This trip was different. Usually I’d spend the leading days arranging accomodations, car rentals, and calculating every imaginable cost for a 6 week trip abroad. And while having a plan often gives me peace of mind, this time I ditched my old ways and let serendipity decide my path.
With not much set in stone, I took off to Australia dragging along a massive suitcase and an overweight boardbag in hopes of making it work. Thanks to old and new friends along the way, I was able to see more of this country than ever before.
The WSL Longboard Event brought us to Noosa. Unfortunately... the waves beat us there, the week prior was hit with a massive cyclone swell. We gathered rain or shine at the beachbreak for a few days. I was knocked out pretty early on. Sano local Kevin Skavrna did really well, eventually ending up in the final against Joel Tudor. Joel had been unstoppable the whole event. A very exciting heat to watch, with placings constantly switching back and forth with each wave caught. Tudor came out on top, but the both displayed clean, traditional style in an event that in previous years was predominantly geared toward the high performance approach. In the women’s, Kelis Kaleoopa the young Hawaiian was consistently shredding, followed up by an even younger Hawaiian, Sophia Culhane. The finesse and control these girls have is so impressive and just goes to prove how quickly the women’s talent is developing.
After the week in Noosa, I tagged along (or maybe the more accurate word is crashed?) with a couple friends from home (shout out to Bucky & JR) for an unplanned adventure with the Surfer’s Healing Tour. These guys come from all around the world- East Coast, West Coast, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia. If you are unfamiliar with the program, hit this link for more. It was a big drive from Byron to Sydney, so we were thrilled to finally settle into a big house on the beach in Narrabean. This was where I first met the whole crew and Israel Paskowitz, the legend behind it all.
The experience was overwhelming, but in the best kind of way. At the first event, I was extremely nervous for it to kick off, not knowing what to expect or if I’d even be any help at all. This feeling gave way to being moved to tears at the excitement of the kids and the reactions of overjoyed parents. I watched as the “Healers” took off wave after wave, hoisting the kids up... taking note of how they were able to pull it off. Finally gained a bit of courage to take out my first kid, something I will never forget. The big soft top paddleboards made balance easy, but paddling and maneuvering not so much.
I felt beyond lucky to take out some amazing kids. Some were so excited they would start pounding the board or literally squealing with glee. One stoked girl told me after each wave-
“I Love Surfing!”
What I must say is these guys make it look easy. On some occasions, they would even take the kids out the very back and catch a big, long set wave! Or lift a kid up on their shoulders for a flying sensation. I was amazed and inspired. There were a couple other girls involved in the Surfers Healing that did incredible; Sohpia from Manly and Maddy from New Zealand. Both were a big inspiration to a total newbie like myself and genuinely great people. With four total stops along the coast, the sunburns, sore arms, and various bruising all felt entirely worth it.
I sit now from a quiet spot in Byron Bay, reminiscing on what could've easily been the most powerful and rewarding three weeks of my life. While I originally came out for a professional surf contest, the opportunity to take these kids out and make families happy hits deeper than any trophy or title.
Very special thanks to Israel Paskowtiz and the fantastic Surfers Healing Crew! You guys have made a tremendous impact on my life and countless others.