Our core Spirit Sessions are held for 8 consecutive Saturdays in spring, summer and fall. Sessions last 4.5 hours in the morning and afternoons and include surfing instruction, group activities and talk circle, reflection and journaling, and a malama 'āina beach clean-up at the end of each session. Every youth has a dedicated adult surf mentor that volunteers his/her time to work with their youth and be a part of this nurturing and supportive `Ohana of adult mentors, peer mentors and staff. Boys and girls participate in separate sessions with gender specific mentors to enhance their mentoring experience.


Program Basics

Youth Eligibility: Our program is free to all qualified youth, ages 10-18, referred by the courts, probation officers, case workers, counselors or therapists, youth serving organizations, physicians or medical workers, parents or friends.

Dates: Our 2019 Spirit Sessions are scheduled for 8 consecutive Saturdays:

Spring: 3/9/19 – 4/27/19
Summer: 6/08/19 – 7/27/19
Fall: 9/7/19 – 10/26/19

Location: Canoes at Queen’s Beach in Waikiki (by the Duke Kahanamoku Statue).

Sign-Up:  Youth are required to fill out an application form, signed by their parent or guardian. For an application click on enrollment.

For more information and an application contact sam@surferspirit.org or call (808) 593-1718.

Student Orientation: A Promise to Succeed

Change is hard. In order to change their lives, kids need to want to change and believe they can do it. Before their first lesson, we promise each teen that if they accept our guidance and put some effort into it, they will catch a wave and ride on their very first day. Many doubt us, but we make it happen. Later we ask them “What else can you achieve that you don’t believe is possible?”

Student orientations are done by request or prior arrangement.

Surf Session Days

1. Warm-up

Each surf session begins with a talk-story circle and theme for the day followed by warm-up yoga and land-based surf instruction.

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 2. Water Time

Teens hit the water with their adult volunteer “surf buddy” mentors, junior mentors, staff, and professional surf instructors. Teenage reserve gives way to the “stoke,” and youth bond quickly to their mentors and the group. Safe and nurturing relationships develop as teens learn to trust and seek/accept support and practical guidance.

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3. Post-Surf Time to Eat, Bond and Reflect

After surfing, the group comes together for lunch. Mentors work with students to recognize their accomplishments and challenges and to set new goals. Mentors help youth process their experiences in the water and apply the lessons learned in the surf to their lives. The day’s theme helps guide the discussion. A mini-environmental science lesson with Hawaiian cultural perspectives is presented, often determined by the questions directed to us by the youth themselves. Each session wraps with a “Mālama ‘Āina” as youth participate in a beach cleanup and collect cigarette butts.

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4. Group Talk-Circle

Teens discover new perspectives and a new sense of belonging in group talk circles where everyone shares opinions, insights, and knowledge. Discussions lead to a mini-environmental science lesson, Hawaiian culture lesson, or life skills lessons taught by staff members and mentors.

Topics include: “What makes a wave,” “What is coral,” “Impact of marine debris,” “Introduction to ahupua`a,” “Significance of surfing,” “How to apply for a job,” and “Asking for help”.  Teens begin to recognize the interrelationship between the ‘āina (land), the ocean, and themselves and their community.

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5. Mālama ‘Āina Beach Cleanup & We’re Stoked!

At the end of each session, youth, mentors, junior mentors and staff members pay homage to the aina in honor of the gifts they received from their time in the water and on the beach. Junior mentors lead the beach cleanups.

Trash is disposed of properly, recyclables are sorted, and cigarette butts are collected. At the end of each program, the group recognizes how small actions can add up to make a big impact.

Bonded by good fun, good company, and good deeds, the group pulls together and celebrates by shouting in unison, “STOKED!”

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6. Community Service: Mentees Become Mentors

In every Spirit Sessions youth learn to mentor elementary school age at-risk youth at a special Community Service Day session in partnership with Kids Hurt Too .  This experience lifts our youth, who have just learned to surf themselves, into a leadership role which they readily embrace. Rewarded with hugs and adoration from their young mentees, our teens gain greater self-esteem and a sense of purpose as they learn to give back to our community. Many ask to return to future events.

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7. Graduation Day

Graduation day on the last week is special because every youth receives a certificate with a picture of themselves taken with their mentor and a bag of Spirit Notes, which contain positive messages from their adult mentors, peer mentors and staff to share with family and friends.

Lastly everyone is asked to fill out a survey so we can capture important data and the impact of our program.

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This was really good. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. I actually helped someone.  And it feels good. I want to do it again. -Davin

I know that there are people who lead and those that follow.  Today I was more confident because I was helping little kids surf and facing my fear of the reef. - Kimo