International Surfing Day Spotlight: Alumni Instructors Power City Surf Project’s Pandemic Engine
To honor this year’s International Surfing Day, we are spotlighting a surf-related organization that’s near and dear to GoPro, Bay-Area based City Surf Project. City Surf Project (CSP) ensures equitable access to the ocean and the benefits of outdoor recreation by providing opportunities for San Francisco Bay Area youth to learn to surf—a challenging sport that fosters physical and mental well-being, a connection to nature and healthy living.
City Surf Project will be hosting its fourth annual (virtual) Surf-a-Thon June 17-20, 2021, an important fundraiser that supports its summer surf programs aimed at helping youth get off their screens and into the ocean. Whether you’re celebrating International Surfing Day, Juneteenth, Father’s Day, Pride Month, or all of the above, City Surf Project invites you out to your local beach to participate and/or to donate—click here for more information
The following words are by Christopher Clark, a City Surf Project volunteer and GoPro’s VP of Corporate Communications.
Pre-pandemic, a group of GoPro volunteers regularly headed out to support City Surf Project (CSP) during the program’s surf days—providing a refreshing break from office work and an experience that left us inspired. Many attended community events and fundraisers, and a handful have even shared their professional expertise by serving on the CSP board. The onset of COVID, however, changed the volunteer experience but led to a meaningful transformation for the organization.
When the pandemic hit, City Surf Project was forced to adapt to safely provide instruction for its youth. For a program that’s pre-COVID foundation relied on volunteer support, this challenge proved to be a beautiful opportunity to welcome alumni surfers back to the beach as instructors and leaders.
Inspired by their Surf Instruction Leadership Training (SILT) program, which trains high school students who have participated in a CSP program to become assistant surf instructors, CSP launched their Surfing Alumni in Leadership Training (SALT) program last fall. SALT has since become the engine that powers CSP surf instruction during the pandemic.
By hiring alumni as surf coaches to provide year-round instruction, CSP is providing an even more authentic connection with the youth it serves by offering instruction from someone who stood in the same school hallways and surfed (possibly literally) in the same surf booties.
Some of the students who have helped tell the CSP story in past GoPro for a Cause productions (like Tre’von & Tomás in 2016 and Angely & Maria during the summer prior to the pandemic) have grown into leaders who guide surf days with a younger generation, fostering a new cycle of support from within the community.
Some of my favorite personal moments in the past five years have been connecting with CSP youth on surf days, seeing their joy and perseverance as they progress through the challenges and setbacks of learning to surf. You can see some of these moments in the following highlight video I created using GoPro’s app, Quik, with footage from previous CSP volunteer days and more recent SALT-led days.
Having been sidelined from the volunteer beach-day experience since the start of the pandemic, I now have a greater level of admiration for the strength and resilience of the CSP youth, knowing that many familiar faces who were just introduced to surfing and beach safety a few years ago are now helping to run the show out there.
Along with many of my colleagues at GoPro, I continue to be inspired by the work you do, City Surf Project, and am looking forward to assisting the SALT crew as a volunteer very soon.
In the meantime, I’ll be surfing for Team City Surf Project in City Surf Project’s 4th Annual Surf-a-Thon, and I hope some of you—the GoPro community—will join me in participating (surfing, donating or fundraising) from wherever you are in the world.