Sarah Hughen is the creator of A Wave A Day, a self-initiated year-long project designed to bring awareness to the prevention of breast cancer. Now that her year is wrapping up, we wanted to find out what challenges she faced and what she has learned from her personal journey.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Wisconsin. I met my husband while we were both going to school in Montana. He grew up surfing in Encinitas. When we both moved down here in 2000, the first day we arrived, he asked me if I wanted to go surfing. I said, “Okay.” It took a long time to learn for me having never been near the ocean when I lived in Wisconsin. Soon I became addicted to it and it has since become a huge part of our lives.
What do you love about surfing?
Everything (laughs). It is pretty much the best sport I’ve ever tried. It’s such a challenge – no two days, no two hours – no two waves are ever the same. It’s also a way for me to start clean. I can go out and be in this big huge ocean and feel so tiny. It puts a perspective on things that I can carry into other parts of my life.
Tell us about your project, A Wave A Day…
Basically I’ve been on a mission to surf everyday for a full year. It began as a way to bring awareness to breast cancer and to be healthier by reducing the amount of chemicals in their home. And on a personal level, it was a personal challenge and to do something that makes me truly happy. A way to make everyday count.
Tell us more…
I knew that surfing everyday was going to be difficult. There were going to be awful days and sick days and a little bit of everything. I felt by having this challenge, it could inspire others to make a couple of little changes in their lives.
Tell us about your involvement with Keep-A-Breast.
I have always loved their motto, “Prevention is the cure.” It is the only organization out there that really focuses on prevention. They are out there everyday spreading the word to our future; our young people. They are an amazing local, grassroots non-profit, and I just wanted to honor them.
Did Dale Webster inspire you to do this challenge?
Anyone who does something on a daily basis earns my respect. Whether it is someone doing Yoga everyday for a month; or someone who runs or bikes everyday for a year. Anyone who does these things inspire me.
What were some of the challenges you encountered on your project?
After doing it for the first 3 weeks, my arms felt like sandbags. Then there were the times I would get sick. I had the flu and had to throw up in a trash can, go surfing, and get out and throw up again. It wasn’t easy suiting up with a 103 degree fever and getting out in cold water. The worst was having to surf in the pollution after storms. I could literally see it and smell it – it was really disgusting.
Did this project bring you happiness?
It has brought me happiness on so many different levels. I would meet people out in the water; like someone who was just diagnosed with breast cancer; or they had been a cancer survivor. It made me feel I was doing the right thing at the right time. I also loved getting those emails telling me how they were inspired by what I was doing. And the people taking the inspection cards at our events and telling me they did a personal exam and found a lump. They were so grateful that they found it early.
How has this project affected your family life?
My kids helped keep me accountable. They would both wake me up at 6am and say, “Mom, you need to go surfing!” It made me realize that I wasn’t doing this just for myself, but I was building awareness in them about what is happening in the world.
What did you learn doing this project?
How is it possible we can have all of this runoff in California that pollute our waters? The same ocean that bring so many people to this state to live and play? Sometimes I would wear my earplugs and with a hood, cover my face so I wouldn’t have the water splash in my mouth. We are getting sick from the thing that we love to do.
Tell us about your event this Monday, April 30th.
It’s our Wave A Day celebration event. It will be open to the public and there will be awesome music and food. It’ll be our one last chance to have a fundraiser. There has been such an incredible outpouring of support from the community. I just want to commemorate the year and thank everyone.
You’ve just spent an entire year surfing everyday, what are you going to do next?
That’s a really great question (laughs).
I am hoping to take the project and presentation and taking it on the road to schools and stores in the community. To let people know that even though I surfed every day, it isn’t hard to make simple changes to be healthy.
There is also a shift in me to bring awareness to all of the pollution and steps I can take to create a cleaner ocean. I pick up so much trash when I am out in the water.
I’ll definitely be more picky on the days I choose to surf! I am going to take the time to dry out my bones and enjoy dry hair a couple of days a week. Be with my kids more.
This project reached a lot of people in so many ways. It was a great year and I wouldn’t have changed any single one of those days…