On Sunday, January 29th, Maui water women of all ages gathered at Launiupoko Beach for the 4th annual XOXO beach festival. The event has been organized with the aim to educate, empower, and spark the stoke of all the young attendees. Led by Maui locals Kelly Potts, Pakaloha team rider Paige Alms, Marina Daian, Ashley Baxter and Tatiana Howard, the XOXO was a day devoted to learning, creating friendships, and most importantly, having fun! The morning of the event began with uncertainty for some. Rain was blanketing the island and there was heavy wind dancing with the shore at Launiupoko. Upon arrival, one of the first observations that the girls were able to make was that the surf conditions were poor and potentially unsafe with strong currents and an overpowering breeze. Event facilitator, Kelly Potts, stated "If we weren't counting on over 50 girls showing up and hadn't planned the event for an entire year, I would've cancelled. Boy was I glad we stuck it out." Sticking out the elements seemed effortless to the very adaptable and driven group of girls. Luckily, everyone brought a ray of light in their smiles and optimism in their spirit that made the unruly weather conditions seem minor. After set-up and sign-in, the first planned activity was jar decorating. Each of the girls got a chance to customize their beverage container for the day with stickers from the event sponsors and art supplies to add a personal touch. The idea behind the glass jars was to encourage the re-use of the materials to make the event itself more sustainable by aiding in reducing the potential for future waste. As lovers of the Aina, the women who organized this event allowed their personal values to thread throughout the day's discussions. One shared value that each of these women maintain is a devotion to doing everything in their power to respect the Earth by practicing conscious consumption and working to spark this concern in others. After the girls had their chance to get crafty, it was time to get geared up in the Pakaloha tent. Pakaloha Bikinis gifted each of the girls a surf-friendly piece of swimwear and a signature mermaid hat for shade and, of course, style. From here, all the women circled together for the official opening ceremony. Sharing introductions with a fun ice breaker game, this gave everyone a chance to connect with their lead and junior coaches as well as with each other. While huddled together, you could feel a sense of inspiration flowing among all of the girls. The coaches shared their personal intentions for participating in the XOXO as well as what they hope to contribute and have the attendees gain from their presence. A common motive was that the girls would gain enthusiasm and motivation to work hard and chase their dreams while maintaining an emphasis on personal happiness and empowering others along the way. Following the powerful opening, it was time to get moving! Athletic trainers Samantha Campbell and Lindsey Dennis, from Deep 2 Peak, led the group through a dynamic warm-up to get everyone ready for the active afternoon ahead. In addition to the physical practice, the girls discussed the importance of properly preparing their bodies for intense exercises and how preventative practices such as thoroughly warming up is working in accord to what is best for their body, which will result in operating at a greater capacity for strength, endurance,  and overall health. By this time in the day, the powerful winds were beginning to mellow and the surf was cleaning up. The anticipation of getting in the water was noticeably growing and it was becoming clear that the girls were all going to get what they came for....waves! Before hitting the water, the group lined the shore for a surf lesson from the Maui Surfer Girls. Starting with the basics, the class talked about where waves come from and how they are formed, as well as understanding the wind's ability to direct the currents. Another fundamental topic discussed was finding the best places to paddle out and finding land markers to line up with the peak. After emphasizing ocean safety and general surf etiquette, the focus moved to the business on the board. The girls learned to find their "sweet spot" on the board and as well as tips to remember such as "low you go, tall you fall" and "always throwing a shaka." While this day was a surfing first for some, many of the girls were already active wave riders. For this group, they spent time focusing on more progressive cues. These included learning to lean back to engage fins and forward to accelerate, as well as using eye contact and their front hand to direct turns. They even reviewed getting back down on your board after each ride and called this part finishing like a pro! The Maui Surfer girls shared their insight and passion to accomplish the goal of ensuring the girls were becoming aware and responsible surfers. As the surf training came to a close and it was time to fuel up. A healthy and lively lunch was served compliments of Flat Bread Company Pizza, Maui Catering Service, and fresh greens harvested from Leeward farms. Lunch was yet another opportunity to shed light on the importance of self-care and practicing mindfulness and gratitude. It shouldn't come as a surprise that lunch time also meant play time. The girls had an opportunity to turn their cruise control on for a bit. By then, the sun was also ready to come out and play. A group gathered on the beach to enjoy the show as a pod of dolphins was frolicking on the horizon. After lunch, the sun was high in the sky, and the girls were geared up, warmed up, and fueled up. With boards in hand, they flocked toward the shore line and began paddling out to the breaks.The afternoon's lessons certainly proved to have paid off. Everyone in the water was catching waves, having a blast, and getting sun soaked and surf stoked. Post-surf, the girls filled out a short questionnaire asking the following questions:
  • What goals do you hope to have accomplished by this time next year?
  • What is something new that you learned today?
  • What are you grateful for?
The questionnaire was collected to be revisited by the girls at next year's XOXO. Setting goals and paying attention to progress is a significant aspect of ambitiously staying motivated in moving forward on their targeted path. It was understood by the girls that their personal choices direct their dreams from imagination to reality. These questions were aimed to provoke ambition and give the girls time to reflect upon and integrate everything they learned that day. To close the event, the girls had an opportunity to collect autographs from their professional lead coaches and a lei ceremony was held to express a final sense of togetherness, thanks, and triumph. For the concluding lesson, everyone collected and loaded up the boards to prepare for departure. Each girl left with an even brighter smile and more uplifted spirit than she arrived with. The 4th annual XOXO was surely a success and an unforgettable day for the participants, volunteers, and spectators! Mahalo to Prana, Maui Surfer Girls, Deep 2 Peak, Flatbread Company Paia, Maui Catering Service, Leeward Farm and to all of the lead and junior coaches for making this possible. To view and download more images from the event, check out: https://www.flickr.com/cameraroll Written & photographed by: Ashley Stanulis