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The Seasters

The Seasters

Seasters
Women in all states of life take to the sea

SCHUYLER Nunn didn’t grow up a surfer. Like many teenage girls of the 80s and 90s, she appreciated surf culture, albeit from a distance – the Philly native spent her summers in Ocean City working at 7th Street Surf Shop. It wasn’t until her own adult daughter began surfing in earnest that Schuyler decided to tag along.
“Avery started surfing three or four years ago. She did surf camps on and off for years growing up, but she got into it more seriously in the last three or four years,” said Schuyler about her daughter. “It was just kind of a fun mother-daughter thing to do.”
“My mom and I have always been pretty close,” said Avery. “We’ve always done active things together but I think we both love the ocean the most…it’s physical but it’s so connected to the planet in a way that other exercises aren’t. It makes you feel a lot more connected. It’s also very humbling.”
The story could have stopped there. Instead, what started as simply another way for mother and daughter to connect has become almost tribal: a group of women, taking on the ocean, while cheering each other on in a considerate and inclusive environment.
“There’s a group of about eight of us. We’ll often meet out at sunrise, but there’s just a really nice surf culture of people who are around in the morning,” says Schuyler. “Everyone is so sweet and supportive towards each other and it’s all levels. I feel like I’m just paddling around, but then you have those that are really good. It’s just such a nice supportive group of people.”
The women range in age from early 20s to mid-50s with the occasional teenager joining their crew – they’re all at vastly different points of their lives. While some are in mid-life with their own grown children, others are just starting off, and still others are juggling businesses and new families. Their common bond – which they pursue as surfers, but also in many cases, as artists – is the ocean.
In fact, it was while pursuing her love of the ocean as a photographer that Avery first connected with Kristina Young, owner of Peace of Wood in Ocean City.
“Pretty much everyone’s day jobs involve being creative with the ocean in some way. It’s probably where we all get inspiration for work,” says Avery, a writer and photographer. “We kind of met sporadically – Kris started selling my photographs when I was just starting out and then we started surfing together. Everyone kind of joined in one by one!”
“It all kind of spanned from the shop,” said Kristina, who has featured the artwork of many of the women who ended up surfing together at Peace of Wood. “Avery’s work is amazing and we had talked to her about bringing it into the shop to showcase. That’s how we got to meet Avery and Schuyler. Avery was looking for more of a community to paddle out with and Schuy wanted to learn how to surf and it just kind of all grew from that. It really grew once Schuy got involved…she really spearheaded getting more women in the water.”
A judgment-free zone, the women value the support they receive from one another, their time on the ocean, and their unusual dynamic – it’s an all ages and all experiences welcome sisterhood.
“I’m usually the youngest when we go out,” said Avery, who’s 24 years old. “We kind of have someone in each decade. I think being out with a different age group, there’s a different vibe than going out with people your age range. I think having different age ranges probably gives a good variance in perspective, just because everyone’s had different experiences. Everybody just has kind of their own viewpoint.”
Other members of their group include but aren’t limited to Susan Allen, Meg Jacovino, Andrea Kohr and Caitlin Peck. And though some of the women were familiar with each other before surfing together, it’s their daily paddle out that has solidified and strengthened their relationships. But the women are open and welcoming to just about anyone who wants to give surfing a try.
“I’m always encouraging anyone to join in,” said Kristina. “Getting in the water for the first time can be intimidating.”
The surf world can be territorial, but these women, who can usually be found at 7th, 8th or 3rd Streets, have carved out a place for themselves to pursue both passion and friendship, affectionately referring to one another as “seasters.”
“A lot of guys can be competitive on the water, but when you’re with your mom, especially, or a group of women, it’s just the best because you cheer each other on,” said Avery. “Everybody wants each other to get better and do better. We try to be the first ones there. Even when the waves are bad, we try to build that arm strength.”
That communal aspect provides the sense of support necessary for trying – and thriving in – new situations, allowing the women to truly learn. Not only do they make it a point to surf daily, they also enlist the help of surf pro Matt Keenan.
“Our women’s group has been absolutely amazing! All of them have become really confident in the water now because we really have focused on what each of them individually needs to work on,” said Matt. “As a group, they have all gained so much more confidence and support from one another and I’m just there to add some color commentary on approaches and technique. They all work so hard and honestly it’s been one of the coolest things I’ve been associated with. I’m looking forward to more of it this summer.”
“It’s fun, spending time with people that are fun, people that are making you better in a meditative but also physical way,” said Avery. “We’re just super stoked to be in there when the sun is rising. Plus if you get there super early, you may get more waves.”

Featured image by Nat Giuffre

Find this story and more in the June issue of Ocean City Magazine

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