Surfing is a sport synonymous with sunny, laid back vibes and classic beach montages in popular culture. But it has quietly taken on a bigger purpose besides offering the carefree pleasures of an extreme sport.
In recent years, surfing has emerged as a tool for empowerment in underprivileged communities around the world.
Whether along the California coast or in Rosarito, Mexico, organizations are changing underprivileged children's lives through surfing, teaching them the discipline, patience, and community values that have long been a part of the sport.
Kovalam Surf Club in Kerala, India is one such organization. As part of the Sebastian Indian Social Projects, they teach kids to surf and care for the boards they use, instilling in them a sense of responsibility.
Many of their members grew up in extreme poverty, but surfing has had a positive impact on their lives. Kovalam Surf Club offers free surf lessons on the condition that the children attend school regularly.
"But surfing also makes them proud and happy because for the first time in their life they get respect and attention for being good at something," the website details.
Screenshot via Jeremy Ramirez/Vimeo
Then there are groups that reach out to local organizers in different parts of the world to equip them with the skills needed to inspire their youth. ReSurf, a New York-based organization, does just that.
Partnering with established community centers that work with underserved youth, ReSurf creates social entrepreneurship programs that raises awareness and teach children skills such as graphic design, film editing, and photography. Their hope is that the kids will eventually become leaders in their own right and carry on the cycle of social engagement.
"It's not just about surfing, it's about creating value for these kids, and help them become leaders." ReSurf founder Oran Bendelstein told A Plus in an interview.
What is it about surfing that ties these social outreach programs together?
Bendelstein has a hunch. "When you're in the water, there are no boundaries," he said. "It's a great way to take your mind of whatever's going on in life. It really works well for kids who are going through issues at home."
It also gives them a sense of family and belonging, something that many underprivileged kids lack at home, Bendelstein notes. And most importantly, perhaps, is how egalitarianism works itself into riding a wave.
"When you're in the water," Bendelstein said, "everyone's equal. There's no religion, no race, no rich or poor."
Cover image via Jeremy Ramirez/Vimeo