Katie Pofahl is the co-star of Otter 501, the documentary that chronicles the story of an orphaned sea otter washed ashore on the California coast. Later, the young otter became part of a groundbreaking program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium introducing orphaned pups to a surrogate sea otter mother. The mom reared the pup for months, helping develop the necessary skills to survive in the wild. The PBS documentary Saving Otter 501 aired recently to check on the pup and her success in the wild.
Last February, Katie took a break from chilly Central Cal and joined us at Las Olas in Mexico for warm waves and up close whale watching. She shares her insights below.
See you in the waves,
It’s amazing what a few decent waves will do for your form. I started surfing in Monterey, California, a place with notoriously craggy coastline and waves that aren’t exactly beginner-friendly. Most surfers in the area ride short boards to take advantage of how technical the waves are. Some wear helmets. This is not Gidget’s part of California. Over two years later and I was still basically a beginner, spending a lot of time looking for waves but only catching them infrequently even on my best days.
So when a friend offered me a chance to go to Mexico with Las Olas I didn’t hesitate. Surfing? Yes. Luxury? Why not? But really, I wondered, how much could I learn in just a week? Well, when it comes to surfing a perfect wave coached by expert surfers it turns out that a little goes a long way. My surf safari was a week when I didn’t have to dodge nine out of ten waves or risk life and limb paddling for one. A week when I surfed whatever time of day I wanted. A week of simply learning and then practicing.
And then, of course, there were the perks. A yoga instructor who tailored each class to surfers – she knew exactly which muscles would hurt after a day of paddling for more perfect waves than I’d see in a month at home. An adventure to a break that wasn’t just a fantastic wave, but one that was so remote it hardly had another soul on it. A clubhouse just for us. No crappy rented gear, changing in the bathroom, or leaving my valuables somewhere and crossing my fingers.
This week took me from being a kinda-sorta-surfer to the real deal. It was experience on the waves, of course, but also the chance to really focus. I got to tune out work, weather, and whatever else it is that keeps me off the water at home and go live the dream. We surfed all day and talked shop over Margaritas in the clubhouse at night.
I’m back at home now and though I miss the warm waters of Mexico from time to time I don’t need to be there to tap in to what I learned. Home might mean more rocks, pounding beach breaks, and finicky waves but I’m still the same surfer – when the waves are good, and even sometimes when they aren’t, I’m one of the ones catching them.
Katie Pofahl is a scientist, conservation advocate, and environmental enthusiast who currently lives in Pacific Grove, California. Check out the Otter 501 Facebook page for more on the film, personal updates from Katie, and short videos.
Right: Bev and Katie back in Carmel, CA