Sunday, May 28, 2023

Vivid article by Susan Orlean about young female surfers on Maui

The original article is from 1998:

Before women were encouraged to surf, the girls in Hana must have been unbelievably bored


One afternoon I went to Hana to meet Theresa McGregor, one of the best surfers in town. I missed our rendezvous and was despairing because Theresa lived with her mother, two brothers, and sister in a one-room shack with no phone and I couldn’t think of how I’d find her. There is one store in Hana, amazingly enough called the General Store, where you can buy milk and barbecue sauce and snack bags of dried cuttlefish; once I realized I’d missed Theresa I went into the store because there was no other place to go. The cashier looked kindly, so I asked whether by any wild chance she knew a surfer girl named Theresa McGregor. I had not yet come to appreciate what a small town Hana really was.


Last year, the surfer moms in town held a fund-raiser bake sale to send Theresa and two Hana boys to the national surfing competition in California.


I stayed up late reading about how Christian missionaries had banned surfing when they got to Hawaii in the late 1800s

And the follow-up from 2021:

Tell me how the story came to be. How did the assignment happen?

Well, it was kind of funny. I had been doing stuff for Outside, and Susan Casey, who was then running Women Outside, said to me, “How would you like to do a story about these girls who are big surfers in Hawaii?” Generally, I come up with my own story ideas. It’s rare that I respond well to someone’s suggestion. But I thought it sounded great. And as I recall, I basically got a flight and went, and when I arrived in Maui, I started calling the different girls whose names Susan had given me. And one after another, they said, “Oh, I don’t surf anymore” or “Yeah, I’m not that interested in surfing.” It was every reporter’s nightmare. It was like, “What? You don’t surf anymore? Here I am in Maui, and I spent all this time and the magazine’s money to come here, and none of you guys surf?” I was very discouraged.


Do you remember that first drive out to Hana?

Oh my God, yeah. Anybody who has done that drive doesn’t forget it, because it is a very challenging road. It’s not very far, and I’m a totally fearless driver—I have no fear of driving anywhere—but it’s the most harrowing drive