North Beach surfing session attracts hundreds

  • Nov. 8, 2013 8:00 p.m.

by Laura Bishop-The fifth annual Haida Gwaii Expression Sessions attracted and inspired hundreds of islanders with a free weekend of surf culture celebration, water awareness and peer mentorship. The sessions kicked off Friday night (Nov. 1) with a surf film double feature with The Fortune Wild and Stand, both shot on island. The next morning, the Hiellen River at North Beach surged with 28 children and an equal number of surf volunteers during the ‘adopt-a-grom’ free surf lessons. ‘Grom’ is short for grommet and refers to a young surfer. On Sunday afternoon just under 30 surfers came out for the men’s wave. The sessions closed Monday night with an art show entitled Oceanscapes of Haida Gwaii, as Vancouver based artist Rika showcased his pieces at the Delkatla Nature Centre. In all, more than 600 people attended the various events. Event organizer and Haida Gwaii Recreation coordinator Lucy Neville said showing movies filmed on Haida Gwaii, about Haida Gwaii, made a big difference in the number of participants this year, with a record 102 people attending the films. The first film, The Fortune Wild, featured footage shot while professional Canadian surfers Peter Devries, Reid Jackson and Arran Jackson were visiting the islands in 2012. Norm Hann was in attendance when his documentary Stand was shown. His film is an intimate look at the people and waters that would be affected by tanker traffic in Hecate Strait. Footage was shot during Mr. Hann’s stand up paddleboard journeys from Kitimat to Bella Bella and Old Massett to Sgang Gwaay. He interviews people from Kitimat, Bella Bella, Tofino, and several Haida Gwaii locations and expresses the irreversible impact an oil spill would have on these communities. Watching the professionals shredding Haida Gwaii surf got people in the mood to catch some waves of their own. Saturday was sunny with a cold northwesterly wind, but that didn’t keep wetsuit clad youth and volunteers from diving in. The Big House longhouseat Hiellen, built by Old Massett Village Council, was a warm place to change, eat and socialize between sessions. Meanwhile, island surfers and kids were one-on-one in the surf, learning the basics and sharing some laughs. Ms. Neville said it was great to see so many island surfers our in the water with the kids. “The adopt-a-grom session establishes peer-mentor relationships. It encourages competency in the water, safety and awareness. Not having a pool, the ocean is where this happens. We’re on an island surrounded by water. Learning fundamentals and movement in the water; it’s crucial to being able to get out there, to be safe, to have fun, to explore and learn.” She also noted that in the last five years, there has been a growth in community leadership that directly correlates with free surf club programs available to high school students. Youth that had spent four years attending surf club sessions mentored new surfers last Saturday, sharing the experience and passing on knowledge gifted to them. The adult wave session encourages those over the age of 18 to get in on the fun too. Each year alternates between youth, women and men’s wave sessions, and Sunday was gentlemen’s turn. Participants in array of ages from all communities showed you’re never too old to try something new. To close out the four-day sessions, Oceanscapes of Haida Gwaii were on display for wave riders and land lovers alike. Nine framed pieces and assorted prints returned with Rika to Haida Gwaii, the place of their inspirational origin, for a free Monday night art show. Ms. Neville said artist Rika’s pieces were created based on experiences he had at the 2012 expression sessions. The generous island community made this event possible: Haida Gwaii Recreation, North Beach Surf Shop, Alaska View Lodge, Living and Learning School, Old Massett Village Council (Patricia Moore), island surfer mentors and all participants, spectators and supporters. “This is an all island family event. Its aim is to be affordable and accessible for all islanders. The ocean is for everyone,” said Ms. Neville.

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