Is there anything more delightful than time dedicated to celebrating women and their relationship with the sea? (If you happen to be a man, bare with me here, please) That is exactly what Women of the Waves, held annually in Cocoa Beach, is all about. Female surfers of all ages and all skill levels are invited to join together in Cocoa Beach for a weekend of community, friendship and sharing in the joy that is a life spent in the sea. Naturally, it is one of my favorite surf events of the year!
Despite having to be rescheduled once (Thank you Hurricane Matthew) and a somewhat dismal forecast for the new dates, this year’s event was just as special as years past. A less crowded event simply meant an even more intimate experience than usual and the opportunity to spend lots of time catching up with old friends. I dearly missed many of the friends who couldn’t make it this year, but was thankful for the chance to meet new ones and expand my growing network of surf sisters.
After a ridiculously fun surf session at home Friday morning, I jumped in the car and hit the road for the longest three hours of my life. Surf fatigue and driving are not friendly with each other! I did eventually get there, meeting up with my friend and weekend roommate Allison, just in time to head to the Friday night surf movie. This year we were treated to the Sisterhood of Surfing by Dr. Diana Wehrell-Grabowski, a film that captured the essence of what it means to women when they get to share waves with other women, completely comfortable, without competition, communing with each other and the ocean. The film heavily featured women from around the state of Florida (with a pit stop in Sayulita, Mexico) and the audience cheered and clapped whenever a familiar face graced the screen.
We awoke Saturday morning to the glaring reality of that dismal forecast and could see the tree tops blowing from our hotel room, but we were here and would not be kept from the highlight of the weekend, the surfing social. This is usually a time to jump in the water with about a hundred of your closest surfing girlfriends and trade as many stories as waves. Mother Nature decided to mix it up this year by throwing hard NE winds across the surface of the Atlantic, creating choppy surf conditions and a swift drift that swept almost everyone down the beach. I opted out of the drift session and was thankful that I did as I ended up making a couple new friends who also chose to relax on the sand. Mid morning someone suggested we might check out Jetty Park, a spot just north that had a jetty and might block some of the wind. The waves were smaller, but much cleaner and Allison and I, our new friend Ana, and a handful of others ended up having a fun surf session.
When the afternoon came around and Ana suggested lunch with some other surf sisters at Surfinista, Allison and I jumped at the opportunity. Surfinista is a funky, surf themed place in downtown Cocoa Beach with a menu filled with juices, smoothies, sandwiches and the adored acai bowl and walls filled with surf art. They also have a little retail space with boards by Tom Neilson and Stu Sharpe on display. We had a great time sharing stories of surfing and traveling and finding out what each others different interest were (three out of six have had very good luck growing eggplant!). We followed lunch with a quick stroll around downtown and a bit of shopping before heading back to get ready for the Saturday night potluck.
This year’s potluck was at Manatee Sanctuary Park, overlooking the sunset on the Banana River, with plenty of oohs and aahs to go around. The tables overflowed with an assortment of dishes and music from local band, The Aquanuts, filled the air. The raffle and silent auction are always a hit, with participants anxiously clutching their tickets and waiting to hear themselves announced a winner. At this point in the weekend, we’re all old friends, laughing and story telling the night away. Smartphones were pulled out and selfies galore were snapped to commemorate the fun of the evening. With stars twinkling overhead, plans are made for one last surf the next morning. The wind was still not cooperating, so Jetty Park was the call.
A perceived extra hour of sleep (thank you time change!) was more than welcome after a full weekend and allowed Allison and I to make the agreed upon 8:00 a.m. meet up time for the surf. Unfortunately the weather would not listen to our pleas for light winds and cleaner conditions. If anything, she persisted in blowing harder than the previous day, adding more chop to an already tumultuous ocean. It was our last day and we were all together, so in we plunged and despite the conditions, marveled in the beauty of the sea and the powers that be that brought us to gather, in celebration of ourselves and the sea.
My deepest thanks to Melody De Carlo and Sharon Wolfe Cranston for their commitment to this event and for the work they put in each year to provide us with an opportunity to come together in the name of women’s surfing. Thank you to Dr. Diana Wehrell-Grabowski for her work on the Sisterhood of Surfing and sharing it with us and to Teri McCutchen for the beautiful artwork for this year’s event. If you are a sponsor or donor to this event, thank you too! Sandy Lee, Ana Joly, Meredith Hackwith-Edwards, Judy Taylor-Gorman and Patricia ‘Sissy’ Dittrick, it was a pleasure to spend extra time with you this weekend. Allison, thank you so much for being my roomie, an all around awesome person, and hanging with me all weekend!