From the Projects to Marin

A San Francisco surf camp brings the Sunnydale kids to the beach

| posted on July 18, 2013

Sunnydale, known as “The Dale” or “The Swamp”, is San Francisco’s largest housing project, and statistically speaking, the most dangerous neighborhood in town. Just over the hill from the eastern borders of the expensive, gentrified Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods, Sunnydale has no grocery stores, sporadic garbage collection, frequent shootings, and little police presence.

The beaches of Marin County, one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, are a short drive north from Sunnydale, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. But for most residents of Sunnydale, Marin—an unspoiled, forested paradise—may as well be on the moon, as far as it is from their daily existence. Ian Glover, Ocean Beach ripper and owner of Big Dog Surf Camp, is working to change that.

Glover has partnered with local shaper Tim Gras and filmmaker Adam Warmington of Micro-documentaries, in an effort to bring kids from the Sunnydale projects to Marin, teaching them how to surf and showing them a world outside of their violent urban homes. Almost none of the kids have visited the beach before they embark on their surf camp experience, and they make up a vastly different student body when compared to the wealthy, weekend warrior Mariners Glover normally teaches. Mill Valley’s Proof Lab (one of California’s best surf shops) supplies the equipment, and Glover’s crew provides instruction free of charge.

Surf lessons may seem a trivial thing in the face of the countless struggles that confront the residents of Sunnydale everyday. But the pure joy radiating from the Sunnydale kids’ faces as they escape their urban lives for a carefree day at the beach is a resource that deserves cultivation.

  • Corey

    Wow! I felt so inspired by watching that short 4-minute video. I just recently moved to SF from SoCal and unfortunately my passion for surfing has been set aside at the moment as my search for a job in this city has taken over my life for the time being. However, it is so comforting to know that surfing is impacting lives even in the Bay Area. Surfing changed my life ever since I rode my first wave almost 12 years ago. And I’m so glad to see there are surfers up here willing to bring that same love and connection with the ocean to those less fortunate. Truly inspiring, and thank you for spreading the love in this world.

  • Hanlon

    Experiences like this leave a lasting impression and expose inner city kids to some beautiful and safe places.

  • Krista Davis

    I fully support this and have seen the power of surfing change young troubled lives. I live in New Zealand and run a similar programme through my work with at-risk youth. It started off as free learn to surf days on the weekend and after seeing the joy and power brought to these kids via surfing, I wanted to do more and really make it apart of my job. It’s now transformed into a programme for kids and its purpose is to inspire positive change through surfing; to get kids stoked on LIFE. Keep up all the awesome work and keep charging changing precious lives with the joy of surfing! God bless. -Krista Davis

  • Mercedez Carlson

    It’s great to see kids surfing no matter what they’re situation is. Exposing children to a wide variety of positive activities is smart investing especially surfing. When children learn at an early age that surfing is for everyone, to respect nature and all living things they inevitably come to value themselves, hence their world.

  • Center Line

    Great!!! Enjoyed the post.

  • Kirk Schroeder

    Very beautiful piece, and wonderful program! Great job all involved!

  • cj

    inspiring. love to see people doing good things in the world, thanks for sharing this Surfer – and to Big Dog; I would love to read an article in the future about an update of the kids and to see if they stick with it. Maybe offer them an opportunity to continue coming and really get into the sport? Keep up the good work, proud to be apart of a community that gets the bigger picture in life.

  • K Epps

    Great!! I hope you are able to do this again.

  • deathgoat

    Surfing Chicago rivers. Until your shot off your board.

  • KR

    to expose children to an experience participating with their bodies in nature opens them to new possibilities-a wonderful break in their young lives that will help them as they define themselves

  • Ingy

    God Bless You!!!

  • David

    God Blessed them before this. The kids just did not see the blessing in God’s will. Now they do. Can I contribute some money to help out?

  • jul

    Wow! watching the faces on those kids was priceless, good for you for exposing the children to a great sport.

  • ange

    This is awesome…. and it is true, take the kid out of the neighborhood to see what lies beyond. I was a school bus driver in SF, I used to take kids from Middlepoint and Westpoint (HP Hill) camping; sleeping out under the stars, swimming till all your pent up energy is gone and working as a team for day-to-day living. Give a child experiences that they can dream from and act on. Thank you for what you do for “our” future!

  • jimjimmies

    more money wasted on those who don’t do anything!