21st Dec 2016 - Escape
Forever Summer: The Soul & Surf Story
The story of Soul & Surf is the sort of tale that many people daydream about calling their own. In 2009 Ed and Sofie Templeton quit their comfortable lives and good jobs in Brighton (Ed ran a successful design company) and set off around the world on a sun-drenched surf and yoga adventure in search of something new. That “new” became Soul & Surf, a unique surf and yoga destination with locations in India and Sri Lanka. We’ve known the folks at Soul & Surf for a while now, so thought it high time we share their story.
When you made the leap seven years ago, where did you visit and what were your criteria for where you wanted to visit, and eventually settle?
We spent a year on the road with an ‘anything is possible’ mind-set in terms if where we might end up living or what we might end up doing for the rest of our lives. Every place we visited we tried to look for somewhere to live, something to buy or sell, something to write about, something to photograph… with a view that any of those things might become our future way of living. There was no fixed outcome or view, other than we had to find or do something as we’d left it all behind back home.
We were looking for a combination of surf, time and space for yoga and/or meditation with a bit of off-the-beaten path travel thrown in and all on a £10 a day kind of budget.
We began in a camper van from the UK through France, Spain and Portugal for a few months then drove back to the UK, ditched the van on my folks drive and the next day flew to India and hugged the coast from Goa down to Kerala looking for surf, ending up for a couple of months in Varkala, Kerala where Sofie did a yoga teacher training course and I went off and did a mental meditation retreat and then on to Bali and Lombok. We then popped over to Queensland to visit family, then on to Tonga for a money-draining week before flying on to Nicaragua, spending a few months between there, El Salvador and Guatemala before coming back to England.
What was it that made you cast off the bow-lines and leave “it” all behind?
A growing discontent with the UK media lifestyle of consistently; unachievable deadlines, shrinking budgets, increasing demands and reducing loyalty. My graphic design company was growing, winning awards, gaining our ‘target’ clients and doing great work but the buzz I’d had in the first 10 years of building the business was gone. I asked myself if I wanted to still be in this business in another 10 years and the answer was “no”. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do anything else, which kept me in graphic design for a few years longer than I should have been, but the death of a good friend and a fairly serious back injury reminded me how short our time is here and that the time for action is ‘now’.
Can you tell us why you chose Kerala as the location for Soul & Surf?
We chose Varkala, Kerala for Soul & Surf because I surfed there every day for 2 months and almost never saw another surfer. The waves were good enough for me and a bit of exploration gave up a great little left point break that I was quite possibly the first person to surf. Everywhere else we went the surf was probably better but there were hundreds of surf camps and thousands of surfers already, so as Soul & Surf was only ever intended as a way to spend a winter or two somewhere exotic and cheap whilst I worked on a couple of internet business ideas which were intended to be the income providers, we decided to take a risk and open somewhere where there wasn’t already a surf industry with the benefit of a lack of competition.
Soul & Surf isn’t quite a surf camp, and it’s not really a yoga retreat. Have you purposefully avoided being pigeon-holed? How would you describe what Soul & Surf offers?
Yes, we’re trying to make something that we would want to go to. And I don’t really get the bunk-bed surf camp macho-culture thing where it’s just surf, surf, surf. I love surf but I want to talk about more than just surf. I’ve been to a surf camp once and I got bored pretty quickly. We wanted to create a space that we’d like to hang out in, to meet people that we’d like to get to know and to talk about much more than surf. And we’re not serious or worthy enough to call what we do a retreat either.
We see the surf, the yoga, the meditation, the therapies and the location as the catalyst that draws like-minded people to us, both guests and staff, and then the really special thing that happens is the creation of these brilliant, inspirational little temporary communities.
From what do you draw your inspiration?
From progressive, conscious, alternative businesses from all sorts of genres. Companies that prove that caring for more than just profit can actually make a really successful business. Obvious names to mention are Patagonia, the companies David Hieatt has created, Finisterre and the like but I’m also influenced by companies like Southwest Airlines and Buurtzorg which are pretty straight businesses that dare to think differently in terms of structure, leadership and ownership.
What does a typical “day in the life” entail for you?
It begins with a dawn surf then home to spend breakfast with my boy Kit, before working on the business, talking to our managers, marketing ideas, boring business admin and finance stuff mixed in with solving crazy problems that only India and Sri Lanka can dream up. Then either an early evening surf or yoga class, an early dinner with the family and a really early night!
With locations in India and Sri Lanka, family in the UK and Soul&Surf pop-ups in various other locations, international travel is a fact of life. Where are your favourite places to visit, and why?
That’s such a tough question, in terms of travel my favourite places to visit are the one’s I’ve not been to yet. I spend a lot of time travelling regularly between Brighton, Kerala, Sri Lanka, Portugal and Cornwall but it doesn’t seem like ‘travel’ as they all feel like home to some degree. The places I’m excited to visit next are Peru, the Mentawaiis, California, the Galapagos islands and Madeira, to name a few.
Living and working in the developing world, what do you see as the biggest challenge for the marine environment?
Unchecked corporate pollution from the industrial cities in combination with a general lack of local care for the coastal environment is worrying. The beach and near-shore in both India and Sri Lanka have traditionally served as the local dump, although we have seen local attitudes shift enormously in the last few years. There’s also a huge over-fishing problem in Kerala.
What does the ocean mean to you?
To find out more about how you can join Soul & Surf in India, Sri Lanka and beyond for warm water waves and relaxing yoga alongside likeminded folk, check out their website.