Nothing like the feeling of riding that first wave. Photo courtesy of Waves of Impact Facebook.

Surf Camp Gives Confidence to Kids and Veterans

Four years ago, co-founders Keith Lovgren and Josh Harper decided they wanted to team up and do something bigger than themselves. To help individuals and families facing extraordinary challenges find a sense of normalcy, fun, and inspiration through the magic of surfing. Together they started the non-profit organization, Waves of Impact with the goal of giving both children and veterans facing disabilities the chance to ride waves using the stable platforms of standup paddleboards. In the past few years, Lovgren and Harper have already given over 1400 kids and veterans the opportunity to experience the thrill of surfing, all completely free of charge. SUP Magazine sat down with Lovegren to discuss the inspiration for Waves of Impact and what the future holds. – Jack Haworth

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One participant getting stoked at a Waves of Impact surf camp. Photo courtesy of Waves of Impact Facebook.

SUP: What has it been like to help give these children with special needs a chance to surf?

Lovegren: For us it's not so much special needs, but rather kids with special challenges. I have challenges, you have challenges, and they have challenges. To us they're kids like any other kids. I think that is why we have been so successful in the past, because there is no pity party going on. It's all about the kids and having fun in the ocean.

SUP: What is a typical day at camp like for participants?

Lovegren: We team them up with two volunteers and take them out on standup paddleboards in the gentle whitewash. The kids surf for about 30 minutes and then we present them with a gold medal and tell them they did a great job. It's really magical to see someone riding a wave for the first time. I still remember my first wave.

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All kids are awarded a gold medal after surfing…they earned it! Photo courtesy of Waves of Impact Facebook.

SUP: What impact does being in the water make on the kids?

Lovegren: We're careful not to say this is surf therapy but rather we're just showing them a great day at the beach. A lot of these kids have sensory overload issues and we think being in the ocean alleviates some of that. Team sports aren't setup for these kids because it's too competitive but surfing on a paddleboard is really fun and falling off is too.

SUP: What's it like to work with the veterans in your camp?

Lovegren: They are way more hands-off than the kids and we're careful to not over-help them. The only limitations they have are the ones they set for themselves. Sometimes it'll be a wave we don't want to push them into, but they're just like, 'No, let's go.' It's very inspiring.

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Nothing will stop this veteran from having a blast and riding waves. Photo courtesy of Waves of Impact Facebook.

SUP: How has standup paddleboards made surfing more accessible for both kids and veterans?

Lovegren: Paddleboards allow participants to have a more stable platform and from the first couple waves, they are able to stand up and get the thrill of riding the wave. It has completely revolutionized things and allows people that would have never had a chance to ride a wave, to feel that thrill.

SUP: What do you hope is the lasting impact of this camp?

Lovegren: Kids with disabilities often get left behind. So I want them to know that there is this great community of other people in the same situation. It's very inexpensive and even if you don't go surfing, look how much fun your child has playing in the water or in the sand.

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Smiles are not in short supply at a Waves of Impact camp. Photo courtesy of Waves of Impact Facebook.

SUP: What are your plans for the future with Waves of Impact ?

Lovegren: I don't think we will feel like our work is done until we open up registration for camp and it takes a week to fill up, as opposed to a few minutes. We want to get as many kids and people on the water as we can.


More information about Waves of Impact.

Other examples of paddlers who #standupforothers.

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