“When you are waiting for a wave your mind can think a thousand different things. when you paddle for a wave your mind thinks of only a few things. when you catch a wave your mind thinks of only one thing, that one thing is joy. This is why I surf.” – Tony Collins, Sports Author
I’m often asked why I do what I do. Why do I spend so much time and energy promoting this idea of “surfers giving back”? Why chose to work for a non-profit in this season of my life instead of pursuing a career and wealth? We at STN each have our reasons, but for me, the latest Freedom Surf Camp reminded me of part of the motivation to live the life I do.
There is nothing more satisfying in the world than watching my surfers stand up on a board for the first time. Seeing the joy spread across their faces and hearing their laughter echoing through Ali’i Beach Park. Their stoke infects every piece of my heart and I can’t help but throw my head back and let out a victory cry. Seeing their confidence grow and them not only become a better surfer but also learn the value of giving back – makes every second of hard work completely worth it.
This spring, I had the honor of leading The Whales, a group of kids ages 11 to 15, at the Freedom Surf Camp. We had an absolute blast.
Cavon, one of the boys in my group, had looked in the mirror earlier that morning and pointed at himself and said, “You’re going to catch a wave today.” Within 10 minutes of him getting in the water that day, he stood up for the first time. (Side note: this was Cavon’s fourth Freedom Surf Camp – so this has been a long time in the making). Cries erupted from everyone on water and land. He came back with the biggest grin on his face. My heart swelled inside my chest. Years of hard work, years of never giving up, years of telling himself he could do it all came to pass that day. His hard work, tenacity, and grit paid off. That victory nobody can ever take away from him. He learned that day that he can and will do anything he sets his mind to, there is no limit. As we grow up we seem to forget that, we lose sight of the endless possibilities, we put our dreams in a box and are too scared to take those leaps of faith. We are scared to fail and get frustrated if we don’t see progress quickly. Cavon for two years never gave up, he came back countless surf camps and always put his whole heart and soul into it. The lessons he learnt in the water, he will take with him outside of the water. He learned that day to dream, and never give up.
Another girl in my group Abby hadn’t stood up yet and the Surf Camp was coming to a close. The horn sounded three times, signifying that their final surf session of the whole camp was finished. The surf coaches looked around, looked at each other and all simultaneously agreed that they were going to push Abby into one more wave. She paddled back out and got into position. The wave came and her coach pushed her into it. She at first shakily got to her knees, I watched the determination flash across her face, then she repositioned herself and fully stood up. Her face was a mixture of shock, excitement, and concentration as she rode the wave into shore. Matthew and Daniel, two of her surf instructors were running around the beach, losing their minds. They were stoked. It was amazing watching Abby transform from day one: a shy wallflower to the final day: a goofy, sassy, spunky girl who couldn’t contain her excitement about finally catching a wave.
Watching not only the kids get stoked, but also the surf instructors, the random strangers and the proud mamas and papas on the beach – those are the moments I love. Watching these kids gain confidence, encourage one another and learn that it’s okay to fail is an invaluable lesson. Being a part of these kids experiencing their first wave or their thousandth, it never gets old. There is an unexplainable joy and freedom in surfing. It’s unpredictable, it’s messy, it’s hard, yet unbelievably satisfying – only a surfer knows the feeling.
This is why I love the Freedom Surf Camp.