It was during a family breakfast when Sarah Hughen read a harrowing statistic: One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Looking around the room, the Cardiff, California photographer counted the women in her family– three sisters, a mother, a grandmother...the odds were stacked against the most important people in her life.
Moved by the cold, hard facts, Sarah launched A Wave a Day, a personal mission to surf for 365 days straight (on a pink board, of course) to raise awareness and funds for the Keep a Breast Foundation. We caught up with the mother of two to chat about her journey (and find out if she's really stuck to her goal):
Give us a quick rundown of the Wave a Day project.
This mission is about awareness. I am using a personal challenge to surf at least one wave a day on a pink board for a year straight as a vehicle for awareness about breast cancer prevention. I want to support and raise money for the Keep A Breast Foundation, which is out there educating people about all the things you can do in your life to lower your risk.
How successful have you been so far– have you missed any days?
I have not missed a single day! There have been days when I really would have rather have not gone, and I was in and out of the water pretty quickly. I still went. Shortest time spent surfing: seven minutes. Longest time: three hours, and everything in between!
How do you motivate yourself when you feel sick or tired?
Being sick is one of the toughest parts of this mission. Getting in cold water and exerting energy when you have a fever or the flu feels like the last thing on Earth you should be doing. After 160 some odd days in a row, it is just a part of my day like anything else. No matter what, after being out in the water, I always feel better afterwards. I may be beelining for a hot shower... but there is a part of me that is refreshed and more grounded.
What have you noticed about your own surfing skills going out every single day?
Right away I noticed I got a lot stronger. I felt like I could paddle out to sea and back with no problem, and over time I've felt more in tune with the waves. I don't get to log that many hours of the day actually surfing–kids!. I have been known to paddle out, ride a wave, and come right back in. When they go back to school I'll finally work on that solid cut back though.
What have you learned about breast cancer by doing this?
With breast cancer, only 10 percent of the risk is actually hereditary. That means the rest of the factors are either environmental causes or unknown. Way too many people close to me have been diagnosed and the numbers were getting crazy! Last April I hit a wall of saturation and I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to do something.
What are some simple things we can do to decrease our risk?
If I inspire just one person to stop using chemicals in their home, or to eat organic or to just be happy, then I will feel like I have succeeded in my goal.
What's surprised you most about this whole endeavor?
I'm surprised by the acceptance from my boys. They are only four and six years old, and yet I feel they understand the need to do things that are not just for yourself. They get dedication. I love when it is getting close to dark and they say "Mom! You have to go catch your wave!"