What Surfing Teaches our Youth

Words by: Steve Larosiliere; Photos by: Martin Douglas Clark

Our surfing program was conceived in the city of Salvador, in Bahia, Brazil. Back in 2005, right when I started STOKED, we had just finished our snowboarding program -- I decided to take an inspiration trip with my mentor and a bunch of friends. Little did I know what surfing would have in store for me.

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Surfing to me taught me how to be present, respectful, appreciate the ocean / nature, overcome fear, and achieve the impossible (riding a wave).

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I took those lessons that I learned in Brazil and created the surfing mentoring program that exists today. Our surfing program takes place in NYC at Rockaway Beach and in Los Angeles at Venice and Malibu. We start the program in June right before school ends with a few weeks of swimming lessons. A majority of our student's don't know how to swim. With your donations, we rent pools, hire swim instructors, and teach our students how to swim. Once they pass swim lessons, they can can attend our surfing program.

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In NYC, STOKED has a surf shack right on the beach which houses all of our gear. The students take the train to Rockaway which is usually an hour train ride. In Los Angeles, we rent school buses to transport our students to the beach. We partner with surf schools and partners like Stoke Share who provide all our gear. Our program manager or coach runs the day with the help with our amazing mentors. Before surfing, we clean up the beach in a ritual called paying for waves, then we take surf lessons, then head out to the beach to catch waves.

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We found that our students feel part of a community, overcome their fear, and understand their role in helping to preserve the environment. In addition to learning how to swim and surf, our students have an amazing summer connecting with the overall STOKED community. None of this would be possible without your support. If you're lucky, you'll learn to catch waves like this STOKED youth below.