Our First Session in 2011
Sessions are 12 hour events for our team… a mad scramble of people and things to manage. Last Saturday marked the beginning of our Spring Session and our staff put in nearly 13 hours that day, in the hot sun AND surfed for at least 3 hours each.
Our new young program assistant Kelsey asked me “With all the challenges in Non-profits, staff doing as much as they can, funding issues and the bad economy and hardships and emotional drain how do you stay upbeat?” I told her the truth; sometimes we aren’t so upbeat. But funny, thing this “do-gooder” stuff, just when you think you want to quit, can’t take it anymore, and you feel like you are driving off a cliff or speeding straight into a wall, you know… to the end… then out of something happens to shift the fear and worry. Some kid (or two) happens…
New Boards, No Wheels!
We have new boards but no truck or van. So I was up at 4am, picked up one of our junior mentors at 5am and met Sam and Scott at our “offices” by 6am. Half an hour later we are loaded with boards stacked 4 high on each car, boxes of rashguards, surf log journals, pens ,food, tent, water bottles, coolers, and not one of us can look our windows except for forward. Unpack, set up, scramble for parking, grab a few bags of ice and coffee as we run back to the beach and already girls and mentors are arriving.
17 girls showed up. Most were scared or nervous. Only one girl raised her hand when I asked if anyone thought they would catch a wave and ride it. The rest just looked down or tried to pull their heads back into their rashguards like a turtle. One girl even said to me “No way. Not me. Nah, I don’t really want to be here.”
Getting Warmed Up
Flash forward 30 minutes later….Girls are riding waves. Everyone is screaming, cheering, falling, flopping and laughing hysterically. Makeup has run off. Hair in the nose, in the ear, swimsuits twisted and no one gives a hoot. Pure joy, pure selves…the best of everyone comes to light.
Falling In Love…
That girl, the one who said “Not me, no way”, catches her last wave in, falls off her board, her head pops up and she hugs her board beaming like a Cheshire cat. Water dripping from the corners of her smile and she shouts “I LOVE SURFING! I LOVE MY MENTOR!” Talk about a 180 degree turn around! And I know it’s just the beginning of what surfing can do.
Everyone Catches a Wave
Later, on land I ask the girls to raise hands if they caught a wave. Every one does. 100%. In fact, everyone caught several waves. I then pose the question “What other wonderful things can you achieve that you do not believe you can but we KNOW you can?” Eyes grow wide. Wheels turn. Change is in motion.
The boys session in the afternoon echoed the same. Except one boy arrived angry and belligerent.
“I don’t want to be here. The judge is making me so I’m here. I don’t want to surf. I’m just not into it.” an hour later he’s beaming like sunshine. I paddle over. “So did you catch a wave?” “Yeahhhhh!” “How was it?” He says to me, a different kid now, ” I love it I love it! I think I’ve found a new addiction. A healthy on this time. I’m back next week for sure.” A few minutes later he starts sharing his life story with me.
This kid has been in foster care since he was 3 years old. He was taken away from his parents when he flew through the windshield in a car accident caused by his drug impaired parents. They are still using ice and he hasn’t been home with them since. According to him most of his foster care homes that haven’t been so home-y. You can see in his face there hasn’t been much joy. And like most foster care kids, he doesn’t feel connected. But today, in a sea of blue-rashguards he found a stoke and a bunch of folks he was willing to pour his heart out to. He took a chance on us. And we’re here for him.
So yeah, the stories can be hard, the work can be grueling, but the stoke, the STOKE is the reward. And knowing at something as simple as riding a wave, can open a heart just wide enough to plant a positive seed… well, that’s worth getting up at 4 am.
Looking forward to more waves…stoked!