Indigenous Surfer Girls Retreats 2018

Story written by Kelly Potts

Photos Courtesy of these Volunteer photographers:

Charles Mitchell - Siletz

Jennie Porter and Jayden Becker - Crescent City

Hannah Nelson - Makah

This year I hosted three different surfing retreats for three different northwestern tribes; each was a life changing event.

I added a new retreat this year for the Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians in Newport, Oregon at the beginning of August. It took no time at all to connect with the tribe, get the ok to run the event, and have their help spreading the word for girls to sign up. Before I knew it, sign ups were full, a native girl painted a design on a sweatshirt for the participants and volunteers, which we all got to keep, and the tribe provided lunch for us. 

There were moms who came out to learn with their daughters, aunties came out to learn with their nieces, and everyone showed up with powerful, positive energy - confident and ready to learn something new, and potentially nerve-racking. 

Our stellar line-up of phenomenal water women from Newport, Oregon volunteered their water expertise by helping the gals catch waves. The waves were slamming, conditions were tricky, and the volunteers rocked it like the all-stars they are!

Mom & Daughter
Mom & Daughter surfboard carry
Mom Belly Ride
Daughter Belly Ride
Daughter Smile
Mom Thumbs Up
Mom & Daughter Smiles

The next retreat was in Crescent City, California, near Redwood National Park, where days before the event I heard that 40 volunteers were signed up to help out 30 participants. WOW! I didn't quite know what to do with so much help, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to learn how to facilitate for a very large group of people. It was heart-warming to witness the surfing community looking to connect and be involved with their indigenous communities, and to provide them with so much positive support, and encouragement.

This was my second year hosting for the Tolowa Dee-niʻ Nation, and it felt like reuniting with family. Tribal members were coming up to give me hugs and gratitude for the experience I was helping provide for their girls and women.

The smiles on the surfer's faces were contagious. At the end of the retreat, one mom, who had recently lost a baby during pregnancy, came up to tell me how therapeutic it was to be on the water, letting the ocean caress and cleanse her spirit. It brought me to tears.

Hoppy Me
Opening Ceremony
Land Lesson
Surfer Girl Smile
Party Wave
Surf Stoke
Aunties Surf Too
Future Surfer Girl

And last, but certainly not least, the Makah Surfer Girls Retreat in Neah Bay, Washington was unreal! It rained hard the whole night before the event, and all night I prayed the girls would have adventurous spirits and still want to come out. Magic happened. The rain stopped, the clouds in the sky offered the most breathtaking painting, we had a group of bad ass gals show up excited and ready to surf, and had the best time of our lives!

Local woman, Natalie Maxson, prepared an incredible lunch with mostly locally sourced food. The icing on the cake!

Helpful Hands
Opening circle game
Land Lesson
Benita Smile
Soul Surfer
Tandom Team
High Ten

Even got some tandem time with a lot of the younger girls. Precious moments!

These events are truly remarkable and memorable occasions for both the participants and the volunteers. A new sense of community is created each time, bridges are gapped, and stereotypes are stripped. There are no words that can express the deep gratitude that overcomes me after successfully hosting these retreats; my body is chicken skin, and tears flood my eyes.

I am eternally grateful to be able to provide these life-changing experiences for these deserving, remote communities in the northwest!

Big Thank You to PrAna for providing giveaways and financial support to make these events possible, to the Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians, Tolowa Dee-niʻ Nation and the Makah Tribe for allowing me the opportunity to provide this experience for your girls and women, and for all the support you have offered along the way, to all the volunteers who rallied to these retreats, giving all your love and energy supporting our indigenous gals, to the Northwest Wahines, Olivia Schroeder and Meira Cole, for your contagious good hearts, spreading your love wings far and wide to make a difference in this world! Also, a big thank you to all who donated to my GoFundMe page. That sealed the deal.

Lastly, I want to thank my Maui ‘Ohana for showing me what it means to be a supportive member of our community, for showing me what family really means, and for your relentless pursuit to keep your ancestral traditions, knowledge, and way of life alive. You’ve sculpted the person I am today. Mahalo Nui Loa!