Surfs up for lesbian surfers at South America’s first-ever Lesbian Surf Camp in Praia do Rosa, Brazil

by Heather Cassell

In recent years travelers the world over have discovered the simple fishing town Praia do Rosa, simply called Rosa by locals.

Long a bastion of hippies and surfers, the resort town connected to Florianópolis, the capital of the island state of Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil, by one single road was simple. There are only two paved streets between the dirt and sand footpaths throughout the town surrounded by beautiful beaches.

It’s a “rosy beach,” the literal translation of the resort town, according to a New York Times, and it’s not because the sandy shores are a rosy pink. The resort town’s name comes from the color of a fisherman’s beach house, Dorvino Manoel da Rosa, one of the first to resettle the area in the 1970s. Electricity didn’t reach the island until the 1980s. It was a perfect hippy and surer haven and in more recent years a gem in the rough with a population of 20,000 in 2012.

Now transformation is everywhere – slow, but underway in Rosa.

Today, the resort town breathes the essence of casual sophistication and ultimate relaxation and outdoor adventure. Bars, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and open pousadas have sprung up along the main streets. The nightlife no longer consists of bonfires and guitars on the beach, but dancing until 3 or 4 a.m. Rosa is being transformed into the perfect setting for vacationers from Florianópolis to around the world that are escaping the crowded beaches of Brazil’s hottest destinations and flocking to its sandy shores. Somehow, the resort town is retaining its essence without being spoiled by the changes.

Music and the fresh sea breeze fill the air as waves lap at the coast at visitors’ feet.

It’s no wonder this beach town attracts not only the under-40 jet set crowd, but is also popular among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travelers and surfers alike.

It is a perfect location for South America’s first-ever lesbian surf camp May 9 – 16.

A guest of Brazil Ecojourneys surf camp rides an easy wave in Praia do Rosa, Brazil. (Photo: Courtesy of Brazil Ecojourneys)
A guest of Brazil Ecojourneys surf camp rides an easy wave in Praia do Rosa, Brazil. (Photo: Courtesy of Brazil Ecojourneys)

Gurl Curl

The weeklong Lesbian Surf Camp open to queer women and their friends is being produced by Brazil Ecojourneys.

The eco-adventure tour company was founded by Marta Dalla Chiesa, 48, and her business and life partner Lesley Cushing, 49, in 2003.

Marta, a native Brazilian, takes to the waves for fun and she is excited to introduce Rosa to lesbian surfers and their women friends.

“It is the best in Brazil,” says Marta responding to Girls That Roam’s question about how the surf is. “Lots of Brazilian pro-surfers come from here or train here.”

Pro-surfers? Don’t let that scare you. There’s plenty of room for amateurs, Marta says.

There are also plenty of things for non-surfing guests to do from outdoor activities, culinary, nightlife and spas.

However, this week is about surfing. Guests will enjoy a week of surfing, yoga, swimming with dolphins, and learning how to make Brazilian cocktails Caipirinha and Sundowners.

The week starts off with a welcome dinner and a tour of Florianopolis’ LGBTQ nightlife followed by a day where guests will freely roam the beaches and island.

Pousada Casa do Ceo (Photo: Gilson Wie Photography)
Pousada Casa do Ceo
(Photo: Gilson Wie Photography)

The next day guests will travel to Rosa and check into the Pousada Casa do Ceo. (Estrada Geral da Praia do Rosa s/n, Praia do Rosa; 011-55-48-3355-6677; before heading out to the surf to learn about surfing and catch their first wave followed by an early evening yoga session. It’s all in preparation for the big Surfari on day three where they will be up early like a true surfer hunting for the best surf spots along the Southern Coast of Santa Catarina, stopping to catch a wave. If weather is good, guests will get a special treat hanging out with the famous Laguna Dolphins before heading to the small fishing village, Farol de Santa Marta, to experience really good surf.

It won’t be all surf and yoga, guests will have time to relax by the pool or on the beach as well as explore the laid-back resort town from dinning (Marta says there are quite a number of lesbian chefs in Rosa) to nightlife.

“There is a small scene for lesbians,” says Marta.

Up to 10 women have expressed interest in the camp as of last month, Marta tells Girls That Roam before Lesley and she depart on a U.S. tour.

The whole surfing adventure starts at $1,299 for a shared, but doesn’t include the flight and some meals. Space is limited at the surf camp to up to 20 guests max, says Marta. Booking for the surf camp closes at the end of March.

Marta Dalla Chiesa, second from the right, co-owner of Brazil Ecojourneys, with guests at LGBT Surf Camp in Praia do Rosa, Brazil. (Photo: Courtesy of Brazil Ecojourneys)
Marta Dalla Chiesa, second from the right, co-owner of Brazil Ecojourneys, with guests at LGBT Surf Camp in Praia do Rosa, Brazil. (Photo: Courtesy of Brazil Ecojourneys)

Rainbow Surfers

This is the third queer inspired surf camp Marta has hosted, but it’s the first time the surf camp is going to be all women, she tells Girls That Roam.

Two years ago Thomas Castets, founder of, approached her to produce the first-ever LGBT surf camp in Rosa.

Thomas was recently a subject of the award-winning documentary OUT in the line-up, about two gay surfers who make waves while catching them uncovering homophobia is surfing during a journey around the globe.

The surf camps were wildly successful with guests flying in from Argentina, Canada, and the U.S., but the problem was women were absent from the guest roster, says Marta, who realized that women seek women-only experiences.

Going Wild in Brazil

A leader in LGBT travel in Brazil, Marta and Lesley escaped London, where the couple, who has been together for 22 years since meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was living. Marta was working in the travel industry and Lesley was working in restoration of antique furniture. The couple needed a change and Marta’s family needed her so they decamped from the London fog for the sunnier shores of Brazil, she says.

Panoramic View of Praia do Rosa, Brazil (Photo: Courtesy of Brazil Ecojourneys)
Panoramic View of Praia do Rosa, Brazil
(Photo: Courtesy of Brazil Ecojourneys)

Years before Marta left Brazil for Britain to pursue her Ph.D. in Biochemistry, but abandoned science for a career in tourism, she says.

“I just love meeting people,” says Marta, who likes the unpredictability and the constant change leading tours offers … and “obviously traveling.”

When the couple, who speak English, Portuguese, and Spanish between them, returned to southern Brazil they discovered it was untapped and ripe for tourism. They set to work producing eco and adventure tours building Brazil Ecojourneys.

The company’s most popular tours are the eco-adventures into Pantanal and treks to Iguazu Falls.

A UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) site, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland area located mostly within the Mato Grosso do Sul state of Brazil, but the area also extends into Bolivia and Paraguay.

Iguazu Falls, also known as the Iguassu Falls, and translates into “big water” from the Tupi or Guarani language, according to the Brazil visitors website, is an equally impressive natural wonder that has given rise to South American lore and mythology. The falls are located on the Iguazu River between Argentina and the Parana state of Brazil.

To book your South American Lesbian Surf Camp experience or Brazil Ecojourneys adventures, contact Heather Cassell at Girls That Roam Travel at Travel Advisors of Los Gatos at 408-354-6531at or .