Adrienne Smith’s Daylight Rave

By Jeff Wing   |   April 25, 2024
Adrienne Smith rowed across 2,400 miles of ocean and all she got was a knowing grin… (photo David Kafer)

SUNSENDER. There, I said it. Remember the word. It is the fruit of one woman’s search for everyday magic. 

Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily. Life is But a Dream.

Adrienne Smith and three other women climbed into a fiberglass rowboat under the Golden Gate Bridge, shoved off, and rowed to Honolulu; a largish city in the mid-ocean Aloha State. Adrienne was in search of revelation – sort of a 40 Days in the Desert thing. In fact the crossing took the team 34 days, 14 hours and 11 minutes – but close enough. Using oars and scary grit, the four-woman crew crossed 2,400 miles of trackless water under wraparound sunshine, blazingly starry skies, and the occasional lashing rain – their sovereign little speck of flotsam skimming the roof of an underworld whose basement lay four miles straight down. Best not to think about it. 

At any rate, Adrienne got her revelation, but it snuck in through a side door and was not initially bathed in otherworldly light. That would be a delayed effect. About six days out from 1) arrival at their destination, 2) a world record, and 3) the serotonin summit of a lifetime, Adrienne began to freak. Why now, on the very eve of falling exhaustedly back into the loving arms of the dear, familiar world? 


Triathlong and Winding Road

On a given day in 2011, Adrienne was parking her car near the Santa Barbara yoga studio space for which she had just signed the lease. Her phone rang. “I got a call that my dad had cancer. He’d had a little bout of skin cancer, but this was … he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.” She seems to panic a little in the remembrance. “My parents lived in Chicago at the time, the suburbs, and I called him. The thing that he said to me was, ‘don’t stop living your life for me.’” Her father would live for another five years. “And in that time,” Adrienne says, “my parents picked up their whole house and moved to Santa Barbara.” Her father wouldn’t surrender to the disease, but the match was unequal. “He was just like, ‘I’m going to recover.’” There was time to move closer to Adrienne, to bring the family that much closer together. “They moved here at the end of 2014.”

One of Adrienne’s brothers moved to Santa Barbara from Portland to help out. Adrienne’s dad grew weaker. “Unfortunately, my dad passed away the spring before the Cubs won the World Series. He passed in 2016, on April 26th. So, the day before my event.” The clouds (or whatever indefinable cosmology takes occasional pleasure in roughing us up when we’re already grasping the drapes for support) started to gather. “I was pregnant, and shortly after that I had a miscarriage,” she says. “Then I got pregnant again, right away.”

A rowboat, the Pacific, and thou. Adrienne Smith, Libby Costello, Brooke Downes, and Sophia Denison-Johnston celebrate the implausible. (courtesy photo)

Eight months after her dad’s passing Adrienne’s mom fell down the stairs and sustained a brain injury from which she wouldn’t recover, passing away in late December that same year. “My mom was so loving, so nurturing. I just pictured having a child that had grandparents. To lose someone while also pregnant, it was really, really hard. The first couple years I was still grieving.” 

A successful triathlete and perpetual motion machine who had long since dialed everything in, Adrienne – now orphaned, pregnant, and attended by her bewildered life partner – found herself without a magnetic north. “Losing both of my parents, my body changing, my role changing…” She and her husband Jason, a fellow triathlete and Ironman, struggled to stay aloft in the turbulence. “That was the start.” She half-heartedly retreated to the familiar. “I tried racing again in 2018. I could still go out and do really great, but I didn’t like it anymore. I knew that I was just doing it because it was something I was good at.” Jason, meanwhile, had been training a four-woman crew for an event called The Great Pacific Race, and one of the four was looking less than perfectly committed. He saw in the outlandish trans-Pacific challenge just the sort of physical and spiritual gauntlet that might shake his dearest pal from her torpor. Adrienne took his recommendation, joined the team, trained like hell, and paddled a little boat across the Pacific. It almost worked.

A Reduced Capacity for Bullshit

“When I got back from my trip, one of the things that I recognized – and it took a little while – was that I just did not have the capacity for bullshit and people complaining. Myself included. Just… living the humdrum life. I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be around this. This is exhausting.’” Adrienne had graduated from an indefinable malaise to one that seemed all-too-definable – her shadowy hanger-on a stubborn aggregate of all the ordinariness she’d long been successfully outrunning. It was then that the epiphany she’d sought on the vast Pacific prairie presented itself anew – not as some external rapture found at the gasping summit, but as a dormant euphoria. Inside. And awaiting a breath of pure oxygen to catalyze its blossoming into flame. Okay. Here’s where we can set metaphor aside, mostly. And here comes SUNSENDER.

“My husband and I took MDMA at the beach,” Adrienne says as plainly as it’s possible to say something. “That first time, we just laid on the beach for six hours and listened to music. He put on a playlist from when we first met –” She searches for the language. “ – and it just sparked this thing, it dropped the walls, it allowed us to talk – it caused us to talk – about things that we wouldn’t normally talk about, because they had brought up so much heat and anger and resentment before.” 

Once the full-frontal effects of the medicine had passed, the afterglow settled in and began its foundational wonderwork. The new perspective threw light on everything; music, love, life, the mechanics of feeling good. The aura of beneficence gave Adrienne an idea – one that is actualizing this weekend.

“Music started to become the background of everything in our household. We started seeking out artists to go see them at shows, and I realized this whole scene only happens at night. What if it could happen in the day?”


SUNSENDER is a family affair, and a chance to dance ecstatically on a sun-kissed oceanfront hilltop (photo David Kafer)

Adrienne’s reckless revelation – the kind that begins with a paddle to Hawaii – is bearing rhapsodic fruit. SUNSENDER is, yeah, a daylight rave. Sort of. That’s just the start. It all happens April 27, 2024, 9 am – 1 pm, at the Santa Barbara City College Overlook; surely one of the more academically distracting ocean views in higher education. 

“Yeah, it’s about music and movement and connection,” Adrienne exults. SUNSENDER is an embodiment of the uncontainable exaltation Adrienne is still actively building into her daily life. “The birth of it was this idea of movement, music, and then medicine. And the medicine doesn’t have to be psychedelics; it can be nature and connection and what really is the medicine, it’s getting a good night’s sleep, it’s getting up in the morning, moving your body and connecting to yourself.” 

The SUNSENDER itinerary on Saturday is 9 am yoga led by Adrienne, followed by a 10 am Dance Party with DJ sets by Origami Human and Shallou. The indescribable fest will also include a cold plunge, sauna, body work, assisted stretching, nervous system reset, body art, a kid zone (admission by donation), mom & baby workout, NA cocktails, shopping, sunshine, and ocean views your fam in the Midwest will be convinced are fake. Adrienne Smith is throwing a party in broad daylight, on a grassy hilltop overlooking the vast Pacific. 

“I have this image of myself as a little girl, roller skating on the tennis court and holding a CD player in the palm of my hand so it wouldn’t skip. I was by myself, it was my happy place, and I loved moving with music.” Her closing query is only partly rhetorical. “What if we dove into a lifestyle that prioritizes play over pressure?”  


Sunsender is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to infuse joy while connecting people with their innate ability to heal through movement, music, and nature. They are accepting charitable contributions to serve our community with family-friendly wellness events like this 1-2 times a year. The “about” page has a little more meat about the mission/value/vision.


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