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Reader Report: Two juniors introduce Westside girls to the ocean

Newport Beach residents and Mater Dei High School juniors Matt Brennan and Ben Teitscheid wanted to give back to their community and started with something they know plenty about — coastal living.

Through research, the duo chose to start an Ocean Club with the Westside Boys and Girls Club.

"The kids at Westside Costa Mesa Boys and Girls club rarely have an opportunity to leave their local neighborhood," said Brian Dolan, director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Harbor Area.

With his suggestion, Matt and Ben reached out to these kids. They wished to introduce participants to the wonders of the ocean, bay and environment. The first six children to get signed permission slips from their parents were in — and it turns out they were all girls.

The first trip was to the Orange County Sheriff's Harbor Patrol station in Newport Beach, where the girls were able to climb aboard and explore some of the boats. This was the first time many of them had been aboard a boat or a dock. Many excitedly asked questions.

The second trip was to the Balboa Angling Club, where the boys are members. The girls were shown around the clubhouse and then allowed to play the Fish Identification Game, created by club Secretary Amy Elliott and run by member Teri Holland.

"The game is easy if kids pay attention, and these girls were awesome considering they had never been exposed to these fish," Elliott said.

The next activity was learning to fish with the help of Matt and Ben, but first the Kea Kai, a 44-foot Pacifica, pulled up to the dock to weigh in the first dorado of the season. Jock Albright brought his catch in just in time for the girls to check out their first game fish. The group presented Albright with the First Dorado flag.

Once the weigh-in was complete, it was time to fish. The girls learned to operate the rods and reels and were instructed in proper casting techniques. One of the girls caught her first fish, a stingray.

Several more trips are planned, including to the Newport Beach lifeguard facilities, ExplorOcean and the Balboa Ferry. The boys said that next year they hope to expand the program.

For more information about the Balboa Angling Club, call (949) 673-6316, stop by the clubhouse at 200 A St. in Balboa, just a few doors down from the Balboa Pavilion, or go to http://www.balboaanglingclub.org.

AMY ELLIOTT is the Balboa Angling Club secretary. JULIE BRENNAN contributed to this report.

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