If you surf you belong to a fellowship that defines part of who you are. In Dana Brown’s documentary Step into Liquid, Kelly Slater, the undisputed King of the sport states, “Once you’re a surfer you’re done. You’re in. It’s like the mob or something. You’re not getting out.” What he’s saying is that it’s more than a sport, it’s a passion, a way of life that grabs hold of you and won’t let go. My current lifestyle is a testament to how my own surfing baptismal in the waters off Costa Rica 12 years ago was as life changing as marrying into the Corleone family.
The longer I surf, the more it also becomes apparent that the surfing world is tiny. Case in point, how I landed the opportunity to work on the Maui Jim Women’s Adventure Series.
It was late last summer when I pulled up to Mysto Surf Spot #9 on my ATV with Peanut on board. There was a young blond woman sitting under the shade of a palapa watching the waves and the people riding them. She turned and regarded us with curiosity. The rig in all its surf gear-laden glory and Peanut’s charisma made an impression. We struck up a conversation and quickly discovered that we had some friends in common…one an iconic figure who was featured in the sequel to the surfing world’s most iconic movie, another the daughter of the director of those iconic films (feel free to speculate on who I’m talking about in the comments section below). I was the one doing the name dropping and in what I would learn is her usual humble nature, Mary gave me no indication of her surfing world status. Heck she didn’t even tell me her last name. The words “professional surfer,” “longboard champion,” “Patagonia ambassador,” “Ambassador for the United Nations Environmental Safe Campaign and the 5 Gyres Institute,” “MTV’s reality show Surf Girls,” “Maui Jim team rider” never left her mouth. I figured she was just some average California surfer chick looking for some warm water surf. Ha!
Before I left the beach that day she was inviting me to crash at her place in Ventura, California on a trip I planned to make there. A few Facebook conversations, a massive ah ha moment when I realized who I’d had the pleasure of meeting and a couple of months later, I arrived on the Central Californian Coast. I was shocked and pleased in equal measure when Mary actually responded enthusiastically to my emails asking if we were still on for some Ventura adventures.
I met her on the Solymar beach where a crew was filming some of the footage for Maui Jim’s promo of the Women’s Adventure Series that I posted in my previous blog. Watching Mary work provided additional insight into this woman’s patience and professionalism. She remained stoic and uncomplaining as she slowly froze in the fading light of an increasingly chilly November day. I got chilled in long pants and down vest just watching her try to stay warm in her board shorts and tank top. Watch the video again and see if you can tell her teeth were chattering between takes. Like I said, the woman is a professional.
Over the next couple of days she was a great hostess showing me sights like the surf break at C-Street and the Patagonia flagship store – and making sure I got to sample some of the wonderful organic produce and wine grown in the area. We didn’t manage to surf that trip, but what I came to learn over the course of those few days is that Mary is the definition of the aloha spirit – warm, welcoming, generous – and a very hard-working business woman. So you can imagine how enthusiastic I was when she casually mentioned that perhaps I could join her in teaching on a series of surf and yoga retreats. Yeah, I got pretty excited. 😉
It’s been a dream of mine ever since learning to surf to share the stoke with which it infuses me with others. In 2006, I took my niece out in the placid waters of Nine Palms and although we had to abort the mission due to an unforeseen bout of motion sickness that ended with her chumming the water, she has since gone on to hone her skills in the waters off Ecuador, Peru and British Columbia. The following summer I coached her mother, my oldest sister, into her first wave. The excitement on my sister’s face as she paddled back out to me after catching that wave was beyond rewarding. So it is with great excitement and a sense of deep privilege that I thank Mary Osborne for this opportunity to share my love of the sport with other amazing women during the Maui Jim Women’s Adventure Series retreats. So what’s holding you back? Come and share the stoke!