By Julian Canery, STOKED Alum, Syracuse University ’17
I think that the best moments in life are when you do the unthinkable. I always tell people that I live to see new things and take on new challenges. For me personally, there’s nothing more fulfilling than to live a life filled with spontaneity and adventure. Everyday should be taken with a desire to learn new things, to visit new places, and to make new friends.
If you were to ever ask a young teenager from Brooklyn to hop on a board and surf, smack in the middle of Queens, he’d most definitely look at you like you’re crazy. Coming from an environment surrounded by pavement and concrete, it’s almost unthinkable to envision surfing in New York City. But if you can think it, it’s possible.
I remember being 17 when I first went to Rockaway Beach to surf with STOKED. With that being my first time ever surfing (and my first time ever taking the A train to Far Rockaway for any reason), I didn’t know what to expect. But as out of the loop as I was, I felt nothing but bliss the entire day. I remember seeing STOKED’s surf shack for the first time, and feeling like I wasn’t even in New York City anymore. To this day, surfing with STOKED has been one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
There aren’t many experiences that even come close to learning how to surf for the first time. If you were to ask me, the best part of my surfing experience was the very first time I stepped foot on a surfboard. I remember my heart beating ferociously in excitement — and every time I fell off the board I would run out the water as fast as I could, just to run back in. The very first time I successfully glided across the calm waves, I felt a sense of euphoria – almost as if I was flying. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. For those odd moments that I soared across the water, I felt limitless. What also caught my attention as a part of surfing with STOKED were the mentors. They were so patient with me my first time surfing, and there was never a point where I felt shy or nervous around them. Because of the support that my mentors gave me, I was able to focus completely on the board and the waves.
In retrospect, surfing was able to bring out a side of me I never knew existed. I was able to think the unthinkable in that present moment, and for a young Haitian American living in Brooklyn, those moments were so different from my everyday life. Not many people can say that they’ve been surfing, and I haven’t met anyone outside of STOKED that’s been able to say they’ve ever surfed in New York City. I will always have a large amount of respect for STOKED, because they give students the ability to have experiences they wouldn’t normally have in their day-to-day lives.