Monthly Archives: July 2015

Audrey Sutherland’s List

Audrey Heather Fortner 2

Photo credit: Heather Fortner

I met Audrey Sutherland when I was eleven years old and stayed at her home on the North Shore of Oahu island in Hawaii. The Sutherlands’ home once belonged to my family when my mother was a child and Audrey graciously allowed us to rent it for a week. Our trip overlapped Audrey staying there for a few days, so I had the opportunity to meet her. As an eleven-year-old with little on her mind but friends and Michael Jackson, what I noticed was how powerful Audrey seemed. Maybe powerful is the wrong word. Capable seems right. Like she could handle any situation that came her way. I don’t think I had met many women like that in my life up to that point.

Audrey kept a list on one of the walls of her home that I read during my visit. It was a list of “What Every Kid Should Be Able to Do by Age Sixteen.” This list spoke to me. The first item was “Swim 400 yards” and this seemed tough but doable. Some of the items on the list I could already do, and some I would need to learn. I didn’t take a copy of that list with me, but it came up in my memory now and then. Swim 400 yards.…

What I learned about Audrey later, and didn’t appreciate until I was older, was that this was a woman who thrived on adventure. When we visited her, she took my mother, a friend, and me on a very tame paddling expedition on the Kahana river, and gave me a signed copy of her book, Paddling My Own Canoe. I still have it. Audrey’s books, Paddling My Own CanoePaddling Hawai’i and Paddling North chronicle her solo swimming and kayaking excursions in Hawaii and Alaska. Audrey embarked on trips that seemed impossible or at least downright crazy to most of us, and she did most of them when she was older, well after having children. The Alaska trips she chronicled in Paddling North took place when she was 60 and older.

Audrey Sutherland passed away in February 2015, at the age of 94. At the memorial, my mother picked up a copy of “the list” that was available and sent it to me. Reading through it now, it takes on a whole new meaning. I am embarrassed to say that there are still items on the list that I cannot do (splice an electric cord or clean a fish). But there are many I can do. I am now a mother, a wife, a high school counselor, and a surfer. I, too, am capable of many things. I don’t know if I will ever be as ballsy or self-sufficient as Audrey Sutherland, but I’m glad I knew her. Her motto in life was: Go Simple, Go Solo, Go Now. Okay, Audrey, I will do my best.


By Audrey Sutherland

  1. Swim 400 yards, easily.
  2. Do dishes in a strange house, and your own.
  3. Cook a simple meal.
  4. See work to be done and do it.
  5. Care for tools and always put them away after use.
  6. Splice or put a fixture on an electric cord.
  7. Know basic information about five careers that suit you.
  8. Volunteer to work for a month in each of those fields.
  9. Clean a paint brush after use.
  10. Change a diaper; change a tire.
  11. Listen to an adult talk, with interest and empathy.
  12. Take initiative and responsibility for school work and home chores.
  13. Dance with any age.
  14. Clean a fish and dress a chicken.
  15. Drive a car with skill and sanity.
  16. Know and take responsibility for sexual contraception and protection when needed.
  17. Know the basic five of First Aid: Restore breathing and heart beat; Control bleeding; Dilute poisons; Immobilize fractures; Treat for shock.
  18. Write a business letter.
  19. Spend the family income for all bills and necessities for two months.
  20. Learn basic auto mechanics and simple repair.
  21. Find your way across a strange city using public transportation.
  22. Be happy and comfortable alone for ten days, ten miles from the nearest other person.
  23. Save someone from drowning using available equipment.
  24. Find a paying job and hold it for a month.
  25. Read at a tenth grade level.
  26. “Read” a topographic map and a chart.
  27. Know the local drug scene for yourself.
  28. Handle a boat safely and completely (canoe, kayak, skiff, sailboat).
  29. Operate a sewing machine and mend your own clothes.
  30. Operate a computer as needed.
  31. Do your own laundry.

*Reprinted with permission from her family.

Audrey's list hanging on the wall in my high school counseling office.

Audrey’s list hanging on the wall in my high school counseling office.


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Save Lolita

Peggy Oki whale

We at Surf Like a Girl love all things about the ocean, especially its natural inhabitants. Our good friend Peggy Oki’s Origami Whales Project has put out the call for help to urge Miami Seaquarium to gracefully retire Lolita, an orca whale who has been held in captivity for almost 45 years. Marine mammal experts have proposed a retirement plan in which Lolita would be transferred to a coastal sea pen, and, once she re-learns the skills necessary for survival, rejoin her family in the wild. Even if it is determined that Lolita is unable to recover from the years spent alone in a tank, she deserves to live as natural a life as possible. It is so easy to help. Just click here and fill out the sample letter or create one of your own.

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Clean Your Beach and Drink Some Wine

Barefoot_BeachRescue_Los AngelesBarefoot Wine and the Surfrider Foundation are heading out to clean up 12 beaches across the United States with the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project. On Saturday, July 18, the Surfrider Foundation West LA and Malibu chapter will be targeting Santa Monica with a volunteer-led beach clean-up (check-in is at 9 a.m. on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier. Everyone is welcome; participation is not restricted to Surfrider members). After the beach clean-up, volunteers will be feted with a party at the Bungalow in Santa Monica featured surf-inspired food, music, and Barefoot Wine.

Since 2007, the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project has cleaned more than 135 beaches, engaged more than 12,000 community volunteers, and removed more than 14 tons of trash. This year, for every social media post tagged #BeachRescue, Barefoot Wine will be donating an additional $5 to Surfrider.

RSVP recommended but not required.

Future Events Listed Here:

July 18th – Santa Monica, CA

July 26th – Boston, MA

August 1st – Hampton, NH

August 8th – Seattle, WA

August 8th – Atlanta, GA

August 15th – New York City, NY

September 19th – Tampa, FL

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Legacy of Stoke: A Collection of Stories That Made Us Surfers

Joseph Tomarchio approached me last year about contributing to his collection of short stories, Legacy of Stoke: A Collection of the Stories that Made Us Surfers (Volume 1). The instructions were pretty simple: tell a story about learning or teaching, how were you initiated, and/or how you passed on the legacy. In case it wasn’t totally obvious, I am passionate about surfing and all that it has done for me, so I gladly said yes. It was a treat to receive the bound copy last week of Volume 1. My story was included along with many other voices and experiences. It was fun to read through and hear from surfers around the world “talking story” about their experiences in the water. Some stories were similar to mine—learning to surf relatively late in life and having it change us, such as Karen Shatafian’s passage. Others were inspirational, like the one from Charlie Paradise, who was traveling down the wrong path in life when surfing saved him. Or the one from Kim Byrne, who overcame various medical complications to surf once again. Stoke fills the pages through the stories and excerpts from other books. I urge you to pick up a copy, available on Amazon.

And for those of you who have so much stoke that it trickles out of you and onto the written page, Joseph is collecting stories for Volume 2.

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