What more can we learn from surfing than simply how to slide along the waves? The answers become apparent when we took a group of children from a disadvantaged neighborhood and used surf lessons as a tool for their personal development.
Nuno Fazenda and I started Surf.Art 3 years ago, providing experiential education sessions using surf at Carcavelos beach, in Portugal, for children between the ages of eight and eleven. By using the sea as a model for life the children feel the effects of success and failure, learning that in order to feel successful – for example, to catch a wave, make the take-off and ride all the way to the shore – they have to put a plan into action then reflect to see what went well and what they can to improve.
Through challenging workshops and community payback activities we help develop confidence, courage and coping strategies; which are especially important for dealing with instability and the kind of uncertain prospects that increase the risk of children developing emotional and behavioral problems. In addition to this, surfing is a sport of adventure and risk, which is difficult to implement. This not only tends to divert children from other risky behavior like crime, but also trains them to overcome the adversities of life by transferring the learning experience in the sea to their day-to-day lives.
Surfing opens a door to a new world for these children; it gives them the opportunity to meet people with different life experiences, to experience different attitudes from those they’re used to, and above all, to feel a sense of belonging within a positive group. At sea we are all equal.
The Surf.Art project isn’t just a great example of the variety of lessons we can learn from surfing, but also a reminder that if we share our ideas, seek opportunities to implement them, and take action, we can make a difference.
Editor’s Note: The SURF.ART Project is a social program from Pressley Ridge that aims to develop the full potential of young people coming from challenging socio-economic backgrounds by bringing them into contact with the Ocean through the practice of Surf. Find out more about them on Facebook.