Sunday, May 12, 2002

Maui Surfer Girls founder Dustin Tester, wearing a hat, caught a wave with student Lila Roo during a recent lesson at Launiupoko Beach Park in West Maui.

Little surfer girl

A summer camp on Maui shows
teens how to make waves

By Gary T. Kubota

LAHAINA >> Teenager Lila Roo said she has always loved nature, but learning surfing at a two-week camp has changed her life.

"It made me more confident," said Roo, 15, a student at King Kekaulike High School. "I got to know myself and know nature."

Paddling on surfboards and capturing the force of an ocean swell, girls participating in a Maui Surfer Girls camp are learning that wave riding can be not only a sport, but also a way of empowering themselves.

The camp provides them with an understanding of native culture and an awareness of the ocean and themselves as they move through their teenage years.

"It's a lot more than just a surf camp. It truly helps the girls commune with nature and teaches them lessons about life," camp director and founder Dustin Tester said. "Life is about nose dives and how to get back on your board. We try to give them good ocean awareness and safety."

Tester, who has a bachelor's degree in adventure education from Prescott College in Arizona, said the idea of a surfing camp for girls came to her while she was working as a program director and teaching rock climbing at a girls summer camp in North Carolina.

Maui residents Zena and Tessa Kreider and Melanie Ash found that surfing lessons help impart self-confidence and an important awareness of ocean conditions. Maui Surfer Girls offers a two-week summer camp as well as day lessons.

She noticed that teenage girls tend to do better at sports when learning among themselves, rather than with boys.

"It's about self-esteem. The girls just improve their self-confidence," she said.

The camp operates during the summer when the waves are generally smaller and conditions are ideal for beginners.

Tester also teaches surfing to girls and women daily at various locations on Maui.

At a day surfing lesson at Launiupoko Beach Park in West Maui, 12-year-olds Melanie Ash and Tessa Kreider and Tessa's 10-year-old sister, Zena Kreider, sat on a surfboard overlooking the ocean and listened to Tester talk about ocean safety.

"You always point your surfboard at the wave when paddling out and never sideways," Tester said.

"What happens when you have your surfboard facing sideways at a wave?"

"It'll flip over," the girls said.

Accompanied by Tester, the three girls paddled out on surfboards on a day when the waves were about a foot high and breaking about 50 yards from the beach.

They were soon catching waves and standing up.

Ash said she is looking forward to the camp and finds surfing exciting.

"The first time you get really nervous, and then you fall off, but once you do it you build confidence," said Ash, a sixth-grader at St. Anthony Grade School.

Zena Kreider, who along with her sister attends Haleakala Waldorf School, said she enjoyed the way it taught her how to move in the water.

"It's really an art to do it," she said. "You really have to get the right touch to be able to turn."

Tessa Kreider said she liked learning with other girls and talking with them while waiting to catch a wave.

"I felt like it was something I really enjoyed," she said. "It's fun being out there, meeting new people."

Their mother, Gretchen Fisher, said she felt it was important for her daughters to be in an outdoor supervised setting away from home, especially at their age.

"I think it's kind of a rite of passage, wanting to spread their wings. It's really a good time for them to really stretch," she said. "The ocean is a great place."

Roo said the camp gave her a better understanding of ocean conditions, including the flow of currents and the waves. She's learned to look at waves from a distance and judge their size before they roll over the reef.

Tester said for the two-week camp, the girls stay with her and her assistants at an A-frame cabin at Olowalu for 12 days and 11 nights.

The price of the camp, including equipment, meals and ground transportation, ranges from $2,000 to $2,200.

She said the activities also include windsurfing, kite boarding and cultural events such as learning how to make a Hawaiian bracelet and being a guest at a luau.

Tester is offering a $75, two-hour lesson for mothers and daughters as a Mother's Day special.

For more information, contact Tester at 808-250-2019 or e-mail

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