Our Flagship store in the heart of the Capital has become somewhat of a hub for the land-locked surfing community. Building on this and along with Finisterre Ambassador, Sandy Kerr, we've teamed up with Tom Franklin, teacher and founder of Grassroots initiative 'Get City Kids Surfing'.
I'll admit that I hadn't heard of the 'Get City Kids Surfing’ project prior to being invited to speak at the event. I was sent a link to the social media page and after just reading the first few lines I could tell that this was a total passion project.
Tom, the primary school teacher behind the project, has put so much heart and compassion into teaching these kids and trying to expand their outlook on life - certainly going above and beyond his duty as a teacher. I enjoyed being able to share my story and love of surfing with the kids, but it was also so inspiring for me to speak with Tom and the kids and learn more about the project and their background. Having lived meters from the sea my whole life I realise I may take it for granted at times, but hearing about projects like this and speaking with kids who had never swam in the sea before, I was reminded what a truly special place it is.
The plan was to take 9 children between the ages of 9 and 11 from Lewisham, South East London to the South West Coast. The hope is to change attitudes and ultimately the lives of young people most at risk in inner city areas through the emotive power of surfing in the UK.
I was pretty nervous about meeting the GCKS kids, but the second they arrived the room had a buzz fuelled by excitement, enthusiasm and personalities twice the size of their stature. Tom, their teacher, told me about how the project came about, explaining that he had no funding for this project and he and the kids had to raise all the money themselves. Tom didn’t just want to them to go to the SW for a surf lesson, he wanted to teach them how to swim, learn basic lifesaving skills, and gain respect for the environment. The project has also involved the kids doing a beach clean on the banks of the Thames with Surfers Against Sewage.
The evening I spent with the GCKS kids and their families was truly special and I felt honoured to be invited to speak at the event. I wish the kids all the best for their future and hope to see a few of them in the water one day!
I’m Tom, a Primary school teacher from London. I grew up here in London but spent my summer’s body surfing and swimming with my family in the breaks around Constantine Bay, North Cornwall. I heard about Finisterre from some friends last year and was inspired by their motto of ‘Product – Environment – People’, the flagship store in London and their focus on UK based surfers and products.
Working in South East London schools for nearly 10 years, I’ve sadly watched the attitudes of large waves of young people growing up in inner city areas reduced to hopelessness and turn to serious crime and for some an early exit. I felt lucky to have been taken away once a year and introduced to my saviour for life – the ocean.
School trips have been farms and abseiling for far too long so we decided to target groups of children who had never seen the ocean in the UK and likely never would and take them surfing.
Once we started the project ‘Get City Kids Surfing’ we realised how powerful it could be. We contacted Finisterre and told them of our plans, the guys simply said… ‘How can we help?’
The children have been earning their trip this year by learning about conservation, working with the Surfers Against Sewage team, swim fitness classes and ocean awareness, rip current training and junior life saving. We thought all these elements were important to build their knowledge and spirits before the trip to Newquay in June.
We want from this, lives to change, as Sandy Kerr so aptly told the group last week ‘In the ocean your troubles simply wash away’’.
Looking at the bigger picture, we want the country and schools nationwide to get behind the idea that the ocean and surfing can be used as a 'resource' to give these inner city kids with little hope of escape, a new attitude to life here in the UK and an experience that will be unforgettable.
Last week the team at Finisterre's London store, organised an evening for the children to meet Sandy Kerr and hear about how surfing changed his life. We invited some of the project's supporters too and other individuals who have helped us reach our goal.
Everybody left beaming, the children were treated like celebrities and bounced out in their new Tees holding their surf wax tightly!
‘Sandy was a nice man and good at catching waves, I get nervous like him’ ~ Billy
‘I’m excited to get in the ocean, I don’t know what it will feel like’ ~ Asheya
Finisterre were so kind, I felt like a surfer! ~ Tiani
We were honoured to be there and feel part of something so special. Now we can’t wait to watch each of the first eight jump up on their boards and feel the same feeling we all know – the first wave you ever caught into the beach.
Learn more about the Get City Kids Surfing here
Lead Photo: Steve Banks