In surfing we get knocked down, but we always get back on the board.
I know many of our Las Olas surfers lead double lives in demanding, high profile careers. And I’ve learned that their work may have profound impact on the world around them. But when I asked one particular guest about her job, I had no idea just how impactful.
Jess O’Connell joined us last year and we connected right away. She’s playful and spirited for sure, but I could sense there was more to her story. We landed on a common topic at Las Olas—the importance of finding balance on the waves and in life.
“So Jess, what’s your day job?” I asked.
“I worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign,” she revealed. “Not once, but each time she ran.” She must have noticed my eyes misting.
“I came to Las Olas because I needed a break.”
The last presidential election hit many women hard. I was one of them. The night the results came in we were all on the beach, out of cell phone range at the annual turtle release. For the next three hours, everyone at Las Olas was sure our next president would be a woman. But when we returned to the Plaza, the news hit us like a rogue wave.
“Yes, it was tough,” Jess recalled.
“There are lots of lessons we can learn from surfing.”
Jess continued, “The metaphors in your workshops, like how to connect with the girl who loves to laugh, apply our feminine power, and always getting back on the board and trying again—I think we need this now.”
“Sure,” I said, still amazed at how calmly she was able to paddle through our choppy history.
As the week went on we talked more. She assured me that she and thousands across the country remain hard at work on the front lines and behind the scenes inspiring people to take action and organizing them to register to vote.
She believed all would benefit from the Las Olas experience, so we hatched a plan for a special surf safari called W3 : Waves+Women+Winning.
I admit that as our W3 safari approached, I was concerned that the healing magic of surfing and Mexico wouldn’t work on them. What if they couldn’t put down their cell phones, disconnect, and have fun? I mean, these are busy ladies. They have a world to save!
W3 ~ Wild, Witty, & Wonderful
Girl, was I wrong! These ladies cut loose as W3 became Wild, Witty, and Wonderful! I still glow when I think of the their reports from the frontlines of Election Night 2016, both hilarious and heart wrenching. Although the stories were bittersweet, each was splashed with humor, optimism, and support for each other.
We listened, laughed, and toasted tequilas between surf sessions in the warm waves. At the end of the week, Jess revealed a more serious mission. She reminded us how fast 2020 was approaching. “We’ve learned that we can’t assume it’s going to end well,” she warned, “We’re going to need help.” I promised I would do my very best.
Now as I write this, I know many of the W3 surfers were up at dawn today, in DC, Chicago, Miami, New York, or Carmel. We may not all be in the same ocean, but we’re all riding the same wave.
See you in the waves,
PS Here are six ways we can help now:
Photos: Camilla Fuchs
About Jess O’Connell
Often seen on The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and more, Jess O’Connell was CEO and spokeswoman at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2017. The following year she launched the national I WILL VOTE campaign which helped Democrats win the largest midterm margin since the 70’s.
Today, Jess is a partner at NEWCO Stategies, a majority-minority, majority-LGTBQ, and majority-women owned strategic consulting firm.
You can follow her on Twitter: @JessOConnell
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