Surfing For Change

The summer is flying by! The past few months have been such a blast working for the Wahine Project, as a surf instructor and marine educator. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work here, among amazing staff members and campers that inspire me every day. As the weeks go by, I am seeing myself continue to grow as a surf instructor, educator, and as an individual. Not many people can say their office is the beach!!

In the beginning of the summer, I was learning the ropes of the camps, doing my best to help wherever I could, and gaining the confidence to give marine lessons to the campers. Now, I am giving weekly lessons to girls ages 6-17 on climate change & how it’s impacting our oceans, the importance of kelp forests, how climate change is impacting kelp forests, and about indigenous land acknowledgements. Each day is a different topic for the girls, not just environmental topics, but also mental & physical health, woman empowerment, LGBTQ+ representation in surfing, and period talk, where we talk to the girls about the environmental and health impacts of plastic tampons & pads, and sustainable alternatives! Something I wish I knew about when I was young!!). Many of the campers are already incredibly knowledgeable about these topics, and it is truly inspiring. For example, when we talked to the girls about mental health, a young girl told me she meditates every day before bed and her mom tells her to “feel your feelings” when she’s upset. So powerful!

One of my favorite topics with the girls is about self-love and how all bodies are beautiful, despite what society or social media is telling us. We always make sure to talk about the impact of social media, because they are living in the age of social media. A camper in middle school said something that really stuck with me during our talk about it; she told me she doesn’t have social media because there are studies linking social media use to anxiety and depression in youth. Working with these girls truly gives me hope for the future.

I look forward to going to work every day, where I am learning every day and doing my best to make an impact on the lives of the campers. I do my best to teach these girls about topics that I never learned about when I was young, and wish I did. Topics that NEED to be taught in schools! I also try to be a role model for these girls, to show them how a woman can take her love for the ocean and make it into a career. I always start my lessons explaining my graduate degree, about my passion in marine education, and my next journey doing research diving for the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center in Honduras. I want to show them that it’s possible to challenge the status quo and pave your path! Teach them to follow their own passion, no matter what.

I was able to build a special friendship with one of the campers, in which I will always hold close to my heart. On the second day of camp (each week is typically new campers), she arrived at camp with a paper she had written about plastic pollution in the ocean and climate change. She researched this on her own, and told me she wants to be a marine biologist when she gets older. After our lesson on climate change that day, she read her paper out loud to the camp! All of the campers were so intently listening; my heart was full. On the last day of camp, she brought in the book The Line Tender, her favorite book her dad used to read to her. She wanted me to have it and read before I went to Honduras. I was almost brought to tears. She wrote a note in the book, “Dear Maddy, You are going to be the person who will change the world and our oceans. One thing I know is that so many girls are going to look up to you because I am one of those girls.” I will never forget this message, and I will always take it with me. And any time I am feeling defeated or doubting myself in my work, I will look back and read it. The relationship I was able to build with this camper reminded me why I do what I do. I am striving to empower the next generation to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, and I will continue to do that with all my heart.

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