From the Projects to Marin

A San Francisco surf camp brings the Sunnydale kids to the beach

Sunnydale, known as “The Dale” or “The Swamp”, is San Francisco’s largest housing project, and statistically speaking, the most dangerous neighborhood in town. Just over the hill from the eastern borders of the expensive, gentrified Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods, Sunnydale has no grocery stores, sporadic garbage collection, frequent shootings, and little police presence.

The beaches of Marin County, one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, are a short drive north from Sunnydale, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. But for most residents of Sunnydale, Marin—an unspoiled, forested paradise—may as well be on the moon, as far as it is from their daily existence. Ian Glover, Ocean Beach ripper and owner of Big Dog Surf Camp, is working to change that.

Glover has partnered with local shaper Tim Gras and filmmaker Adam Warmington of Micro-documentaries, in an effort to bring kids from the Sunnydale projects to Marin, teaching them how to surf and showing them a world outside of their violent urban homes. Almost none of the kids have visited the beach before they embark on their surf camp experience, and they make up a vastly different student body when compared to the wealthy, weekend warrior Mariners Glover normally teaches. Mill Valley’s Proof Lab (one of California’s best surf shops) supplies the equipment, and Glover’s crew provides instruction free of charge.

Surf lessons may seem a trivial thing in the face of the countless struggles that confront the residents of Sunnydale everyday. But the pure joy radiating from the Sunnydale kids’ faces as they escape their urban lives for a carefree day at the beach is a resource that deserves cultivation.