It Began With a Book: “The Surfer Spirit”
The Surfrider Spirit Sessions was created in 2006 by Executive Director
Cynthia Y.H. Derosier in response to a need expressed by the Hawai‘i Girls Court. Inspired by life-messages in Derosier’s book, The Surfer Spirit, and her work as a motivational speaker, Girls Court therapist Emma Pavich asked Cynthia to help “teach the girls the messages found in the book,” to which Derosier replied, “The only way they can learn it is to experience it. If you want them to ‘get it”, we’ve got to get them surfing.” Judge Karen Radius encouraged this, calling it “an idea so radical, it just might work.” The judge actively championed the proposed pilot program.
Pilot Project and Spirit Sessions Trial
After much discussion and exploration, the first Surfrider Spirit Sessions pilot was launched in 2007 as a project of the Surfrider Foundation, O‘ahu Chapter and was funded in part by proceeds from the sale of Derosier’s book The Surfer Spirit.
Additional fiscal support from Hawai‘i Women’s Legal Foundation and the Women’s Fund of Hawai‘i, provided essential funds to develop a strong and substantial first trial. Initial sessions proved so successful, Judge Radius requested additional sessions and word about the program spread.
Growth and Additional Funding
In 2007, Juvenile Drug Court’s presiding Judge Browning heard about Spirit Sessions and directed boys as well as girls to Spirit Session. By 2008, the program had grown beyond the Surfrider Foundation’s mission and after completing three successful judge-requested pilot programs, we were graciously offered funding from the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation to further develop our programs.
In June 2008, Derosier co-founded the He‘e Nalu Learning Center, a fiscally sponsored project of Community Links Hawai‘i (CLH). Derosier served as the Center’s Executive Director and the Surfrider Spirit Sessions was its cornerstone program. With the downturn in the economy and the closure of CLH, He‘e Nalu Learning Center embarked on a corporate reorganization that effectively dissolved the organization and separated its core programs into independent organizations.
Sustaining the Spirit
In December 2009, Surfrider Spirit Sessions became an independent non-profit corporation, and received IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status in March 2010. Since the initial launch the Spirit Sessions team has continued to gain momentum and grow in knowledge and impact. We are continually striving to build a strong sustainable base. (See sustainability plans)
Our strength rests on the human touch, personal involvement, and spirit of community involvement. We’ve learned that we aren’t just catching waves and changing lives, we’re building a stronger community for all. The Surfrider Spirit Sessions ‘ohana continues to grow, learn and serve.