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Using The Waves To Reach At-risk Youth

By Kevin Lee Fujimoto, executive director of Surfrider Spirit Sessions

On a recent Saturday in-Waikiki, a teen was heard yelling, “Who needs drugs?! I’m high on surfing! I’m high on life! This program is awesome!” In fact, over the last eight years, you may have glimpsed some of Hawaii’s at-risk youths in a rather unfamiliar setting.


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Junior mentors Lea Aujero, Bryant Stanfield, Krissy Aujero and Dr. Kevin Lee Fujimoto at the Surfrider Spirit Sessions April event on Waikiki Beach. Photo from Surfrider Spirit Sessions.

Sprinkling the lineup at Canoes and Pops surf breaks, complete with blue rash guards and smiles is a special ohana. Surfrider Spirit Sessions (SSS) matches caring volunteer adult surf mentors one-to-one with adolescent boys and girls referred by the courts, schools and community at large. Since 2006, more than 350 boys and girls have benefitted from SSS. In 2014, SSS expects to serve 72 boys and girls in the core program and another 150 at-risk children and teenagers as well as 70 adult caregivers in community service days.

Benefits of Supporting Surfrider Spirit Sessions

Surfrider Spirit Sessions is the first program of its kind serving at-risk and adjudicated youths. SSS has charted an innovative way to make youth reform “cool” through surf sessions that include talk-story circles, yoga, lunch, journaling, an environmental science or Hawaiian cultural lesson, and a beach clean up (malama aina).

Spirit Sessions provides youths a link to a positive community of trustworthy adults, while offering a safe space to explore and express physical and emotional limits, thus creating a deeply felt sense of connectedness. In 2013, 88 percent of students who participated reported an increase in self-confidence, 81 percent indicated improved conduct, 78 percent reported better relationships with family members, 74 percent stated a decrease in angry outbursts, and 76 percent reported a improved outlook for their future.

SSS needs your support to keep the stoke going! SSS held its inaugural golf tournament “Surf to Turf” in February and plans to make it an annual event. On July 3, the Honolulu Professionals Foundation is having a benefit at the Hyatt Regency with proceeds going to SSS.

For more information and ways that your time, treasure and talents can support Surfrider Spirit Sessions, visit surferspirit.org or email me at: dr.kev@surferspirit.org.

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