Thursday, August 17, 2006

Remember when I told you about the LA Surfbus – which takes inner city kids on waves, literally, and teaches them to enjoy the ocean – and be safe?
One day a week and all summer long, the kids learn how to dive into waves and ride them in, climbing on surf boards, flying on bogey boards and often body surf to the shore line – and many of these children have never even been to the beach.
Toward the end of the summer, I was able to surf over to Huntington Beach and spot
the kids in the waves myself. Some of the kids thought it was the last day and when I told them it wasn’t, they were begging me to let them come back.
I, unfortunately, wasn’t the woman to grant them that magic wish. But Mary Setterholm, a surfing champion, was. When they surrounded her to ask if they could return, she nodded her head with a smile and the kids ran off screaming in the ocean: “We get to come back. We get to come back,” and then gleefully, some of them jumped on their instructor’s back.
Here’s what the kid’s said to me about the program:

§ --Lauren Alleshouse, 8, : “I learned to go by myself and when this big wave was coming, I made it all the way to the shore.”

§ --Kaitlyn Andrews, 10, who lives near the water, said: “I’ve lived by the beach my whole life and don’t swim. I just had a good time and I’m not scared I’m going to drowning anymore. I learned to surf, body board, go under waves. I never did that before.”

§ --Charlene Ramirez, 8, “What did I learn? I learned about surfing. It’s a lot of work to learn and you have to keep practicing.”

§ --Tatianna Newborn, 8, “I liked going under the waves and throwing water at the instructors.”

§ --Chris Vu, 7, who jumped on the back of a surfboard and rode it into the shore: “Actually this is my first time. I was just lucky I guess.”

§ --Kyria Washington, 12, “It was the first time I ever learned bogey boarding. We got to swim around and I learned how to swim in deep, deep, deep water.”

Mary, who won the women’s national surfing championships in 1972, became like a magic fairy Surfmother – after an incident at the beach took her for another journey in life. She was teaching a bunch of kids how to surf when all of a sudden lifeguards ran by and a helicopter flew overhead Later, she learned a 13-year-old girl, who had come from the inner city, had drowned.
That’s when she decided she would get as many land locked kids down to the beach, especially kids who wouldn’t normally receive such opportunities. She pays for the program through donations and her private Surf Academy.
Every day, I thank God for people like Mary. She may not have been able to stop that little girl from drowning that day, but she probably will help prevent such horrible mishaps in the future.
And that’s no wipe out.