It’s the Maui Surfer Girls’ mission to empower girls and women through surfing. As an instructor, it’s one of the most gratifying parts of our job to witness the full spectrum of joy, confidence, and healing that catching a wave can bring into the lives of our students. Just recently, Kelly and myself had the privilege of teaching a very brave and tenacious student who took a week of surf lessons from us after winning her fight against breast cancer. Since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, I asked our student, Nancy, if she’d share her inspiring story with our MSG community. Here’s what she had to share:
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a fact that registered dimly at the edge of my awareness last year, but this year, was front and center in my mind. Because this year, October was also the month I chose to celebrate the end of my 9-month long battle with breast cancer. My diagnosis in mid-January was followed by a bilateral mastectomy, 5 months of chemotherapy, and 6 weeks of daily radiation treatments. There were sleepless nights, lengthy tests and procedures where I had to lie still, and many days when I felt too tired and ill to do anything but lie in bed and pet my dog. One of the things that got me through all of the misery was daydreaming about surfing. I grew up in southwest Florida where waves of any kind were rare, and I never had any formal instruction in surfing, but somehow I managed to catch a few – enough to know the thrill of being propelled across the face of a wave by the mighty and mysterious ocean. Its hold on me was strong. After 25 years of living in cold, landlocked places and enjoying other kinds of recreation, this was where my mind went. I resolved that when I was well enough, I would surf again.
So when that time came, I looked for a surfing school that would help me make that daydream a reality. I did quite a bit of research, because I wanted sound instruction, guidance to appropriate spots and waves, and especially, instructors who would meet me where I was, skill-wise, and take me further – yet gently. When I found Maui Surfer Girls on the web, everything clicked: a founder who was an outstanding surfer yet made it her mission to introduce young girls to the sport and had a surfing dog would surely have excellent, understanding instructors! I booked 4 days of private lessons and airline reservations for Maui. Of course, I was still a bit nervous about how things would be in reality.
That all washed away in the warm Pacific during the first minutes of my surfing lesson with Kelly. She was amazing – taught me the basics in a quick land lesson, made sure I understood by having me demonstrate, answered all of my questions, and out we went into waves that were just right for my skill level. Dustin had already picked a perfect board for me. In the water, Kelly continued to be wonderful: she guided us to the right spot to catch waves, coached and encouraged me, and trouble-shooted my mistakes without ever making me feel embarrassed. In between sets, she shared knowledge about surf spots, technique, and etiquette – not to mention facts about Hawaiian culture, which she’s studied, and about places to visit on Maui. Thanks to her, I had some wonderful rides, and I also had the good fortune to occasionally watch her surf – gracefully demonstrating all the things she’d taught me. That awesome day was repeated three more times – except on two of those, I also got to surf with Dustin and Luna, her amazing surfing dog. She too was incredibly knowledgeable and supportive, and it was total fun in the water with Luna. I thanked her for her vision and hard work in establishing Maui Surfer Girls and told her the truth: that she and Kelly had made my dream a reality. What a wonderfully healing, empowering way to celebrate my recovery!
Mahalo, Maui Surfer Girls!
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Nancy! And for showing us how to be a graceful and courageous surfer in and out of the water!