation today wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Liv Hung, one of my guests from last year (episode 29) who connected me with Liz. I urge you to check out her episode and check out her uber cool retreats in Canada that she runs with her wellness business Noorish Tofino.

So, as soon as you can travel, look up Liz’s amazing Surf destinations and book a trip with Spot M in Morocco or talk to Dryft Watersports. If you’re in the NY area, go and take a trip to the beaches and you might spot Elizabeth’s convertible beetle or green mini with a bunch of surfboards sticking out the back.

All the references, websites and social media deets will be on the show notes that you can read on your phone or on https://theoceanriderspodcast.com.

If you enjoyed this episode and you like the content, please rate the podcast or share it with a friend. This helps me reach more people and share these priceless nuggets of inspiration with others. Don’t hesitate to check out my website https://theoceanriderspodcast.com as you’ll find all the back catalogue of timeless conversations with some super inspiring humans. If you would like to support me, you can also check out my merch on theoceanridersshop.com where you’ll find quality organic apparel in super soft material with some great designs.

My name is Imi Barneaud and I am a surfer, a mum and an entrepreneur. My podcast is a series of weekly conversations with surfers about careers.

My name is Imi Barneaud and I am a surfer, a mum and an entrepreneur. My podcast is a series of weekly conversations with surfers about careers.