The following post was graciously contributed by Chica Brava’s “fearless leader”-slash-Camp Operations Manager 2012-2014, Noelani Anderson. Thanks Noe!
Last November, I got to spend Thanksgiving morning at Maderas beach, surfing the ‘mini magic’ (one of my favorite boards of all time), with instructors Elsi and Dani, and the Chica Brava group in town that week. I promised to write a blog about the day, a ‘chica check in’, as we call it, but life catapulted into Christmas and busy season here in Hawaii, and rehearsals, and all the other excuses that shuffle writing a blog into that pile of dusting files in the back of your head.
So fast forward to now…April; with tax day and Easter right around the corner, I can’t help but chuckle and the length of this particular procrastination. I’m not sure if Ashley (owner and founder of CB) will even want to post this blog, but I’m still writing it, because the feelings I had that Thanksgiving day are still palpable, and every bit relevant to this very moment, sitting at my desk, walking through memories.
I don’t have to ‘jog’ my memory, because I remember that day perfectly, so like any solid memory, I get to simply stroll through the details and smile at the feelings as they replay in the synapses of my brain and slip out through the nerves of my fingertips into words typed out on a screen.
I suppose I should preface this all with a bit of an explanation of myself; my name is Noelani, and a few years back I was the operations manager of Chica Brava, which was hands down one of the most important experiences of my life. I’m from the Big Island of Hawaii, but I’d been living in the North of Nicaragua (Estelí) for over a year when I heard about CB and decided that I needed to be a part of the crew, making the big move South where I stayed for the couple of years that followed. ‘Chica check in’ was a little idea I had to touch base, through blog posts, with former surfistas that had shared time with us, or with former instructors, to see where life had taken them. It’s always fun to hear where people have gone since their time at CB, what they’ve done, and how their life in the water is unfolding.
On this particular day last November, I’d say my check in was such major gratitude. As I met with Elsi at the CB house and loaded the boards it was like no time had passed. We strapped all the boards on, had our usual rooftop chat as we climbed onto the wheels of the Land cruiser and stacked each board carefully, and hopped down, heading out to Maderas. The waves were about shoulder high, but with those perfect Nicaraguan offshore conditions and a pretty scarce crowd. I rushed into the water with the mini magic (a little 7’ 10” egg shape with volume that surfs like a long board but maneuvers as a short board). I scored rights and lefts, left and right, just laughing, soaking up the salt and sun, hooting and hollering for the chicas as Elsi and Danny got them into waves. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for the ocean, for friendships, and for this amazing second home of mine – Nicaragua.
It’s amazing how loss can be the midwife of gratitude. You see, back in January of 2018, I had experienced a debilitating neck injury (herniated disc extrusion in the cervical spine) that made surfing a spectator sport for me. I’d been out of the water for months, and once I started surfing again, hadn’t been able to surf at the level and standard I hold myself to. For anyone who’s dealt with an injury that keeps them from doing the things they love, this feeling of frustration probably resonates. Equal part frustration, anger, why me?, despair, and defeat. However, if you can mix in even a drop of hope, optimism, and positivity, it can make all the difference. My healing journey is another blog entirely (or maybe a novel), but that day, at Maderas, with the CB girls, I was surfing pain free and having so much fun I think I may have shed a tear or two. The gratitude was overwhelming. And how fitting, it being thanksgiving and all.
After a few hours in the water with the chicas, I had tostones for lunch – yes, fried plantains, smashed, then fried again, with fried salty Nica cheese, refried beans, and pico de gallo. It was the most amazing Thanksgiving feast, alongside my Nica surf sister, Elsi, her big smile, and the backdrop of the Pacific ocean. That Thanksgiving will be etched in my soul (and taste buds) forever. What a day. Since this neck injury, which I’m constantly navigating, and especially since that day in the water with the CB chicas, I never take a single surf session for granted. We are so incredibly fortunate to even paddle out, to see the sand reflecting through the glistening of the sun as it penetrates the sea, to laugh with friends in the midst of the medium of mother ocean, to be hugged by her profound embrace.
This morning it felt like it was time to write this reflection – nearly six months later. Maybe I’m just a procrastinator, but maybe it took those six months for the gratitude I felt that Thanksgiving day to truly sink in. Wishing all you sea sisters a beautiful day, full of gratitude….
Former Operations Manager