Surf for the Soul and Celebrate Life

Surf for the Soul Event

Today was a special day for our Spirit Sessions. It was our outreach day, our Surf for the Soul Event. In collaboration with the Kids Hurt Too Hawai‘i program and Surfrider Spirit Sessions, our mentees would become the mentors, we the volunteers helping them, and the children from Kids Hurt Too would become our latest surfers-in-training.

Kids Hurt Too Hawai‘i

Kids Hurt Too is a program to support and aid children and families dealing with the loss of a parent due to death, incarceration, deployment, or divorce. The program also helps children and families grieving and working through abuse or domestic violence. Kids Hurt Too focuses on creating safe spaces for children ages 3-17 years old, along with their guardians (18 years and older) to empower, commune with, and support each other. Through the fostering of community, and various activities and programs, Kids Hurt Too provides a safe haven for various youth and adults to share and grow from their grief.

three kids catch a wave together wearing Kids Hurt Too t-shirts with crystal blue water around them and diamond head in the background.
our Surf for the Soul event brought Hawai‘i’s keiki together in the ocean

Surf for the Soul Event

The fifth session of Spirit Sessions is about giving back, fostering a sense of reciprocity for our mentees, and showing them that they too can be leaders and teachers as well as students. It’s about connecting even more youth, mentors, volunteers, and families together into a larger network of support. We connect through the ocean, sharing in the spirit of surfing and rejuvenating our souls together in the salt water.

Beginning the Day

Devin and I got there almost an hour later than planned, and it was already busy and bustling with kids from Kids Hurt Too, and the boys from the mentoring program. Our girls, whose schedules worked better with the afternoon time slot, would be arriving later. I introduced Devin to everyone, happy to have my boyfriend there with me, happy for him to get a sneak-peek into what I’d been doing for the last 4 Saturdays. I was drained, having had a long week myself, and not feeling 100% up to being there amidst all the energy.

But, I had resolved myself to be here, with the kids, and change my attitude. We circled up, and one of the youngest mentees said a prayer. It was obvious he was a performer. He bowed to all of us, saying a prayer for great waves and safe surfing. In the rush of children, adults, and surfboards, we made our way to the inner break of Queens, pairing up into groups.

I asked our student what his name was, asked if he had ever surfed before. He had, but thought surfing was boring. I exaggeratedly looked at him with confusion—who could ever think surfing was boring—and as he bounced over one of the first breaking waves on his longboard I asked him again whether surfing could be boring. He smiled and shook his head.

Pairing Up and Catching Waves

Devin and I were assigned, along with a mentee from the Spirit Session program, to push and catch a boy from Kids Hurt Too. We all waded or paddled out together with over 30 other kids, volunteers, and mentors, into the water. It was going to be a wild ride for everyone.

young boy being tandem paddled out on a longboard with the help of a volunteer.
tandem paddling is part of the day’s fun

Devin and our Spirit Session mentee would push him, and I would catch him on the inside. I watched Devin dodge longboards while pushing the little guy on his huge board. Then, as he stood and caught waves, smiling all the way into shore. I would run along the sandy bottom, waist-deep in water, and push him back out, helping him to dodge the other surfers.

It was one of those days where you just do whatever is needed of you for an hour. I ran about, catching other little kids, pushing them back out, jumping on to boards to tandem paddle them back out. Some of the boys and girls from Kids Hurt Too didn’t know how to swim, so they wore life vests, and with each wipeout they bobbed in the water, splashing and paddling around until we helped them back onto their boards.

Spirit Surfers of All Ages

smiling youth catching a wave on a longboard with Diamond Head in the background for volunteer program Surf for the Soul event.
children of all ages catch waves at Surf for the Soul

Devin was a true team player in the water, catching longboards coming at his head, pushing kids into some of the best waves of the day. I felt so lucky to have him there with me today in the waves. He and the other instructors pushed kids into wave after wave, some standing and others falling immediately.

One of our favorite little guys couldn’t wait for a wave, and would randomly stand up whenever he felt like it, balancing on the board, tiny feet set wide, arms out, and smiling the biggest smile. Some of the students from Kids Hurt Too were intimidated at first, but their confidence was buoyed with each wave and each wipeout. They, too, were learning the power of falling and getting back up again.

young boy wiping out on a surfboard during the Surf for the Soul volunteer outreach event.
wipeouts are part of the experience

We pushed and caught and paddled them in and out, the water colder than usual thanks to the coming winter. Girls and boys stood up, wiped out, paddled, and played in the shore once they were too tuckered out to surf any longer. I helped carry boards back up to the sand, checking on who else needed help. Finally, we rinsed off and were ready to eat.

Coming Together

Once more, we circled up and the same young mentee said another pule (prayer) this time for the pizza we were about to eat and the waves we had enjoyed. Everyone who wanted a slice lined up, and a volleyball became both volley and soccer ball in the sand for anyone who wanted to play. Some of our girls from the program showed up, too.

students, mentees, and volunteers hold hands together in community moment of sharing together for our outreach day.
changing the world one wave at a time

A Last-Minute Gift

While hanging out with everyone, I turned to see my mentee, who I hadn’t seen the previous week, had arrived. I gave a her a big hug, happy she was there. It was getting close to 12 at this point, and I knew we could only be parked in our stall until 1pm.

Yet, I couldn’t help but ask her if she wanted to surf, and the shy smile of affirmation made me careless for the parking restriction, my already dried hair, and sunburned skin. We grabbed two boards, made our way out to Queens, and caught a few waves. Devin paddled out the little guy who loved to stand up unprompted, tandem paddling him out.

young girl with two braid pig-tails surfs a wave on a longboard during a spirit session outreach event.
catching waves and rejuvenating spirits

He perched on the nose of the board, with Devin paddling behind him, and we all tried to catch tiny waves together. It wasn’t mine and Devin’s typical surfing session—all shortboards and late take-offs and reef to avoid—but it was exhilarating and exciting, nonetheless. My mentee told me about her mom’s promise to buy her a board for her upcoming birthday, and that she would miss the next session. I assured her that whenever I saw her, any session, I’d be stoked.

Heading Back Home

Finally, I knew we had to paddle in, or risk getting a ticket for our car. We hugged and waved goodbye to everyone. We walked to our car, making it back at 1258pm, letting ourselves sink into the exhausted glow of a busy and joyful Saturday morning on the way home.

Celebrate Life

For me, the best part of this event is being a part of something even bigger than myself. My favorite part of surfing is the close connection to the ocean, and my favorite part of volunteering is becoming a part of a community.

series of barreling waves being caught and surfed. image taken from the surfer spirit book by Cynthia Derosier, a lesson for the day's event of Surfing for the Soul.
we celebrate life through surfing; processed with VSCO

Today was a celebration, a moment of freedom for all of us from the hustle and bustle of everything else, a moment of respite from painful emotions, difficult life experiences, and distress. For everyone out there, it was a celebration of life, and a celebration of giving. It wasn’t about who surfed the best wave, or who could be better. Today was about what we could achieve together, and how we could overcome whatever challenges we face by riding out those waves and wipeouts together, in our bodies and our spirits.

“Time and time again

I celebrate Life”

What better way to spend a Saturday?

Image Credits: with permissions

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