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SurfWorks Surfrider volleyball surf camp Stinson Beach 2024


Annual SurfWorks camp is a memorable experience for kids, counselors


The first time Ruth, of Novato, attended SurfWorks Surf Camp at Stinson Beach was the first time she ever got on a surf board. That was 10 years ago, and she's been back every year since. 

"After my first year, I loved it so much," she said. "I definitely learned how to surf. We had activities like boogie boarding, too, that I had never been introduced to before." 

She's also kept up with surfing. Now, Ruth is a counselor for the camp, teaching other kids to love the ocean — and form lasting bonds with people they may not otherwise have met — as much as she did.  

SurfWorks 2024 Stinson Beach Surfrider Marin

SurfWorks is a four-day day camp at Stinson Beach that provides a surfing experience to underprivileged youth in Marin County. This year's program ran June 17, 18, 20 and 21 and comprised about 12 kids and 15 high-school aged counselors, who are usually partnered with a buddy for the week. 

"It's fun getting to know (the kids), and I love to see them grow as a surfer within the four days," Ruth said. "They grow so much. It's really incredible." 

The camp provides transportation each day to and from Stinson Beach — the kids are from areas such as Novato, Lagunitas and elsewhere in Marin County —for each camper as well as equipment, instruction and lunch. Camp counselor Charlotte said the camp is about surfing, but so much more.

The first day is all about getting comfortable in the water, and while the majority of the time is out in the ocean swimming and getting on a surf board, she said they do other activities as well. Some favorites include volleyball, soccer and capture the flag, visiting and learning about the tide pools and, on the last day, doing a beach clean-up in the morning. 

Ace, 12, is one of this year's first-timers. Despite shivering as he exited the water on the camp's last day, he had a big smile on his face. 

"It's really fun," he said. "The counselors are super nice and really helpful. They taught me good (to surf)." 

He said he "definitely" would do the camp again. 

He's not alone. Charlotte, who is going to be a high school junior and has been a camp counselor for two years, said the camp has a lot of "returners." Seeing them improve from Day 1 to Day 4, or Year 1 to Year 2, is her favorite part.

"Watching them go from not really enjoying the ocean to getting out there; sometimes it takes a couple years," she said. "We had a girl who didn't go into the ocean at all her first week, and now she's in it, swimming. I'm hoping she'll get to the surfing stage." 

SurfWorks counselors, seated from left, Maya and Charlotte prepare ice cream sundaes for campers on the last day June 21, 2024, at Stinson Beach.

A group of high school students started SurfWorks as a club in 2012, with the students raising funds, seeking sponsorships and applying for grants to get everything they needed for the camp, which previously was two weeks long. Surfrider Foundation's Marin County Chapter is one of SurfWorks' sponsors. 

Ruth, the camper-turned-counselor, said she's extremely grateful to the students and families who started the club, for giving people like her — who otherwise may never have touched a surfboard — the opportunity to get comfortable in the water. 

Photos courtesy of SurfWorks Surf Camp counselor Charlotte Houser.