City Kids Hit the Surf at Far Rockaway By Alyssa Goldstein
The “Respect the Beach” (RTB) program however is solving this problem by having a group of 30 urban teens and pre-teens from Washington Heights learn to surf at Beach 90 street in Rockaway Beach the final days of its six-week program.
The program is a national education program of the Surfrider USA Foundation, a non-profit organization whose top priority is maintaining oceans, waves and beaches. This is the second year in a row that the NYC Chapter of Surfrider along with the Children’s Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program is introducing inner city youths to the New York City beaches.
Erik Johnson, a third grade teacher at P.S. 46 in Manhattan explained that the “goal of the program is environment and access to it. We wanted to show kids that where they are in Washington Heights affects what goes on in Rockaway and why they should care about the environment and treat it with respect.”
Last year the program started with those entering into ninth grade but this year, Johnson said, “we’re going younger. We’re taking kids entering into seventh grade.”
The program, which is normally seven weeks, incorporates classroom learning as well as recreational beach time. Students meet at I.S. 90 in Washington Heights and learn about the hydrologic cycle and where trash goes as well as having the opportunity to visit places like Bear Mountain to see the where the water cycle begins.
Students have also gotten the chance to go kayaking at “The River Project,” located at Pier 26 on Manhattan’s lower west side, and just this past Monday, Johnson said “the students got a lesson in water safety from a safety guard.”
As much as the children enjoy learning about the environment, they are mainly looking forward to learning to surf. The “surf clinic,” taking place on August 5 from 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., will have six certified lifeguards supervising eight adult surf instructors and groups of eight students who will be rotating in and out of the water throughout the day.
Although this may seem like summer school with occasional field trips and surfing lessons Johnson, along with Children’s Aid Society social worker and volunteer Rachel Rabinor assures The Wave they want the kids to enjoy themselves, “we wanted them to have some fun.”