Impacts of Surf Mentor
Photographs by Katie Ferraro | Copy by Dustin Valdez
Where to begin…
I am not sure where I would be without surfing in my life. I have STOKED to thank for that. I actually learned how to surf in New York while volunteering with STOKED. As a SoCal native, the irony of learning how to surf in the Atlantic vs the Pacific Ocean cannot be understated, but that’s what happened.
How it has shaped my life…
The ocean has become my second home. Maybe my first home if I think about it hard enough. It is the proverbial cleansing pool that washes away the muck from day-to-day living and stressors. Bills, meetings, traffic, visual and auditory overstimulation in urban settings, you name it. Every time I take a dip into the sweet salty ocean with my battered surfboard to catch small and big waves alike, I always come out feeling better. Obviously the margin for feeling better changes with each session, but it is always better. Some days its 50% better and others it is 5% better. Even 1% is better than nothing.
The connection and impact…
It's this same concept of always feeling a pinch better that you can see while mentoring youth during the STOKED surf season. You can still see this in skate and snow season too, but I’m unapologetically biased in favor of surf (I mean, it just became the official sport of California in 2018!). The teenagers we work with, especially the first timers, usually are a little apprehensive before their surf session. But just a few minutes into it, that moment where one finds their “flow” or “groove”, you begin to witness the telltale sign of feeling or actually being better. That sign comes in the form of a raw and unfiltered smile. A smile that is not provoked by the mind, but by the heart. It just feels good.
Lasting effects include…
Caution: surfing may include increased happiness, self-confidence, and overall stoke. This is witnessed in the water and it is real. The shear novelty of the experience is apparent, since many of the youth do not frequent beaches (especially way out in Zuma or let alone to go surfing) because of logistical or socioeconomic barriers and roadblocks. Having grown up in a poor hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles, I don’t have an abundance of beach memories for similar reasons. But once the novelty factor is removed, you are left with kids having fun, kinetic learning, and bonding over a semi-independent sport. Those 3 things help boost confidence that can help them try new things in the future with a statement similar to “Remember that time I caught 5 waves in row. If I can do that, I can do this!”