If You Can't Bring the Beach to the City, Bring the City to the Beach

Kids from one of San Francisco's toughest neighborhoods find joy in the surf.

When you’re growing up in the inner city, in a place where the sound of gunshots is not uncommon, the natural world can seem very far away. For a group of kids in the rough and isolated Sunnydale neighborhood of San Francisco, the beaches of Marin County, just a few miles over the Golden Gate Bridge, might as well be on another planet.

But a group of surfers calling themselves Ripple Effect has decided to reach out across the divide.

"So we went down to Sunnydale the other day and saw how those kids live," says one of the surfers. "They look like they could use a break. You know, I don’t want to pretend that I know what these kids need to make their lives better…. But I know how to go to the beach and have a good time. I can share that."

I found the video through a site called Outdoor Afro, which seeks to reconnect African Americans with nature and" shift the visual representation of who can connect with the outdoors."

Founder Rue Mapp posted it and put it in the context of her reaction to verdict in the Trayvon Martin case last weekend:

As a mother, community member, and founder of Outdoor Afro, for me the result of this national tragedy is a renewal of my commitment to support efforts that allow all children to have access, feel welcomed, and be safe in the outdoors no matter where and who they are.

In the video, you’ll see just how much joy kids can get when they get away from the harsh conditions in their neighborhood for just a little while and feel the power of the ocean. It’s wonderful to watch. "I really want to do this again," says one boy. After seeing his joy in the waves is plainly visible, you have to hope he gets to do it many, many times.

About the Author

  • Sarah Goodyear has written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog. She lives in Brooklyn.