Funds From Surf Lessons by Courtney Conlogue Go to Help Homeless

Rodriguez was among about 40 new surfers who gathered at Huntington State Beach on Tuesday for surf lessons – and life lessons – with a purpose: to help the homeless.

Top surfer Courtney Conlogue teaches Lily Doan, 11, of Santa Ana to surf off Huntington Beach on Tuesday. Fees for surf lessons go to help Santa Ana’s homeless. Photo: ANA VENEGAS

The day at the beach was organized by Lambert Lo, a longtime surf instructor whose philosophy is that everyone is the same out in the surf.

Joining Lo was Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue, one of the top female surfers in the world. It was a healing morning for Conlogue, who just finished competing in the U.S. Open of Surfing, losing out in the quarterfinals a few days ago.

“I needed this,” Conlogue said as she taught the new surfers the proper pop-up on the board before they hit the water.

The event brought out people who paid for lessons from Conlogue, with the funds going to help Santa Ana’s homeless, as well as families who have struggled with homelessness.

Conditions were tough, with a strong current that pulled the students swiftly toward the Huntington Beach Pier.

H.K. Keliinoi, owner of Kula Nalu Ocean Sports Training in Costa Mesa, volunteered to help.

“You can’t control the waves, how big they are, how many there are, how strong they are or lack of. Just like circumstances in life,” he said. “You don’t have a choice of what happens to you all the time. The only thing you can do is learn how to surf, learn to navigate and breathe and respond. It’s the only way to keep yourself safe.”

Then there’s the healing power of the ocean.

“We take for granted how much of a healing element the ocean is,” he said. “At the same time, if you don’t know how to navigate it, it can be traumatic.”

Anderson knows too well the struggles life can bring. The recovering addict was in and out of jail and living in hotels until going through the Illumination Foundation, a nonprofit that helps homeless families. She recently started working there, and that’s how she heard about the surf lessons and decided to sign up her daughter.

Rodriguez was sweating as she went through the lessons on the beach before hitting the water and admitted she was nervous. She went out on the water with Conlogue beside her, the No. 2-ranked female surfer hanging on to the tip of her board so that the waves didn’t pummel them. After a bit of a battering, Rodriguez came in for a break.

“I got wiped out. I was out there and I was paddling, the wave came and I thought I could go under it,” she said. “It was really intense and tough. … When you look at it, it looks easy. But once you’re out there, you’re like, ‘Man, what am I dong with myself?’”

The day was a chance for Anderson to give her daughter something she hasn’t been able to in the past: a sense of normalcy.

“Not being able to do so much for them in my addiction, being clean and sober and to be able to watch them do what normal kids can do with a stable life, it’s a blessing,” Anderson said.

Judy Velasquez, 34, signed up her 12-year-old daughter, Mia. She heard about the surf lessons through their church and was happy to pay $125 for them.

“I want her to experience everything in life. I don’t want her to be scared of anything,” she said. “We need more organizations like that to help others.”

Velasquez was glad that a fun day at the beach could have meaning.

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This piece was originally published on / Author: Laylan Connelly


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