Here’s a thought: Surfers are selfish. When broken down to its basic components, surfing is a solitary sport, in which participants tote hunks of foam into the ocean, in hopes of wiggling around on a wave’s surface. Some of us may wiggle a little better than others, but we all have the same goal. We surf because it feels good. Usually, there’s not much else to it.
However, there are surfers out there who take this seemingly selfish act, and transform it into a tool to benefit others. We surf because it feels good, so why not use surfing to make others feel good, too?
While entities like the International Surf Therapy Organization work to study the effects of ocean-related therapy, surfers are already using the beloved sport to alleviate mental, physical and emotional challenges for others. We caught up with some of the members of our own surf community who are spearheading this movement.
“The ocean doesn’t care if you have a disability. If you go out and catch a wave, you’re riding the same power in, regardless of who you are,” explains SurfQuest Director and self-described ocean lover Lynne Funcheon. Funcheon began the program with the Arc of the St. Johns to provide people with developmental and intellectual disabilities with an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of surf every month.
This free event is held once a month, at the Mary Street beach ramp in St. Augustine. Volunteers gather from 1-4 p.m. to coach beginner surfers, retrieve lost surfboards, and provide encouragement for all surfers in the water. Regardless of your level of surf experience, Funcheon welcomes all volunteers to join in on the experience. “It’s just a day at the beach for everybody to get together and let the kids experience the ocean and its healing powers,” Funcheon says.
For dates and more information, visit arcsj.org/services/surfquest.
Lady Day Slides for a Cause
A selfless East Coast slider, Abby Bowles is working diligently to utilize surfing as a tool for both female empowerment and the betterment of her community. Bowles began organizing Lady Day events to bring together women for a day of surf and skate, while raising funds for nonprofits by raffling goods donated by local artists and businesses.
“I like to have someone helping me that has a connection and has been impacted by a certain cause,” Bowles says. “So that anyone can have the Lady Day platform to support what’s meaningful to them.”
For National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month this past September, Bowles partnered with St. Augustine’s Addie Gibson to raise over $1,500 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). After losing her own father to suicide when she was 17, Gibson finds the mission of the AFSP vital to ending the stigma associated with mental illness.
“I loved Lady Day and am so thankful for Abby coming up with the idea and putting it into action,” said Gibson. “Jacksonville has a local AFSP chapter, and whether you have lost someone to suicide or are a suicide survivor, all walks of life come to share their stories.”
To get involved in an upcoming Lady Day event, contact Bowles via Instagram @pearpouch.
Volcom Surf Day with Family Support Services
For those who have been raised along Florida’s coast, it can be difficult to imagine a life without the ocean. For foster children without a permanent place to call home, it can be difficult to imagine life with it. This is why Volcom Enterprises’ Daniel Terry and his father Rick Terry first began Volcom Surf Day in partnership with Family Support Services of North Florida. For 12 years, the duo has worked alongside volunteers like Volcom’s Dane Jefferys to help foster children wash away the stress of their situation in a therapeutic environment.
“We are looking for someone that wants to share the love of the ocean and surfing with a kid that has never experienced it,” Jefferys says. “Someone that has taught a lesson or two and can be aware of what waves to push the kids on. We are always looking for volunteers for this event to ensure we have an equal number of instructors and attendees to give kids a one-on-one experience.”
To get involved, contact Volcom via Instagram @Volcom_East.