JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Self confidence, perseverance, positivity and a really good time are just a few things that local girls ages 7 to 17 are getting out of the Saltwater Cowgirls annual summer surf camp.
Since 1999 the Saltwater Cowgirls have been teaching girl power through the sport of surfing. Lesley "Stix" Curry and Lorraine Hernandez have owned the company for almost a decade now and are more than happy to teach anyone what they have already learned; surfing can be a powerful thing.
"We've adopted a philosophy where 'modest is hottest,'" said Curry who grew up surfing in Jacksonville. "With that, we want to really encourage the girls how to be young ladies, how to grow into that. We use surfing as the platform, really for life."
Hernandez, who is relatively new to surfing but says didn't take long to "catch the bug" says that in the almost 10 years that she has been an instructor and now an owner, there is a trial and error period as to what works and what doesn't.
"We know what works for what camper," said Hernandez. "So, we can send them to that particular instructor and we know that they will burst through that wall of whatever is going on. Whether it be fear or just uncomfortable being in the ocean, we can get them through that so they can enjoy this amazing sport."
Finding a particular instructor for a camper is not a problem for the Saltwater Cowgirls. They average about two or three girls per instructor so each camper has personalized attention. It is something that 13-year old Mia Davis really likes about the camp.
"All the teachers are really nice and they really are excited to show you surfing and that's helpful. They keep you really safe and give you really good tips too."
As part of their philosophy, Saltwater Cowgirls surf camp is available to girls only. Hernandez says that even though being inclusive is what surfing is all about, the absence of boys during the sessions enables the campers to feel more comfortable in the water.
"Being with all females takes away the distraction of boys. They don't try to impress boys or try to be self-conscious about their body image, so we really harp on taking those things out of it and bring the fun back into it and just having girl power."
If you ask the girls too, not having boys around is just fine with them.
"With girls you can just talk to them easier," said 12-year old surfer Suzanna Strum. "It is more like a sisterhood. You really wouldn't have that connection with a boy."
Fellow camper Selena Groom agrees.
"When you have guys out there it is kind of weird because they have a lot more upper body strength than you so you feel like they will catch a lot more waves than you. But if you have a lot more girls out there, it feels like you are all on the same level and you are going to catch the same amount of waves. And at least you have good friends with you."
The Saltwater Cowgirls surf camps run until the week of August 7th. For more information please visit www.saltwatercowgirlssurf.com.