Surfing program promotes alternative to gang life

Streetwaves program in 8th year

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – With his toes in the sand, a 16-year-old boy showed off the gunshot wound on his right foot that he got outside his Overtown home.

"Like we are having this conversation, somebody ran up and starting shooting," he said.

On Saturday the teen was focused on learning how to surf through a program called Streetwaves, which partners with area nonprofits to introduce young people to surfing.

The program was founded by Maui Goodbeer, who took sought solace in the ocean after losing his brother, Melvin, to gang violence.

Melvin was 21 years old when he was shot and killed by a 16-year-old in their hometown of San Diego.

At his brother's funeral, Goodbeer made a promise that he would use his talents to help disadvantaged youth. 

"I know that that if you are in the ocean with me surfing, they are not on the streets, not getting themselves into trouble and they're not in harm's way," said Goodbeer.

A group of students met for their first class on Saturday. 

"Kids come to the ocean in their socks, they don't realize getting sand between their toes," he said. "I see girls putting Publix shopping bags on their hair. We're about three miles from communities where kids never come to the ocean."

After they learned the basics, it was time to hit the ocean.

Since a mix of the students involved in the classes are foster children, their names could not be used in this article for security reasons.

A girl who aspires to be a singer  said the program provides a brand of positivity more children need.

"Positive people, people who have energy, and who aren't scared to do positive things," she said. "It's easy to be negative because others are negative."

Trust is a major part of surfing, and  the new surfers must learn to trust the volunteers. 

David Neossant, known as "Flash," used to be a foster child and met Goodbeer on the beach 10 years ago.

He's now a volunteer with the program. 

"It gave me a different perspective on life, instead of seeing cars, music, people and streets all the time," said Neossant.

Goodbeer hopes this first surfing lesson won't be their last time on the board, he hopes they too will find solace in the sea.

"The sea is savior to many. I have seen so many lives transformed," said Goodbeer.

For more on Streetwaves, go to streetwaves.org. For more on the Little Lighthouse Foundation, go to thelittlelighthouse.org

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