For Jen Wolf, the beach has always been a place of refuge. There's something about being at that boundary zone, being on one side and looking out to another, that gives your mind a sense of ease and escape. The beauty of nature can help the worst situation seem not so bad. And as a child, Jen had a situation that she wanted to escape from.
Growing up with a single mom and two brothers in Ventura, California, there were times when her family would lose their apartment and would end up living out of their Volkswagen van, often camping by the beach along Highway 1. While living at the beach sounds like every kid’s dream, it became clear to her that she was different from the rest of the kids. The stigma of not having a home is a heavy weight to bear as a child. And while her childhood was a relatively happy and normal one, the experience stuck with her well into adulthood.
Our fundamental belief that inspired the #thatvanagain film project is that VW vans and surfing are both driven by the yearn for freedom. And we hope to capture stories of freedom and weave them together into a short film to inspire audiences to pursue their own path to freedom. Sometimes the story might be around the freedom from the monotony of a corporate job or it could mean the freedom to pursue adventure and travel around the world looking for surf. Sometimes it’s the freedom to get out of the city and take your family into the wild. Or in Jen’s case, sometimes it’s the freedom to leave something painful behind and move forward.
Jen knew she was still carrying these childhood struggles with her, even as she established herself as respected artist based in Venice, California. It was there, at a yard sale, that she discovered the VW Bubble-top van that, together with her husband Neil, they restored into their ideal surf exploration vehicle. On weekends, they would pack up the van, load their dog, and find themselves heading up north from Los Angeles to urban camp in Ventura, exploring the downtown scene and surf spots around the area. And without any real intention, she realized she was revisiting her childhood experiences.
This time something was different. This time she wasn’t a powerless little girl struggling to come to terms with life without a home. This time she was doing things on her own terms, in her own van, with her husband. And she realized the refuge she found in the natural beauty of the area offered more than solace. They provided her a chance to heal. They allowed her to re-experience those difficult situations from her youth and bring a new healthy perspective to those stories she told herself. She found the freedom to move on to her next story, one that’s full of joy.