Despite overcast skies Saturday afternoon, Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria was filled with excitement as kids squiggled into wetsuits, eager to begin a day of surfing.
Both parents and children showed up for the fourth annual “funraiser” hosted by Surf Happens and Hugs for Cubs. The event, specially organized for childhood cancer survivors, held free surf lessons and beach activities. Falling on International Surf Day, the June 20 event honored the birthday of the late Eric Pintard, founder of Hugs for Cubs. A cancer patient himself, Eric developed Hugs for Cubs in order to create fun opportunities for children afflicted with cancer – an effort that his father and uncle, Bill and Dave Pintard, have continued to pursue in his memory.
Twenty-four kids, ages ranging from two-and-a-half to 12, showed up to learn about surfing and enjoy some beach time. After a short delay for late arrivals and sunscreen application, it was time to select a surfboard and begin the lesson. The group scurried swiftly to form a semicircle around Surf Happens founder and surf instructor Chris Keet. During the introduction to surfing, participants learned techniques for successful surfing, as well as such ocean swimming safety tips as how to escape a rip current. Keet said he uses a unique teaching method when giving lessons; focusing first on life principles such as respecting others and yourself. “Before surfing, it is important for students to first develop an overall understanding of what they are going into,” he explained. “What the mind understands, the body will follow.”
With boards fixed firmly in the sand, the trainees mimicked Chris’s surfing maneuvers, flying back and forth from being flattened on the board to being crouched on top of it, as though riding a massive wave. Even outside of the water, the kids were enjoying the challenge and flashing large grins as they mastered each motion. “We come here because we really like surfing,” said one 10-year-old, “and because the people here really help us to understand surfing.”
In addition to Chris Keet and his Surf Happens instructors, members of the Foresters, the Santa Barbara summer baseball team whose members also participate in Hugs for Cubs, were present to assist during the event and entertain the kids who opted out of surf lessons. Each year, the Foresters spend time with child cancer patients, visiting hospitals and hosting events such as fishing day, surf day, and a visit to the Goleta bowling alley Zodo’s.
On Monday, Hugs for Cubs is taking 60 kids to Anaheim for an Angels baseball game. “This is my second year with Hugs for Cubs,” said team member Casey McMurray. “I really enjoy this aspect of my summer baseball program. From surf day to bowling at Zodos, it’s just a really great way to help these kids.”