On Thursday morning, Elevate Youth staff and volunteers met up with a group of kids and adult mentors from Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester at Nantasket Beach. The kids were psyched to get surfing and itching to get into their wet suits (they still didn't know just how difficult getting into a damp wetsuit can be!). After some tugging and shimmying, everyone was suited up for the day, so we headed down to the water to meet our instructors from Levitate, Abby and Danny.
All the kids grabbed boards and lined them up side by side to face the instructors. Abby demonstrated how to lay on the board with your toes always touching the bottom and highlighted the importance of balance. Danny showed us how to paddle with full, long strokes and then did a demo "pop-up" so that the kids would see just how quickly and fluidly they would need to jump up on the board once they caught a wave. After a quick dry-land practice, everyone felt ready (and a little nervous) to dive in.
We were all thankful for our wetsuits as soon as our toes touched the chilly water; instead of chattering teeth the kids had full ear-to-ear smiles as they paddled out for the first time. The waves were consistent and strong, but we had an impressive group of powerful swimmers on our hands; with a little help from the instructors and our awesome volunteers, everyone got past the breaking point and lined up to wait for the perfect wave.
Right away it was clear that this was a determined and skilled group; one boy, Ethan, even stood up on his first wave. Liam was another natural; by the end of the day he wasn't only riding the waves but was adding in some dance moves once he got his footing on the board. One of the girls, Emani, was so thrilled about being in the ocean because she had never been swimming in such deep water before. Another Bridget, had been surfing before and was excited about showing off her skills to the "camera crew," AKA our friends from VAGRANTS production company who were volunteering on the trip and took the opportunity to try out their new, high-tech underwater cameras. Footage coming soon!
Overall, the group morale in the water was commendable. We had a ratio of one adult to one kid, so everyone was able to get the attention they needed to actually learn the techniques, rather than just boogie boarding to shore and falling off the board. At one point I noticed one of the boys seemed pretty exhausted, so I asked if he wanted to take a break, and his response summed up the general enthusiasm for the day. He said, "No! I want to take advantage of all the time we have!"
As we neared the end of our lesson, kids (and adults) were clearly getting tired from navigating the waves and giving surfing their all, yet most of the them didn’t want to get out of the water. It was inspiring to see how focused and motivated they were. When asked to describe the day in one or two words, one boy said “exhilarating,” and another responded with “fun and tiring,” and they were both exactly right.