All-Female Paddleboarding Camp Teaches Survival and Life Skills
In Summer 2017, Sanibel Sea School, a marine conservation nonprofit based in Sanibel, FL, will hold its second Wahine Toa Stand Up Paddleboarding and Survival Camp for girls. Wahine Toa means “fierce female ocean warrior” in the Hawaiian language, and participants work and play hard to earn that title.
Led by an all-female staff, the camp offers girls ages 13-18 a chance to paddle many miles through Southwest Florida's unique marine habitats, practicing survival and team-building skills along the way. Campers practice technical paddling skills and water safety, learn how to use a compass, and how to create float plans. They also earn CPR and First Aid certification and learn general automobile maintenance, including how to complete an oil change and fix a flat tire. “We try to focus on practical skills that will be useful long after the camp week is over,” said Nicole Finnicum, a program leader. “So often we call our dads, brothers, boyfriends or husbands for help in these situations, but these women will go forward with the confidence that they are fully capable of acting as an emergency first responder or dealing with a car problem on their own.”
Wahine Toa Camp culminates in a camp-out on Picnic Island, an uninhabited island located in San Carlos Bay, about two miles from Sanibel. Participants paddle out to the island on Thursday afternoon with just a sheet, water, and a military-style Meal Ready-to-Eat. That evening, they will build a campfire, eat their rations, and sleep on top of their paddleboards under the stars. “The Meals Ready-to-Eat were not the most delicious thing I've ever tasted, but someone may or may not have brought the ingredients for s’mores in her backpack,” said past Wahine Toa camper Addy Rundqwist.
On the final morning, it is a tradition for participants to paddle back to Sanibel for coffee and donuts before paddling 8 more miles to nearby Fort Myers beach for a celebratory lunch. “Last year, everyone completed the trip,” said Finnicum. “We traveled about 20 miles on our boards during the week, and I was so proud to see the transformation that occurred between Monday and Friday. Most of the girls thought the first short paddle was difficult, but by Friday everyone was so confident and eager to overcome the challenge of one last long paddle. They really pushed themselves and were so supportive of each other.”
Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean's future, one person at a time. To learn more or register for Wahine Toa Camp 2017, visit sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585.