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The voting period for the Las Olas Surf Safari Scholarship has expired. Our finalists' essays are posted below.

Check back on July 29th at 12:00 Noon PST for results.

Thank you to all for participating. This has been an amazing journey for all of us.


The Las Olas Surf Scholarship includes a week long Las Olas safari including accommodations, daily surf lessons, many meals, yoga, massage, and more.


Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women
  Sherpani Lifestyle Bags for Women
  Athleta active sportswear

Las Olas donates full tuition for a seven day/six night surf safari, including daily surf and yoga classes, spa treatment, daily breakfast and ground transportation. See Las Olas website for inclusions.   Sherpani Lifestyle Bags for Women donates airfare to the Las Olas safari location from any major airport in the continental US. Also, Sherpani also includes a three piece set of eye-catching luggage for your surf safari gear.   Athleta donates a $500 Gift Card so the scholarship recipient can shop for a surf-worthy wardrobe from their collection of hip, feminine designs with a performance core.


Sarah   •   MK    •    Elena    •    Lauralynn   •   Monica   •    Karen    •    Christine    •    Shirin    •    Simsun   •   Katrina

Sarah, Boulder, Colorado
Nominated by Andrew Rose

Sarah, currently working towards her masters degree in Wilderness Therapy at Naropa University in Boulder, gets her hands dirty nearly every day. With a deep connection to the healing potential of nature, she has taken gardening to chronically mentally ill and homeless populations in Boulder and Denver. Currently Sarah is interning at a sliding scale clinic in Boulder, serving mental health needs for low-income clients.

Last winter Sarah offered art therapy as an activity for a group of homeless women at the Carriage House Community Table in Boulder, which provides daytime shelter and food for the city's homeless community.

Previously Sarah worked with families in rural Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula for five years. There she created after school programming for students and facilitated in-home family sessions.

Sarah enjoys the beauty and support that nature offers, including rock climbing, hiking, camping, back country snowboarding, photography, and swimming in alpine lakes! Her dream is to offer a healing space for families and individuals to reconnect with the natural cycles of life through plants and animals.

Originally from California, now landlocked in Colorado, Sarah has been dreaming of a surf school vacation to tune up her board riding and feel the thrill of accelerating down the waves.

VOTE for Sarah   •    back to top

MK, Denver, CO

Nominated by Kara Horner

The word acupuncture is from the latin acu ‘with a needle’ + puncture. Simply explained it is the placement of needles in the human body to influence the flow of Qi, the circulating life force; stagnant Qi being the source of pain and disease of the mind, body and spirit.

MK has been practicing acupuncture for the last two decades. She gives her whole life to the study, practice, teaching and promotion of acupuncture. She uses acupuncture to help women kick the often life-long habit of prostitution and addiction. This work is challenging, exhausting and heart-breaking. MK has a life-changing impact on the 8% of the girls who can successfully graduate from this program.

She uses her vacation time to travel to exotic locales to teach and learn. She has traveled to Uganda to teach health care workers and traditional african tribal healers how to do acupuncture for their people. In 2009, she taught at the Khanh Hoa Hospital in Viet Nam, a rehabilitation hospital for the very poor who have suffered from spinal injuries and strokes. MK attended the Zhejiang College of TCM in Hangzhou to study acupuncture methods to treat addiction.

MK has never really taken a vacation for herself. I told her about my week at Las Olas: the committed instructors, revitalizing yoga, wonderful food, surf chica camaraderie and the exhilaration of riding the ocean Qi. She said, “Wow, I wish I could do that!”

VOTE for MK   •    back to top

Elena, Dana Point, CA
Nominated by Monica Moore

Elena has been a close friend of my mother since they were in high school. She has a son my age and became a single mother when he and I were in grammar school. She forged on with single motherhood, teaching Spanish and English full-time, volunteering, hiking, backpacking, skiing, sailing, and traveling. Through the years, I remember holiday picture cards: Elena on an elephant, Elena on safari, Elena at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Elena skiing. My own mother, who had also divorced but always had a man in her life, would say “Elena is so brave, so independent.” Many years passed before I understood what that meant for a single mother in the 1960s and 70s.

During her time off from teaching, Elena helped with building schools for girls in Kenya and fundraising to provide money for women in Kenya to support their families. She also did this in Mexico, and helped the Hispanic community in southern California, where she taught school for 30 years.

Elena is the alter-ego my mother always admired. In my 30s, I came to really appreciate how strong she is and what she had accomplished during a time when being a single woman and mother was less socially and culturally accepted. She has been an inspiration and role model for me in so many ways. One of the remaining adventures on her list is to learn to surf, which she hopes to do this year – for her 75th birthday!

VOTE for Elena   •    back to top

Lauralynn, Washington, DC
Nominated by Shannon Phares

Life coach, yoga instructor, personal trainer, nutritionist, entrepreneur, author, activist, cancer-survivor, best friend. This is not 8 different people. It’s one woman, LauraLynn. She is an inspiration to so many people (cancer patients, her clients, fellow activists, friends, family and me) through all she’s done in her lifetime. After fighting for her life, at the age of twenty, she began her quest to start her life over post cancer and begin thriving in her own skin. She’s cycled long distances to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation; one year she was awarded the LIVESTRONG Challenge Award for her cancer advocacy work. Six years ago she co-founded and now directs Catalyst Youth Leadership Project, a non-profit guiding underserved girls to realize their true potential beyond personal/societal barriers. Teaching yoga is yet another way LauraLynn inspires those who meet her. It is one segment of her work as an Integrative Health Coach, through which she helps others manifest healthy lifestyles. And if that wasn’t enough, she is writing a memoir after years of requests from folks inspired by her life stories. What LauraLynn has done in her 43 years easily adds up to 10 lifetimes, and she has done it all humbly; with a positive attitude and happiness in her heart. Her bucket list grows with hope of a long, full life. Last year she checked off, climb a mountain; next is learn to surf. I can think of no one more deserving than her for this amazing scholarship.

VOTE for Lauralynn   •    back to top

Monica, Sandpoint, ID

Nominated by Stephanie Travers

It wouldn’t be right to say that my mother is the most deserving of this scholarship. I know that there are plenty of nominations pouring in for well-deserving women. I can say however that there are probably few women who need a week of surf and relaxation more than my mother does right now. When I read this scholarship, my heart leaped a little, and I knew that I had try and make this happen for her.

My mother, Monica, is an unbelievably strong woman. Life has never come easily for her, but she never uses it as an excuse to work any less hard, or behave selfishly. As a single mother of three, she worked long hours, and somehow managed to get a bachelors degree in the midst of it all. As I struggle to balance work and school, I marvel at how my mother did it all.

In 1998, we were in a car accident on Christmas Day. My youngest brother, then 10 years old, was killed. It shook our family to the core, and still, my mother managed to finish school, and continued to work to make our lives better. She has not stopped since. She is an advocate for the environment, is involved in many community projects, and will give anything of herself if it means the world might be a better place for it. My mom has been surfing since she was a teenager, and this opportunity would be a beautiful break for her.

VOTE for Monica   •    back to top

Karen, Portland, OR
Nominated by Mark Wilson

Karen is an amazing wife and mother. She provided the strength that held our family together through one of the most difficult times a family could imagine.

For a year and a half our daughter Claire fought brain cancer.
At one point she went into remission. We thought it was a good time for us to have another child. However, when it came time to announce to everyone the great news, we learned some bad news. Claire’s cancer was back and it was more than ever. For the next eight months it was surreal watching a life grow inside Karen and another life fight for her life.

In the end, Claire passed away two days before Anna (named by Claire) was born. Imagine the feelings a mother must have to have one child leave and know that you must be strong enough to deliver a new life and be a mother to a four year old boy (Luke).

I witness Karen do this with strength and poignancy that still gives me shivers five years later.

Karen is a great athlete that is always looking for the next challenge. I have often heard her mention surfing as a ‘wish’ activity. I can think of no one more deserving of a week learning to surf, perform yoga and having fun. She has always put our family before her wants and needs. I would love for her to get some time for herself.

VOTE for Karen   •    back to top

Christine, Boise, ID
Nominated by April Pontz

The woman who deserves this scholarship is, hands down, Christine Pinkney. Christine is a mother of three, and a full-time SMSgt in the Air Force. She has served her country honorably for more than 20 years, including a recent deployment to Iraq. For the last nine months, Christine has been a "single mom" looking after 13yr-, 10yr- and 18mo-old children while her husband, Page, is serving our country in South Korea. Left to do the jobs as mom and dad, Christine has never complained. She lives and works in Idaho, far from her family's help in California. I'm not sure how she does it, but she even makes time to volunteer (with her kids) to raise money and run in the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, St. Luke's Women's Fitness Celebration, and even the NAMI walk for Mental Health. She continuously teaches her children balance, through her day-to-day examples of selflessness and devotion, as well as fun and play! Christine takes the time to teach her girls basketball and soccer techniques and is involved in and encourages them in all of their activities. She even teaches Sunday School at church! She is AMAZING!!

Christine deserves this break more than anyone I know. She serves her country with honor, is dedicated to her family and community, and is the best friend a girl could ask for! If you are looking for someone to represent the spirit of Las Olas, Sherpani and Athleta - Christine is your girl!

VOTE for Christine   •    back to top

Shirin, Scottsdale, AZ

Nominated by Brad Wingate

Shirin Zanganeh deserves this more than anyone I have ever known. In 2005, my wife, Susan, passed of ovarian cancer, and Shirin was there for Susan and me every step of the way. When I could not make it to her chemo appointments, Shirin would take over, taking time out of her retail job at the time and take Susan. The passing of my wife in January 2005 was unbearable. Shirin checked on me every day, and has made a huge effort to take me to movies and ice cream at least twice a month for the last five years. On top of that, Susan had told Shirin to go to nursing school and become a nurse. She provided such great care to my wife during the years she battled cancer, and Susan knew nursing was for her. Since the passing, Shirin worked hard to get her nursing degree and graduated from nursing school in May 2009. She still has many loans to pay back and has not taken a vacation since starting school in 2006. She barely started her job as a nurse, and I know this vacation would be very appreciated by her. She tells me all the time that the ocean is her passion and surfing is something she would love to learn. She does yoga in her free time, and this trip would be the most amazing gift anyone could give to such a deserving girl. She has a heart of gold and will give 100% of herself to others.

VOTE for Shirin   •    back to top

Simsun, Santa Barbara, CA

Nominated by Ashley Greco

Nine years ago, in the midst of caring for a child who was sick with late-stage Lyme disease, my mother gave up her career and her house, moving her cross-country to the sun-drenched shores of California. Having found little hope of trying to heal her daughter, she believed that being by the sea would offer at the very least a chance for solace; at best, inspiration and healing.

Every day for the next year, my mother and I went to the beach to watch the poetry of the seal-like surfers glide across the waves. Though neither of us had ever been surfing, we found hope and inspiration through watching. As I underwent one last year of harrowing medical treatment, my mother turned my attention to co-authoring a book with her about the magic of surfing, a focus she believed could be transformative.

She was right.

I am writing to you now from my dorm at Columbia University, where I am a healthy college senior. My nominee, my mother, is an incredible woman who has devoted her life to inspiring others (myself included) to accomplish their dreams. Although she has dreamed of a week at Las Olas for years, my mother has not been on a vacation in a decade. A week of incredible surfing would not only lighten my mother's life; it would remind her that there is magic in this world, and that as surely as she has helped others fulfill their dreams, so too can she find fulfillment of her own.

VOTE for Simsun   •    back to top

Katrina, Seaside, CA
Nominated by Cameron Stormes

As a marine biologist for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Katrina cared for countless sea creatures that served as educational ambassadors. While at the aquarium, she felt a need to continue to help children in an African orphanage. She created a shoe donation program wherein she asked aquarium co-workers to contribute used shoes. The thanks that she received from the orphans were heartwarming and led to further career pursuits away from marine biology, and into human biology.

Two years ago, Katrina graduated from nursing school. She went back to Africa to help children born with cleft palates and adults, the victims of horrible burns. Today, she serves as a nurse at a family planning center. She comes home with heart-breaking stories of children that are forced to be adults much too early. She also works for Visiting Nurses Association and County Health Department. She is currently a volunteer for Pacific Groves’ Hyperbaric Chamber and at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Unexpectedly, Katrina’s father died last year. The opportunity to participate in the Olas Surf Safari would certainly help her to reflect on the positive memories.

Katrina is like thousands of professional women that are challenged every day with a balance of career pull versus what makes their heart soar. The fellow surfers that she will meet will be influenced by her energy and perhaps will learn that their own lives and hearts have no limits helping others in need.

VOTE for Katrina   •    back to top

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