Spending time in the bay with the City Surf Project.
“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” And true to form, it was a cold damp fog that greeted us this early July morning . City Surf Project stays huddled right in the midst of the Mission District on the East- Central side of San Francisco. A warehouse setup only spotted by the hand painted City Surf Project over the door in bold orange paint. Walking up, their roll up garage doors were wide open and all their surf equipment strewn about. Wetsuits on racks, boards filed into every crevice possible. You could feel that this was a garage for surfers, and surfers who get in the water most everyday. The SILTS began to arrive. SILTS stands for “Surf Instructors in Leadership Training” and these elder mentors of the CSP program all of whom have grown through the City Surf Project, now dedicate their time to working with the next generation of San Francisco youth. Light banter swirls through the air and there is a sense of excitement and anticipation of what the day will bring. What are the tides? Will there be favorable swell? The warmth of their excitement fills the garage. As the last of the boards gets loaded onto the roof of the two City Surf Project vans, the SILTS pile in and we begin the journey out through the city and to nearby Lindamar beach to meet up with the kids.
Since the genesis of CSP over 2,000 kids from the Bay area have been introduced to surfing with 80% of the youth in the City Surf Project experiencing the ocean for the very first time. They use surfing as a vehicle to foster a connection to nature, and improve the health and well being of youth that have been historically underrepresented in the sport of surfing despite it’s close proximity to the coast. Having been fans of their work for years and supporting their organization through our Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation for the past two summers, seeing their program’s impact on these kids first hand was an inspiring experience.
Through the guidance and passion of founder Johnny Irwin and the CSP team Megan, Forest, Andrew, and Jarryd, the kids start on a path with the water that is surrounded with encouragement and positive energy. Even something as simple as the sign in process, where in just under an hour of coordinating attendance, boards, suits, cars, and food for their one session (CSP does a morning and afternoon session) the experience evokes a perfect balance of structure and fun. Formal and homegrown all at once. It's easy to tell the passion for this project started completely from the heart, allowing kids to connect to the ocean. And even with it’s continued growth over the years, the heart is still there with the soul of the Project growing every day..
As a seasoned surfer, there really is a certain magic when you spend time around those experiencing their first rides. It reminds you that the inherent joys of surfing are so simple and captivating. It’s a pure and unfiltered connection to one of nature’s most powerful forces: wind generated swells that travel thousands of miles across seas until finally unloading the energy into a breaking wave crashing towards the shoreline. Through that beginner’s mindset conditions are not viewed as better or worse, they are just simply available, making every day the best day it could ever be to get in the water. As we stood in that cold damp San Francisco air, we all circled up and every student introduced themselves and said what surfing means to them personally followed by a warm up activity of their choice.
“It's a zen place.”
“It's a workout.”
“It's a place I go to enjoy time in the sea.”
They all rang in, and they all rang true. Surfing means so much to so many, and for so many different reasons. City Surf Project is simply giving equitable access for kids of the bay area to the ocean and allowing them to define what surfing means to them. Through the passion of the entire CSP crew working tirelessly day in and day out strapping boards, rinsing wetsuits, pushing people in, cooking food they are providing that access in a loving way. The smile of the kids beaming back at them after two hours in the sea with about 40 rides each to their name proves their love is shining forward.
On behalf of Positive Vibe Warriors, we’d like to thank the City Surf Project for recognizing a change that can be made in your own backyard and digging in to, becoming a part of that change each and every day. This isn’t only about equitable access to water, but about sharing that power of our connection to nature with generations to come. Who knows how large the ripple effect can be from these transformative experiences in the sea. With the amount of joy and energy radiating through the lineup that day at Lindamar beach, the potential is limitless.