Thanks to generous donations from local businesses, the Wickaninnish Surf Club was able to raise $6,000 at an inaugural silent auction event hosted by Pacific Sands Beach Resort on July 16 at the Long Beach Golf Course.
The Surf Club will use the funds to implement next years’ program, which involves taking every student at the Wickaninnish Community School (WCS) from kindergarten to grade 6 out surfing.
Brady Clarke, one of the teachers at WCS, started the Surf Club three years ago with the intent of eliminating the main barriers kids face when it comes to accessing surfing: equipment, transportation, instruction, and safety.
The program was originally launched as an after school special, but soon grew into a regular class time initiative – much like a ‘sports day’ – with over 230 kids getting the chance to try out a surfboard.
“I’m always surprised at how many youth haven’t had the opportunity to surf,” said Clarke.
“There have been several over the years that explicitly stated that they’d never been in the ocean despite living in the coast their whole lives.”
Resort manager at Pacific Sands, Shane Richards, reinforced the issue.
“I hear so much about a hockey rink getting built but I think the things that we do have are being under utilized,” said Richards.
“This program makes sure every child has the opportunity to enjoy the assets that already exist in our community.”
Clarke said he began the program shortly after seeing how much of a positive impact a surf had on his grade seven class during his first year of teaching.
“I literally saw pride swell in a handful of students, and every student built confidence, tested their boundaries and had a great time with their peers,” he said.
“I wanted to provide the same opportunity to all of our students, especially those that face barriers to accessing surfing.”
The Wickaninnish Surf Club will start taking students out in the surf come spring. “When the winter swells have decipitated,” Richards explained.
Clarke also wants to grow the program to include a full day of safety education.
“We hope to add an extra day so that the kids will have a surf day and an ocean safety day,” he said.
“Whether or not they continue to surf, ocean safety is an important survival skill for anyone living in the coast.”
Several businesses graciously donated gift certificates to the silent auction, but only one lucky individual went home with the mother of all prizes:
“Pete Devries donated a personal surf lesson. He rarely does that,” said Richards.
Anyone interested in helping out in the water is encouraged to contact Brady Clarke: BClarke@sd70.bc.ca.