Jackie Olivares had a big smile Thursday morning at the beach.
Olivares, who will be a sophomore at Estancia High, had never been surfing before. That changed this week, as she and 22 other members of Save Our Youth took part in SOY Surf Days.
Every day since Monday, the seventh- through 12th-graders have been surfing mornings in Newport Beach at Orange Street. Thursday was the last day and they got instruction from Volcom and Surfside Sports employees, among others.
SOY is a Costa Mesa-based nonprofit that has held the free surf camp, called SOY Surf Days, for 11 years now. This is the fourth year that Costa Mesa-based Volcom has sponsored the event, also providing wetsuits.
"I've been to the beach, but I've never tried surfing," said Olivares, using a bright pink surfboard. "It was really tricky at first, but then I started getting the hang of it. But I wipe out really hard."
She didn't seem to mind. Members of the Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high school surf teams were on hand throughout the week as well to instruct the teenagers. Early Thursday, CdM surfing coach Jake Hoose worked with the kids.
It's been part of a busy summer for SOY. Last week, the program held a sailing camp in partnership with Orange Coast College. As for the surfing, the kids seemed to be quick learners.
"Most of these kids have never surfed before," SOY board member Mary Cappellini said. "Most of them don't have transportation or even bikes. They might take the bus or walk, but it's a little far for them, and they don't have their own surfboards or wetsuits or the money for instruction. For them to be able to stand up on their own, it builds confidence and enjoyment of our environment and our beauty. It's so close to them, and yet so far. A lot of people thought they came from very far away, but they're just a mile and a half from the ocean."
INT Softboards, a Carlsbad-based surf company, provided 10 soft-top boards for the teenagers. Local eateries Jan's Health Bar and Sessions provided breakfast each morning. It was definitely a team effort, said Derek Sabori, an independent sustainability adviser for Volcom.
"Each day everybody becomes more and more independent," Sabori said. "Definitely they progress really quick. We're always so surprised at how much they persevere and how much fun they're having. Even when the waves are getting bigger and they're getting pounded, they're just loving it and going for it.
"This is such a great culture that's so close to our hearts. It's nice to be able to just share it and introduce them to it. Even body surfing, or getting a loaned board or being in the ocean and enjoying the ocean lifestyle, it's an important thing for us to share. They're loving it. They have ear-to-earn grins; they're hooked. That's the hope, that we create some new surfers or some new beach advocates."
Giselle Hernandez, another incoming sophomore at Estancia, said she had a great time, as did incoming Ensign Intermediate eighth-grader Danna Olivera.
"Getting to stand up on the board [was my favorite part], because I've never done that," Olivera said. "And riding the waves."
Incoming Estancia senior Danny Carrillo, who has been in the SOY program for three years, was one of the veterans of the group. Carrillo participated in SOY Surf Days for the second time, and said he got some useful tips.
"It's fun getting out on the water," he said. "I got a couple [of waves]. When the wave was coming, I kept getting wiped back. They told me that when I'm going over the wave, to do a push up on the board, so the water just goes between the board and me. That helped me a lot."
After Thursday morning's surfing session, the SOY kids went across Pacific Coast Highway to The Frog House, a surf shop that's been in existence for decades. They ate pizza, before listening to TK Brimer speak. Brimer has been the Frog House owner for 39 years, and he marveled at the fact that Estancia has a surf club.
"In my day, if you went surfing they'd throw you out of school," Brimer said.
Brimer and longtime Frog House employee Mikey "Beho" Flores each told the teenagers about the benefits of surfing before SOY Surf Days ended. Brimer, who at 68 years old said he still surfs five days a week, recommended San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente as a good spot for them to go to as first-time surfers.
Then, as they left the shop, he offered each of them a free T-shirt.
Judging by the fun they had this week, some of them just might be back.
"There's a lot of good waves, but you can get wiped out," Carrillo said. "You just have to go back out there."