By Alice Gainer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s a program in the Rockaways that aims to bring surfing to children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to try it.

They’re making space for more Black, Indigenous and other people of color in the surfing world, and building connections in the community.

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As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reports, on a hot July day, surfers catch some waves.

(credit: CBS2)

“Sit there with your thoughts and be one with the ocean,” said 16-year-old Claudia Bayard. “You’re a surfer. I feel like you’re just automatically so much cooler.”

“I never thought that would be something I would do,” said 14-year-old Kailyn Ogaldez. “I didn’t have much water experience.”

The organization Laru Beya Collective, which means “on the beach,” reaches out to underrepresented kids from the Rockaways and teaches them to surf.

“I feel really comfortable in the water. It doesn’t scare me anymore like it used to,” Ogaldez said.

“The conditions are small, super clean. These are great for longboarders and great for beginners,” said water safety instructor Cynthia Hicks. “We pretty much made a safe haven for those people who needed those things and didn’t have the funds.”

On Saturdays and Sundays, kids 8-18 get lessons from 8 a.m. until about noon.

(credit: CBS2)

As for what you need to bring with you? Nothing. They provide everything, and the water’s warm.

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“Westsuits, snacks and food, bathing suits in certain cases, and really expensive boards they ride,” Hicks said.

They also give rides to the beach.

Volunteers say it’s not just about surfing, but water safety, too.

“You would be surprised how many people don’t know how to swim, and they’ve lived by the beach their whole lives,” Bayard said.

The teens invite others to join the group.

“They should take up this opportunity and like learn a new skill because you never know you may really love it.”

And even if you don’t love it, they say you’ll become more comfortable in the ocean.

The nonprofit relies on donations, and says it also offers mentorship sand teaches the kids to be environmentally conscious.

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Alice Gainer