What a great weekend! Three days on the water with a great group of badass women. I love this event for many reasons. One, it takes place on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen, Hobuck Beach on the Makah Reservation at the tip of the northwest corner of Washington State. Two, it attracts quality both with regard to instructors and students. And three, I learn stuff and it’s hella fun!
Everyone contributes, everyone shares, and everyone approaches the weekend with enthusiasm and joy. It rains, who cares? It’s a red tide, who cares? (Well, we care but there’s nothing we can do about it so onward and upward.) We get nervous and scared, who cares? We have too much food, who cares? A lot of gung ho women and no ego.
Day One: I arrived too late to go rock gardening but was able to catch the group that paddled to Pt. Anderson and landed on Shi Shi Beach returning through the surf. Took off my pants, tucked the shirt up into the bra, waded out into the waves in my underwear and got some pics. Yep. It was fun to welcome the grrls after their 10 mile paddle. Instructor and Tsunami Ranger Captain Deb Volturno took a smaller group of late comers to Waadah Island outside of Neah Bay. Both groups saw a lot of action.
That evening we gathered for dinner at Linda’s in Neah Bay. A few people ordered the bomb wood-fired pizza but most of us chose the featured coho salmon. Yum. We welcomed old friends and met new ones and made plans for the next day. I slept like a stone in the back of the truck listening to the not so soft sound of waves anticipating a brave day.
Day Two: Weatherwise, Saturday was better than I had expected. The rain held off most of the day, with light showers from time to time and patches of sun. The air and water were warm which was nice, although the miso-colored water was a bit weird. The waves were two to three feet with an occasional four footer rolling in, and pretty nicely spaced. No wind to speak of, although it picked up in the afternoon as the storm approached.
As always we started the day in a group for the traditional Blessing of the Sea. Why do we bless the sea? As instructor Alison Reinbold said, “So it doesn’t kill us”. Right!
The sea is sentient and we play with it at our peril. It doesn’t really care about us but it does appreciate recognition. Traditional cultures know this and from the deeps of time have always offered a blessing before setting out on the waves. It’s called Respect.
We divided into three groups: beginners at the north end, intermediates in the middle, and short boats on the south. The night before we had all been asked what we wanted to work on as far as skills, and the instructors divided us accordingly. I was in the intermediate group, and the first thing on the agenda was to talk about conditions, hazards, and the Plan for the day.
It was awesome! Before lunch I spent most of the time in the water taking photos. I love being up to my neck in surf, doing my best to keep my feet while trying to get shots of people surfing. It’s a lot of work and next day my thighs were sore from bouncing up and down and bracing into the breaks but I’m getting better at timing and got some pretty good photos.
Then I went surfing. Fantastic! Waves big enough to give you some oomph but not enough to scare or crush you. I wiped out once or twice in my eagerness to catch a wave, any wave, but overall I was pleased with my performance.
There were plenty of wipe outs but that just shows we were all pushing ourselves and trying new things. As one instructor said, “Do something different!” We all know that if we keep doing the same thing we’ll keep getting the same result. If we want to improve we have to try new stuff.
That’s what happened with me. I was doing great on the waves but at the tail end of the ride I kept wiping out, flipping into the wave as I slid up the beach. After talking to instructors Melinda and Esther and student Jo Ann I figured out I had a timing issue.
I was riding the wave too long as well as bracing too long. When I let go of the ride (before getting into like two inches of water) I could turn out a lot easier. That meant letting go of the brace as well. If I did end up bracing I could ride it a bit, then take the paddle out of the water and turn before I hit sand. Duh!
I surfed for a while after lunch and then went into the soup and practiced that last part, setting up broadside, bracing, taking the paddle out, and turning back into the waves. It was so easy I laughed out loud. From then on I did pretty well and finished the day with a long smooth ride into the beach. Yay! This was actually an important lesson, to break the ride down into sections and work on just one part. And take the paddle out… Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest difference.
One of the coolest things about this day was how much better everyone got after lunch. Before we took a break, we debriefed. The students talked about their experience and the instructors offered feedback. Everyone had insights and said something useful. We had been doing pretty well to begin with, but the second half of the day was impressive. Students were catching waves and really shredding. Everyone noticed the improvement.
We ended the day with the Extraordinary Potluck that has become a joyful tradition of this event. So. Much. Good. Food. It was suggested that we do two potlucks next year, Friday and Saturday. We certainly had enough eats. Linda’s is great, but we have to drive into Neah Bay and such a large group is a bit of a challenge for such a small venue.
After the feast came one of my favorite parts of Surf Sirens. We gathered round and the instructors asked for feedback. Did we get what we wanted out of the day? What more (or less) would we like for future events? What could be done differently? It’s essentially a brainstorming session. We have a group of smart, creative, thoughtful women and everyone had something good to say. We talked about format, philosophy, and skills and came up with ideas for the future. It’s a true collaboration; everyone helps to evolve the event.
Day Three: Most of the women had to leave today, but some diehards remained to do movement warm ups with training knives (yep, we do a little shredding on land as well!) play in the surf with instructors to support, and make a few plans for next year. It was hard to leave the camaraderie but after leading the warm ups, watching some surf play, and chatting a bit I headed out as well. It’s a two-day journey home for me and there’s always next year!
I can’t say enough good things about Surf Sirens. Every year is a bit different and it’s clearly going in a great direction. Surf Sirens will never get stale. Props to instructors Jameson Riser, Alison Reinbold, Melinda Moree, Barbara Gronseth, Esther Ladwig, and Deb Volturno. You guys ROCK! And thanks as well to all the new and returning students. You are a joy to know and to hang with. I am blessed to call these people part of my sea tribe and I am devoutly grateful that life has given me the opportunity to participate in these gatherings.
Our next gathering will be on September 18 – 20, 2020. For more information about Surf Sirens, please contact me, Nancy Soares at email@example.com
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