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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Akaka

Making Waves

In keeping with my holiday tradition, I bought myself a few things as I shopped for others. I happened upon a beautiful book called Women Making Waves: Trailblazing Surfers In and Out of the Water and added it to my cart without thinking twice. I forgot about it and surprised myself with the best gift I bought myself in a long time. It tells story after story about women who defy social norms, recover from trauma, promote their love of the land and sea, and deeply enjoy their existence on earth – all in an endless quest to learn from the ocean and its waves. In doing so, these women are making waves of their own – addressing important issues related to equity, well-being, and the environment. This made me think about what it takes to “make” a wave literally and metaphorically.

I thought back to my undergraduate years when I took an Oceanography class because I thought it would help me surf better (yes, I really did this). Turns out the class was not about surfing at all (go figure) and my clearest memory of that class was sitting on the floor in the back of the auditorium (because I was always late and there were no seats left) with a friend I made who was in a local band. I vaguely recall seeing illustrated images of waves but have no recollection at all as to how they are made. Naturally, when curiosity crept in, I googled it.

Waves, particularly the waves people enjoy surfing on, are often made by wind far out at sea. The wind blows over the surface of the ocean and the friction creates energy that moves water below in a circular fashion. Long story short, this force of energy continues moving water in a circular fashion until it reaches a more shallow bottom that eventually leads to a shore. In other words, the water and waves don’t move toward land, the energy does. The waves you see on the shore did not travel there, per se, but in many cases, the energy that creates a surfable wave has moved across vast oceans to get there.

And so it is for these women and the women who came before them. The waves they create are based on the energy put out into the world far before it is seen on the shores of society. For many, that energy has been passed on to them from their families, friends, and mentors, as well as their indigenous cultures. For others, the energy emerged from their experience, sometimes from a place of hurt, and sometimes from their passions and their pursuits. In all cases, the energy these women bring to the world flows through them to make waves, some of which can be seen today (e.g., pay equity for men and women surf champions) and some of which won’t be seen for years to come (e.g., sustainable efforts to heal the earth).

As I reflect on my year of growth and exhaustion, I am filled with gratitude for those who put forth the energy needed to make waves that create change. I have learned from and am surrounded by so many amazing people – family, friends, mentors, and colleagues, as well as inspiring humans I saw perform live this year – wink, Taylor Swift. As 2023 comes to a close, I feel the winds changing. Maybe it's just me, but I have to believe that 2024 will be filled with the forces of energy that can break through norms rooted in hate, greed, and violence and create wide open space for belonging, grace, and love. At least that’s where I want to spend my energy, making waves that matter. How about you?

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