Hawai'i Surf Retreat
I have come to a point in my life where I cannot comprehend what series of events lead to me becoming so lucky. Sea Together, a non-profit magazine filled with content solely focused on women who surf, was built by my friend Brianna. Sea Together successfully funded Issue 001 on Kickstarter, blasting past the $7,500 goal that allowed Bri to take the magazine to print. I have had the privilege of supporting the magazine through the donation of my time as a video editor, photographer and active community member.
In December 2018, I received a text from Bri asking for my help with a project. Sea Together, in collaboration with Ninety Collective, was planning a surf and wellness retreat in Hawai’i. Bri asked if I would be willing to come and photograph the week long adventure. The only obvious answer was, “Absolutely!”.
Three months later I was on a plane from Portland to the island of O’ahu.
Landing in Honolulu, I met up with Bri and three other women, April, Emma and Emily. The group packed in surfboards and luggage into the bed of 4x4 Toyota Tacoma. Excitement buzzed around the interior of the truck. Everyone was in love with the scenery we passed. The drive was longer than I had anticipated, and soon it got a lot bumpier too. The retreat’s lodging was in an off the grid housing compound on the North Shore. Pavement gave way to dirt. Before we knew it, the Tacoma was traversing rivers. Water splashed the windshield much to the enjoyment of everyone inside. I couldn’t help but think of my camera equipment in the truck bed.
After some… exuberant driving, we pulled into our housing compound. A beautiful tree surrounded by shipping containers converted to housing units lay before us. Mountains towered overhead in every direction. It was at this point that I started questioning what I had done to deserve this opportunity. I walked to my private sleeping quarters near a river. The patio provided a view to the water 15 feet below. I felt alone in paradise with the sound of water drowning everything outside of my quarters. A battery powered by a solar panel provided electricity to the lighting system. An outdoor shower, surrounded by bamboo, refreshed my traveled body using reclaimed water that ran down the mountain faces. It doesn’t get any better.
Over the course of the day, the other retreaters joined us. Nine women and myself filled the compound. That evening was spent talking and telling stories over delicious bowls of fresh poke.
I woke early the next morning. My body had not yet adjusted to the three hour time change. I set up a few time-lapse cameras to capture the sunrise. Eventually everyone else woke up for a morning Yoga session. The sun’s light gently pressed into the valley creating a majestic view. After breakfast, we packed the trucks and headed out to our first surf on the North Shore.
We were all greeted by an empty beach and beautiful crystal clear water. As the girls waxed their boards, I went to find a shady spot to set up my camera. With everyone in the water, I had my hands full trying to keep track of everyone through my viewfinder. No matter where I looked though, a smile greeted me. I could tell how much fun they were all having in the water. A few hours later, everyone came in happy, exhausted and hungry. This was the first of seven sessions we would enjoy throughout the week.
The day-to-day routine began. Sleep, eat, surf, repeat. There was still plenty of time for other adventures in between. Hiking for example. Everyone trekked up a trail so surrounded by green there was no way it could be real. Along the way we passed unbelievable plants like the banyan tree whose roots reach down from the sky creating a surreal image. Halfway through the hike, at the first view point, someone spotted a whale mother with her calf leaping from the water creating a white freckles on the oceans blue surface. At the summit there was a pillbox covered in graffiti, inside and out. Everyone sat and looked down at the ocean stretching out to the edges of our vision as the sun began to set.
Not wanting to miss the opportunity to see the mythical green flash of light as the sunset passes under the horizon, we raced down the hill arriving just in time. No camera was in front of my face for that experience, and I’m so thankful for it. A cold beer was in my hands and good friends surrounded me. I couldn’t ask for more.
I don’t know how a day could be better spent. Not to mention an entire week. There is no word to describe these women other than: incredible. Each one of them filled me with confidence that the future of surfing is female. The support I saw them share with one another was amazing. In the water, they would share waves and cheer each other on. Pure joy showed in each car ride as we sang every lyric to I Want It That Way by The Backstreet Boys. I am so thankful to have met each and every one of them.
Sea Together just successfully funded their second issue. It goes to print at the end of the month. If you’d like to learn more, click here.