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Dropping In

A local surfer paddles out daily for a worthy cause

Photo by Jay Reilly

On May 1, 2011, Cardiff resident and surfer Sarah Hughen embarked on a self-propelled project called A Wave A Day. Her mission? To surf every day for one year to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research and prevention.

Hughen recalls reading a newspaper article way back in 1999—it stated that one in eight women would be diagnosed with breast cancer that year. At the time Hughen had thought of her three sisters, her mother, and her grandmother. “I remember looking up and thinking, Oh my gosh! That could be one of us!” she recalls.

Fast forward 12 years and Hughen has turned her alarm into action, taking on the challenge of a sport her younger self never imagined doing: surfing. Growing up, the activities of this Wisconsin native revolved around fresh water. She canoed. She hiked. Surfing never crossed her mind. “I grew up way out in the country,” she explains. “I never even imagined I’d live in California.”

After graduating from Montana State University in 1999, she met her future husband, a Californian who grew up surfing at Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas. He was offered a job in San Diego, so they moved to Cardiff in 2000. They got married in 2002 and now have two little boys (ages 4 and 6).

With two kids out of school this past summer, grabbing a moment to hit the waves was tough at times. “I’d run out, catch a wave, then I’d have to get back because whoever was babysitting them—it’s already been long enough,” she says.

Nothing can sway Hughen from her commitment. Not the prospect of ocean temperatures in the 50s. Not the fact that her degenerative disc condition can throw out her back at any moment—which it has… twice. Not even a wedding in Idaho. 

“My best friend from college was getting married in June and I wasn’t going to miss it,” she says. So, she brought her surfboard, a pink longboard donated by Cardiff shaper Craig Hollingsworth, and paddled a long stretch of river in the Potato State. “All of these fly fishermen were like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” says Hughen.

So far, she has raised more than $4,800 for the Keep A Breast Foundation via auctions and raffles at project milestone parties, yoga benefit classes, and through her Web site. Her next milestone event, the 300-day party, is scheduled for February.

With a little more than 120 days left to go, Hughen hopes she can continue to be an example for healthful change. “I hope in the end, it’s less of a celebration of ‘I did it!’ and more of just about honoring a year dedicated to a cause.”

To make a donation and stay up-to-date on new fundraising events, visit awaveaday.com.

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