By Phil Dailey
For a few days at La Jolla Shores this summer, children of deployed or wounded military families learned to surf, get an education on the ocean, and more importantly, enjoy the waves.
The Little Warriors Surf Camp, which is put on by Freedom is Not Free, is now in its third year in La Jolla.
What started out as a sports camp a few years ago, the surf camp is now so popular that it has been broken up into four sessions.
“It’s a surf camp for kids of local soldiers, most of them are deployed,” said John Winslow, the programs director for Freedom is Not Free. “You get all these kids together that are in very similar circumstances and they can all relate to each other and give them a hobby where they can continue with this on their own.”
Many of the kids who participate in the program are not from Southern California and are stationed at nearby military bases such as Camp Pendleton, North Island in Coronado and other parts of San Diego County.
But for a few afternoons, these kids get to put aside many of the stresses that come with being in the military.
“Military families are close to my heart,” said Alyssa Newbarth, who is an instructor with Surf Diva as well as a military spouse. “I don’t think people realize just how much pressure is on the parent who has to stay home. This is just a really good release for them to forget about that stuff for a day or two.”
Along with surf lessons that are provided by Surf Diva, each family gets to take home an INT Softboard. In total, 100 kids participate in the camp and 65 surf boards are handed out.
Ruthie Hernandez, whose husband is a Marine, was at the Shores with her three children and her niece and nephew for the second straight year.
“I like that they are learning about the water and what’s out there so they know it’s safe to go out there,” said Hernandez.
“It’s just having fun,” 8-year-old Angelo Hernandez said. “Just standing up and riding the waves, ‘cause when you Boogie Board you can’t stand up.”
The camp’s first two sessions conclude today with two more scheduled in August.
“It’s something that we truly love,” said Surf Diva co-founder Izzy Tihanyi “Our instructors line up to get this opportunity to work with these kids. We feel like it’s important to support these families and Surf Diva is super stoked to be a part of this event.”
The event has become so popular that Winslow said they are working on ways to get even more kids out in the water.
“We’d like to grow it,” he said. “There is definitely room to grow and we’re playing with some ideas.”
For more on the camp and Freedom is Not Free, go to freedomisnotfree.com.