Introducing Mułaa, Canada’s Rising Tide Indigenous Surf Team

Ivan Wells Jr. checks the airwaves from outside Mułaa headquarters. (Photo by Nora O’Malley)
Members of the Mułaa surf team throw shakas in front of their new surf shed in Esowista, at the northern end of Long Beach.  (Photo by Nora O'Malley)Members of the Mułaa surf team throw shakas in front of their new surf shed in Esowista, at the northern end of Long Beach. (Photo by Nora O’Malley)

It’s Friday afternoon in Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Surfers wait on the shore as the heavy August fog clears and the tide rises.

Looking north from Lovekin Rock towards the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (TFN) community of Esowista, a group of brown faces in wetsuits play freely like seals in the range, surfing on friendly summer waves and taking turns paddling a solitary green soft top surfboard.

Meet Canada’s Indigenous Surf Team. This is Mulaa.

“I want to catch really big waves and get thundered,” beams Halidzox Rampanen, 11, after completing the two-week summer surf and water safety training Aug. 2-12. She says all the surfing and ocean safety has made her feel smarter.

“In foggy conditions, don’t go too far,” shares Rampanen.

Pronounced Mu-th-laa, the word means rising tide in TFN parlance. Mułaa was founded in 2019 by Rachel Dickens and Alyssa Fleishman as a vessel to bring more young Nuu-chah-nulth to the ocean. In just a few years, Tofino’s surfing and business community has stepped up donations with over $20,000, and a surf shed was built this summer outside the TFN Education Building to house surfboards. and combinations.

Dickens says that now that they have a place to store all the equipment, they are looking to acquire new gear or donate new surfboards. Navigating between buying new equipment and quality used equipment is tricky, as mom Nitanis Desjarlais points out. On the one hand, kids grow up so fast, but on the other hand, it’s really great to have new gear, especially a new surfboard with no bumps or holes.

“The equipment is really expensive, as is the suit. It’s kind of a favored sport because if you can afford it, you can buy the wetsuit,” Desjarlais said, noting that she has three children on Mułaa’s surf team. “I was looking for a used surfboard and even saw that it was a little expensive. Someone saw that my children loved surfing and gave them a longboard which they now share.

The Mułaa Surf Team is open to all young Nuu-chah-nulth ages 10 and up, but they also welcome all native people who are young at heart. Dickens says regular Monday fixtures at Esowista will resume in the fall.

“That’s what I love about Rising Tide is that the opportunity is there if they wanted it. My kids didn’t know they liked surfing because they didn’t have the equipment. and now they have it. Just having a place and a space and an opportunity, I think you’re going to see more brown bodies in their own ocean where they belong,” Desjarlais said.

Ivan Wells Jr., 21, is from Ehattesaht, a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation near Zeballos. He has a family home in Esowista and joined the two-week Mułaa Surf and Water Safety Camp.

“I’ve had a lot of fun. The past two weeks have definitely rekindled my enjoyment of all kinds of watersports. I know there are a lot of kids in the water, but offering more programs and more boards would make surfing more accessible,” Wells Jr.

There are stories from the late Hesquiaht First Nation Simon Lucas of a form of surfing that took place in ancient Nuu-chah-nulth times, according to Desjarlais.

“Before, they had small cedar canoes in the shape of surfboards and they organized small competitions. (Lucas) said as a boy, that’s what they did.

Anyone interested in learning more about Mułaa is encouraged to visit their website or check out their Instagram account @risingtidesurf.

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