Well Q&A: Responsible Travel with Bodhi Surf + Yoga

Last updated March 21, 2024

During a Transformational Travel Council training program I enrolled in for Transformational Travel Design, I attended a talk on responsible travel given by Travis Bays, founder of Bodhi Surf +Yoga.  

The moment the talk ended I knew that I had to meet Travis and experience what he and his wife, Pilar Salazar, had created by pairing yoga and surfing in a retreat setting on the west coast of Costa Rica.  

His vision of responsible travel as a “force for good” motivated me more than anything else I’ve heard “travel-wise” in a very long time. His vision is one I believe tourism must embrace if we are to have a healthy planet along with healthy bodies and minds.

Read on to learn more about this very inspiring place.


Sallie: Travis, what exactly does it mean to be an “ecopreneur?”

Travis:  For me, being an “ecopreneur” is a connection of the heart and mind with my heart connected to Mother Ocean and my mind connected to providing for my family and community. 

It is an answer to the question: How can I provide for my family/community in a meaningful heartfelt way? The answer is providing for my family/community all the while taking care of Mother Ocean. And the tool is Bodhi Surf + Yoga

Ecopreneurs are entrepreneurs whose business efforts are not only driven by profit, but also by a concern for the environment. Ecopreneurship, also known as environmental entrepreneurship and eco-capitalism, is becoming more widespread as a new market-based approach to identifying opportunities for improving environmental quality and capitalizing upon them in the private sector for profit.

Gwyn Schuyler, author of the book Merging Economic and Environmental Concerns Through Ecopreneurship

Sallie: How did surfing come into your life?

Travis: I was born and raised in San Diego, California. I started playing in Mother Ocean when I was two years old. 

At the age of six, I started boogie boarding and at twelve was introduced to surfing on a surfboard. From 13 to 18, surfing was an escape and from 18 to 24, surfing was all about ego. 

Surfing became a more spiritual practice when I was 25, an energy transfer from wind to water. Surfing is now a healthy medicine that keeps me present and humble.

Sallie: I love that the mission of Bodhi Surf + Yoga is to promote responsible travel and embrace the concept of community. Can you tell us how you do this?

Travis: Bodhi Surf + Yoga is built on an ethos of social and environmental responsibility, an aspiration that our business can be the tool with which we forge a better world for ourselves, for each other and for future generations. 

Our mission statement is “Educating, inspiring and empowering our stakeholders to live more sustainably through surfing, yoga, nature immersion and community engagement.” 

How do we achieve all of this? We use tools like the B Impact Assessment to keep us on track.

Sallie: Why did you decide to pair surfing with yoga?

Travis: It is a natural fit for us, being that my wife, Pilar, has been practicing yoga for 20+ years and I’ve been surfing for just about the same amount of time. 

More importantly, the two activities complement each other. We intuitively feel people learn better, their bodies are more relaxed and their minds more open. 

We knew that if we could ensure that guests participated in five surf lessons and five yoga classes, we would be able to have the time and opportunity to really teach them, help them to build a strong foundation, and impart the many valuable lessons to be learned both on the mat and in the ocean.

There isn’t much in life, physical or mental, that yoga doesn’t enhance. 

For one thing, it has amazing physical and physiological benefits, with practitioners seeing an increase in strength, flexibility, stamina and balance. Even more valuable are the mental and spiritual benefits. 

The true, ancient yoga practice was actually much more mental than physical and highlighted a great many “golden rules” in such a way that was more about self-reflection than self-reproach.

And there are many lessons to be learned in nature. The ocean itself is a veritable classroom when it comes to aggregating knowledge. 

Since the process of learning to surf has everything to do with being in the ocean, harnessing its power and learning to let go, its lessons translate greatly to life. 

There are several benefits that relate directly to your yoga practice (which is actually designed to be more mental than physical). Most relate to the fact that surfing is the perfect place to put what you’ve learned on the mat into action in an uncontrollable environment.

Sallie: With all you have going on, how often do you actually surf?

Travis: I surf every day, in my mind, heart and spirit… ha ha ha!

If we define surfing as, “the sport or pastime of riding a wave toward the shore,” then I do it almost daily. Whether I’m teaching lessons or surfing on a surfboard, I always try to catch a few waves. 

Sometimes we forget that bodysurfing—floating on the crest of incoming waves without using a board—is surfing, too. As a matter of fact, we have developed one of the only—if not the only—body surfing retreats in the world! 

Sallie: There are so many aspects of Bodhi Surf + Yoga that are impressive, especially the fact that you are a “Best for the World” B Corporation. Please tell us more about this.


Travis: Details are important here. We aren’t BEST IN THE WORLD. We are BEST FOR THE WORLD. 

The Best for the World honorees are Certified B Corporation companies whose scores in one or more of the five impact areas assessed toward the certification reach the top 5% of all B Corps worldwide. 

We have been honored Best for the World: Community in 2018, 2019 and 2021. The year 2020 was omitted due to the pandemic. Our business model is designed to give and we have consistently invested 5% or more of our gross revenue in community (cash, in-kind, service hours). 

We firmly believe investing in community, whether it is your local or global community, is a win-win strategy. 

Sallie: I understand part of your surfing philosophy is “smile while you paddle.” Can you explain what this means and why it matters?

Travis: Ha! Smile while you paddle. What can I say? Well, some surfers describe surfing as 70% paddling, 20% making mistakes and 10% actually riding the wave. 

Paddling makes up most of your surfing experience and it is the most challenging aspect of surfing. So if the majority of your surfing experience is going to be a challenge, you better learn how to enjoy that experience. You better learn to “smile while you paddle.”

Smiling while you paddle also helps you surf better!

And I’m not just making this stuff up. Science supports the health benefits of smiling. When we smile, we release cortisol and endorphins that provide numerous health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, increased endurance, reduced pain, reduced stress and a strengthened immune system.

Most newbie surfers are stressed out when they paddle for the wave. There is so much going on; they frown, scowl, clench their teeth and all that sends stress signals to the brain and body which doesn’t allow them to enter their flow state—​​the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

I like to look at life as a long paddle out. It is a long hard challenge, with tons of opportunities to score the 10% moments of stoke. 

The “smile while you paddle” philosophy suggests that you’re gonna be better off facing your challenges with a smile and thus enter into a flow state more frequently and thus have more enjoyment in the process of the activity of life!

Sallie: Tell us more about what you envision for Bodhi Surf + Yoga in the next year or two?


Travis: Well, one thing is that we are going to be sold out. Or I’d like to see us be sold out! 

We’ve seen an uptick in reservations for 2022 and people need to share meaningful experiences. They need a safe space to be authentic, a challenge in a healthy way, a connection to people and a place to become the best versions of themselves, so THEY CAN BE BEST FOR THE WORLD!

And if we are sold out or people can’t make the journey, we’ve worked on making the teachings and lessons of Bodhi Surf + Yoga more accessible via our online membership program, a virtual library of well-being.

A unique opportunity for me to come back and ground myself, and understand for myself what I really enjoy and what really makes me happy.

Returning guest

Additionally, I’d like to see Bodhi Surf + Yoga become the exemplar for other surf and yoga retreats/camps: to build and share best practices, innovate with others in the same space and help shift the surf school/ surf + yoga camps/retreats in a more positive direction. 

We will continue to improve our B Impact Assessment, co-lead the B travel and tourism group, sponsor the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), serve as ambassadors for the Transformational Travel Council, keep our commitment to 1% for the Planet and to SOMOS, the local community foundation—and, of course, keep smiling while we paddle.

And we will be publicly launching a documentary, The Bodhi Wave, along with study guides for university and high school students so the film can be used as a tool to complement our mission statement.

About Travis Bays


Travis is the co-founder and ecopreneur of
the award-winning B Corp Certified Bodhi
Surf + Yoga camp in Costa Rica. 

Travis is known as the connector and the “ideas guy,” always dreaming up new projects to take on, finding ways to connect (or connect with) individuals and movements, and looking for ways to improve himself and everything around him. 

A former Peace Corp Costa Rica volunteer who spent his two service years in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica, Travis feels privileged to have been able to start a social and environmental impact business in the community that stole his heart and affected his life so positively. 

Travis is also a consultant for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, co-founder of SOMOS community foundation and the Central American Ambassador for the Transformational Travel Council. 

He is a committed husband and father, ardent surfer and ocean lover, and enjoys incorporating his passions into his wide array of roles at Bodhi Surf + Yoga.

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