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Gracie Surfs in Maui, Where She Learns to Get Her Groove On

The 11-year-old recently vacationed in Hawaii, where she finally learned to surf. While there, she earned the nickname, "Keoka," which means "courageous little warrior" in Hawaiian.

Almost two years ago I had my stroke on the beach at T Street in San Clemente. I was out with my dad and brother surfing and Boogie-boarding and started to not feel so good.  My mom and dad took me home and called the doctor. That's the day my life changed forever.

We were supposed to go to Maui later that week with some friends.  I felt very guilty that the trip was canceled; my parents told me I was more important than any trip. Last summer we did not go on a vacation either, because I had to have surgery on my facial nerve.

This past week I was finally able to go to Maui with my family. Two other families went with us, and it was like a dream come true. 

On the plane they showed the movie . I could really relate to watching her try to do things with one hand, as I go through much of the same difficulties every day. It was kind of odd they showed a movie about a shark attack to a plane full of people headed to Maui.

It was spectacular seeing the ocean and Maui when we flew over and landed. I couldn't wait to get in the ocean. We did many things while we were there, including going to a really cool luau with dancers. 

My friends and I got to go on stage and dance the hula, but I really loved watching the dancers on the stage. We did a lot of snorkeling as well. I really loved to swim in the ocean. The water was calm and warm,  and I was amazed at all of the beautiful fish just below me. The sunsets were unbelievable.

The highlight of my trip was my surf lesson. My mom chose Goofy Foot Surf School.  At first I thought she just liked the name, but it turns out some of our friends know the owner, Tim Sherer, from high school. My brother Michael and Shannon, Catherine, Erik, Lindsey and their dad, Joe, all took a group lesson with Danny and Rafael and were up and surfing right away. It was so cool to see them having so much fun. I had to have a private lesson. 

My instructor's name was Brennan Rose. He is a professional paddle boarder and a really nice guy.  I felt really comfortable and knew he was going to do everything he could to make my surfing dream come true. I told him my story, and he talked to me about how we would get me up and surfing.   

He gave me his power balance bracelet and told me to wear it on my right wrist. I had to gradually work my way up from my knees and then I could try to stand. We practiced on the beach and in calm water first. I was a little worried that I would fall, and I did a few times, but Brennan scooped me up and got me back on the board. 

He sat on the back of our long board, and off we went. I was able to surf in on my knees right away, but I really wanted to stand up. We went back out again, and up I was, with Brennan holding onto me and helping me stay up. I could hear all of our friends cheering from the shore. My mom and dad were on some rocks. I could hear them all yelling, 'Go, Gracie!'

I was so proud of myself, but I still wanted to do it on my own. After a few more tries, I was able to stand up myself with Brennan on the back of the board. Then he got on a second board and let me do it on my own. 

I surfed! I did not stay up very long, but I did it on my own. Brennan called me Keoka, which means "courageous little warrior" in Hawaiian.  He said I would inspire many people, and I told him I already do and want to keep on doing it.  He let me keep the bracelet, and I gave him my Gracelet that I wore on my wrist. Gracelets are rubber bracelets that people wear in support of me. They are blue and white and say, "Dance with Grace." People all over the world wear them, and you can see a video about where the the Gracelets have been on YouTube, youtube.com/watch?v=ubiRLussiaI&feature=fvwrel.

My mom bought me a Soul Surfer hat in Lahaina, and Brennan met us and signed it the next day. He is going to be in a competition in Dana Point soon, and I am going to go and cheer him on! 

I will never forget that day and all of the wonderful people who cheered me on at Goofy Foot, and especially Brennan, who helped make my goal of learning to surf come true.

Mahalo to all of you.

Courtney Fielder July 26, 2011 at 02:15 AM
It was so fun watch you and all the kids surf and cheer you on! You did great! So glad we were able to share it with you. And it was really odd they showed soul surfer on the way there!
Agnes McGlone Swanson July 26, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Our dear Keoka! Congratulations on such a big accomplishment. Can't wait to watch you surf in Orange County. Love, Agnes
Jena Minnick-Harry July 26, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Whoo Hoo! I'm so proud of you, kiddo. Seeing you do all these activites is really inspiring. Let's go surfing together in San Clemente. Course, its a bit colder than the waters of Hawaii. Hopefully we'll see some dophins too. Love ya, Ms. Jena
Tim Sherer July 27, 2011 at 09:08 AM
Awesome Keoka! Thank you for gracing us all with your persevering attitude, courage, and inspiration. Stay stoked and keep riding the waves with your smile. I hope I get to surf with you one day too! So glad you got to learn with Uncle Brennan! Much Aloha, Tim Sherer
Maureen Russo July 27, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Great job Gracie! I give you lots of kudos. I have tried surfing and it is a lot harder than it looks! Continue to amaze and inspire us all!

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