By Joel Cesare, StokeShare Co-Founder and Surfrider West LA/ Malibu Chapter Vice-Chair
Surfrider chapters in Southern California have been experimenting with an initiative proposed by Venice Beach startup, StokeShare, to connect with inner-city youth. StokeShare sees action sports as a way to engage young people and inspire appreciation for the natural world. They are calling the program One Watershed, because everything we do has an impact downstream. The dual meaning for Surfrider is especially powerful.
If you’ve seen Surfrider’s Cycle of Insanity, you know the mismanagement of water is destroying watersheds, and therefore the beaches and surf breaks where they empty out. No matter where we live, everything we do has an impact downstream. This is as true in life as it is in the environment. Our actions impact the people around us every day. StokeShare and Surfrider chapters are witnessing the positive effects of this first-hand.
This summer, One Watershed events have been held around Los Angeles and San Diego with the youth development programs, Stoked Mentoring and Fresh Tracks. The concept is simple: crowdsource boards, wetsuits and mentors from StokeShare’s sharing economy marketplace, bring kids from disadvantaged communities to the beach, teach them to surf, and then introduce them to the mission of Surfrider.
We’ve discovered two amazing things through this experiment. First, the volunteers that witness their surfboard transform a young person’s life are as impacted as the kids. Second, the kids discover their stoke and want to learn more. We did three events with Stoked Mentoring and most of the kids attended all three. By the last event, they could have executed the Surfrider educational talk as well as a Surfrider Board Member. As Ben Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
People protect what they love, love what they know, and know what they experience. A nationwide poll from The Nature Conservancy indicates that those with personal, positive experiences with nature are twice as likely to view themselves as strong environmentalists and were significantly more likely to express concern about water issues, air pollution, climate change and the overall condition of the environment.
By connecting young people to nature through action sports, they’ll grow up more inspired to protect it. Contact StokeShare if you’d like to launch this program in your community.