Fearless, Irma jumps into the Pacific to teach surfing to disadvantages teenagers. Fun fact? She comes from Chicago and never surf before. One day she put her swimsuit on for LA summer camp. Here is her story.
- Irma, you never surf before and decided to teach teenagers. What appeal you to start this program?
Irma: Back in Chicago I teach soccer for five years to high school girls. When I moved to Los Angeles, I volunteer in different charities including Warner Brothers Youth Mentoring Program. One day, they were looking for volunteers to teach surf. I didn’t hesitate and enrolled immediately. Surfing is California state sport and I was eager to both learn and teach it.
- Can you tell us more about this program?
This three months program is dedicated to kids living in difficult LA neighborhood (gun violence, PTSD, etc). Every two weeks, we are surfing at Dockweiler beach. We are all volunteers with different surfing experience. On-time to time we also welcome surfers from all around the world. This summer we had people from Singapore.
- During the first year, how did you manage to teach and learn surfing at the same time?
Irma: An instructor taught me steps to do it. First I lied down on the sand with my board and push off with my arm to stand, then I hit the water. Surfing is difficult and I’m still learning it.
- What do you love the most about surfing with teenagers?
Irma: Keep up to date with slang, lol! I love to talk about drama and silly with them. For a few hours, they escape from their difficult environment. They learn a new sport and meet people.
Surfing brings therapy and builds confidence. In the water, you are focused on catching the next wave. Push off, stand up, got up on waves or crash back down. Repeat. Learning surf is challenging and these kids are inspiring. They don’t give up and are determined to stand. Some of them don’t know how to swim nevertheless they jump in the water.
- After three years, what it taught you?
Irma: I learned patience with myself and others. Don’t compare yourself with others for success. It will come!
- What is your best memory?
For the last session of the summer, we paddled out. We passed rocks and waves to be in the middle of the Ocean. Then we formed a circle and honored people who passed away. We splashed a rock with their names to celebrate their lives with ours. It’s a unique emotional moment where you feel connected and peaceful.
- You just bought a new board, where will you go surfing this summer?
Irma: I’ll continue to surf at Dockweiler beach. I’ll go to other beaches when I’ll be more experimented.
Thanks, Irma for sharing your experience!
If you dream of the board, volunteer for next summer at https://youthmentoring.org/programs/riding-waves-changing-lives/