As a group of friends living and surfing in Valparaiso, Chile (often called Valpo by locals), the founders of the Valpo Surf Project wanted to give back to the community they loved and make a positive social contribution to its citizens.
In Chile, most surfing equipment is imported and carries high import duties that make wetsuits and surfboards very expensive. The high cost of equipment associated with the sport means that it is often reserved only for the country’s economic elite. We wanted to make resources available for surfing and its accessibility to the city’s underprivileged youth.
In Valparaiso, a city comprised of homes built on the hills surrounding an industrial port, there is a disconnect between its youthful inhabitants and the ocean. Although most see the ocean everyday of their lives, many of the city’s youth have never had the opportunity to experience the Pacific Ocean and Chile’s beaches. We wanted to create a way that Valparaiso’s disconnected youth could learn to engage with and protect the local marine environment.
The resulting idea evolved into the Valpo Surf Project, a community organization that engages its young participants with the surrounding marine environment through weekly surf outings and focus on fostering three distinct components: personal character development, environmental consciousness, and English language education.
Utilize surfing as a tool for personal development and character enrichment in local youth through developing discipline, commitment, self-esteem, respect, responsibility, trust, and teamwork by realizing their goal of learning to surf. These aspects of character development directly relate to leadership skills and fostering participants as future leaders.
Develop a familiarity with the beaches, ocean, and coastal territories among the participants through frequent surf trips to the coastline of Chile’s Region V, including the neighboring communities of Con-Con, Quintero, and Horcón.
Through greater interaction and responsible use of the coast, develop an ethic of environmental consciousness and stewardship among program participants.
Establish this program as a means for its participants to learn and have greater contact and practice with the English language.
Utilize the sport of surfing as a tool for promoting a healthy and substance-free lifestyle with attention to physical education.
The Valpo Surf Project operates as an afterschool surf program that extends beyond teaching youth to paddle in the ocean and ride waves. Program participants spend time in the ocean through weekly afterschool surf outings and full-day weekend surf outings twice a month. The surf outings focus on character development and incorporate other lessons including surf etiquette, basic meteorology, and wave generation.
By engaging participants with the marine environment through weekly surf outings, the Valpo Surf Project demonstrates the value of protecting and preserving the region’s coastline to Valparaiso's youth. Program participants directly contribute to creating a healthier beach environment through beach clean-ups, learn the benefits of preserving coastal environments through classroom education, and creating awareness of greater environmental issues in Chile through guest speakers. Combined with the character development and leadership skills emphasized in the surf component, the Valpo Surf Project uses environmentalism to encourage involvement in community service—be it environmental or otherwise.
As is the case with surfing and surf equipment, personalized English language instruction is a resource not available to many young people in Valparaiso. The Valpo Surf Project provides English language instruction to its participants through classroom lessons focused on vocabulary, verb conjugation and simple sentence structure. Additionally, English language practice is incorporated into surf outings through vocabulary and verbal instructions. Throughout their experience, participants keep a journal—with assignments in both English and Spanish—to plot their reflections of surf progress, marine ecology, and environmental matters. In addition to scheduled events and classes, the Valpo Surf Project also maintains open office hours for participants to drop in for extra help and tutoring assistance in English and other academics.
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