Despite the fact that this unique event, which has been held for twenty two years, occurred in mid-September, I found out about the unusual pairing this past summer while on vacation. In a long newspaper article, now recycled in Recycling Land, I read about the then upcoming event which included a brief biography of Sister Dolores James who graciously agreed to this offer from the surfers in the 1990s. She took over the project, which grew in size from a few participants to hundreds. Sister James has the attitude and open mindedness needed to pull off something others probably said would never work.
Villa Maria by-the-Sea is the summer retreat for the Nuns, who from all accounts, are not your typical Nuns. As some of you may know, Nuns must be very modest and public swimming is not done. Private beaches and pools are ordinarily set up so that they may enjoy swimming. (My grandfather's sister was a lifelong Dominican Nun plus I lived and worked at another place where Sisters had similar restrictions so I'm familiar with certain rules they follow.)
Enter the surfers, who are not exactly welcomed to the lovely beaches of Stone Harbor. The best beach for surfing belongs to the Nuns. I would have loved to see the exchange that led to them sharing the beach, which lead to yearly Nun's Beach Surf Invitationals, a combination of fund raising and community outreach. The Nuns don't surf but in addition to other duties, they orchestrate the yearly event and manage a gift shop featuring towels, caps, beachwear, bumper stickers, etc.
Sister James has quite the sense of humor, as can be seen in her interview from 2012. There is also a Facebook presence which I will include for your amusement. My take on all of this is what an incredible story of reaching out to others when it could be much easier to just keep to yourself. With all that is going awry in the world, it's refreshing to know good things happen as well.