January 17, 2016
“How did we manage to have another perfect day to host the XOXO?” Paige Alms and I beamed with disbelief when we arrived at Launiupoko to set up for our 3rd annual all-girls surf and SUP event.
Not a breath of wind could be felt on that warm winter day. Sun glittered over the glassy waters. Perfect peelers cruised in, offering comfortable and relaxing waves for the wide age group of girls we would be hosting all day.
Our XOXO poster girls, Madison and Tianna, both freshmen in high school, learned how to surf at the first annual XOXO event, and had progressed incredibly over the years. This year they took leadership positions: they showed up early, helped set up, checked in the guests as they arrived, and made sure things ran on time. I have seen these girls blossom into young women over the years, their hearts full of gold and dreams.
At check-in, each guest got to choose a giveaway provided by prAna clothing, Pakalohoa bikinis, and necklaces from Wings Hawaii. It was like watching girls digging through a treasure chest, faces lit up in bedazzlement.
Opening circles have doubled in size at each event, as the number of girls attending each year has. Ashley Baxter, our all-around water woman, who back flips off of 50 foot cliffs, standup paddles with her black Labrador, and who’s infectious smile and loving heart make her outward beauty beam brilliantly, introduced the day.
The XOXO professionals: Ashley Baxter, big wave surfer Paige Alms, free-diver and fisherwoman, Marina Daian, and myself, Kelly Potts, introduced ourselves at opening circle, all sharing something inspirational with our guests. Malika Dudley, our local meteorologist and surf enthusiast, made a guest appearance, providing the girls with another example of what can happen when one follows their dreams. Girls ranging from ages five to 17 stared in amazement at the line-up of phenomenal Maui water women before them.
“When you follow your gut, and you follow your heart, you will be successful in everything that you do…” This seemed to be the resounding theme throughout each of the XOXO women’s words. The circle vibrated with positivity, love, and empowerment. I could already sense the day was going to be a day these girls would never forget.
After our introductory “Da Slippah Game,” we moved into an aerobic warm-up game with Sam Campbell from Deep Relief Training Center in Haiku. The girls split up into two teams, and, with an obstacle course challenge combining high knees, hopscotch, jumping and crawling, a roar of cheers and clapping engulfed the beach park. In no time our girls were stretched and ready to hit the water.
Since we had over 30 girls we split them up into groups to surf at different peaks, each group with an XOXO pro. It was the first time I had ever seen Launiupoko Beach Park, and all its main peaks, completely dominated by girls. Most of the girls who attended already had experience surfing, and were taking their practice to a whole new level, pushing themselves to be the best they could be. Girls on longboards danced to the nose with the poise of a warrior, girls on shortboards flowed with the energy of the wave, displaying their true strength as they made top to bottom turns, and smooth cutbacks. Each girl harnessed her own power and grace on the wave, making the whole scene a beautiful ballet performance on water. Whoops and cheers, whistles, and songs could be heard through the air, making the day a true celebration of females coming together and rejoicing with nature.
Our local Maui female gourmet chef, as well as professional windsurfer and standup paddler, Tiffany Ward with Maui Catering Services, provided a beautiful display of delicious and healthy food for lunch. We gathered hands before eating to bless the process of the food’s journey on our way to our bellies. After scarfing food in record speed, the girls were chomping at the bit to get back on their boards, so we headed out for round two of girls surf mania.
At the end of each event, we close the day with a special good-bye ceremony, congratulating the girls on their performance and progression, and shower them with encouragement to focus on their dreams. We walk around and give each girl a ti lei that the XOXO pros hand-make, where a merriment of hugs ensue. Each girl fills out a goal sheet, writing down a goal (or many goals) that they would like to achieve by the next year’s XOXO event. The girls have their posters signed, each with a collage of pictures of the XOXO pros doing what they do best – being phenomenal women. The annual group photo is taken, and girls come by asking for more hugs and photos.
This event leaves me on my knees, sending thanks and praises to the divine for this life, and for making me a vessel to bring opportunities like this to the world, and to my people. After packing up, and hitting the road, I cry, feeling blessed by another day of empowering young women to one day do the same, because one day these girls will be in our place, signing autographs and encouraging the youth to go after their dreams.