The Alisal Wahines’ Surf Club

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The Alisal Wahines’ Surf Club

“I feel that other girls should join the program because I think it's life changing, Alisal is really important to me because that's where I’m from and my heart is there and I just know how it's changed my life being here, why wait,” says Dionne Ibarra, founder of the Wahine Project.

“I feel that other girls should join the program because I think it's life changing, Alisal is really important to me because that's where I’m from and my heart is there and I just know how it's changed my life being here, why wait,” says Dionne Ibarra, founder of the Wahine Project.

“I feel that other girls should join the program because I think it's life changing, Alisal is really important to me because that's where I’m from and my heart is there and I just know how it's changed my life being here, why wait,” says Dionne Ibarra, founder of the Wahine Project.

“I feel that other girls should join the program because I think it's life changing, Alisal is really important to me because that's where I’m from and my heart is there and I just know how it's changed my life being here, why wait,” says Dionne Ibarra, founder of the Wahine Project.

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Salinas isn’t exactly a surfer’s paradise, but it doesn’t mean people, girls especially can’t hit the beach. Senior Lizbet Calderon got interested in surfing last summer when she and her friends had the opportunity to go surfing in Monterey at a low cost, and since then it has been life changing for them.

They wanted other girls to feel the same way they felt and have the same experience as them, which is why they decided to form the surf club with the help of Dionne Ybarra, the founder of The Wahine Project. They made the club affordable and accessible to girls who wanted to experience something new and different outside of Salinas.

Ibarra explained why it was important to her to start the organization. “I decided to start the project because being Mexican American there just weren’t any other Mexican girls in the water and I thought ‘I want there to be more Mexican girls in the water.’ I just wanted to provide any opportunity for people who came from the same place I came from and had the same growing up experience to be able to offer it to them, I had come across a lot of resources in my life and opportunities and I thought I want to share those opportunities I’ve had and open up doors for other people.”

While it might be the first year of the Alisal Wahine Surf Club, the Wahine Project has been around for a full seven years and is going into its eighth year. “Right now we have about 7 instructors that are on payroll and we have about the same amount of volunteers that are at the beach so any given time there’s about 6 of us maybe, 6 volunteers 6 employees,” said Ibarra.

Currently, Alisal is the only club that has partnered with the organization. “When I started the organization I wanted to be surrounded by clubs where it’s sort of like Alisal where they meet once a week then come to the beach, that’s how it was actually designed but for it to happen it seemed like I had to be at those schools and we don’t have that revenue to hire someone to be at all those schools or be volunteers, and so we had them a couple times through the years but currently we don’t have any, except for Alisal so it’s super cool that Alisal is doing it on their own.”

The cost to join the club is currently nothing; however, there is a minimum fee for the Wahine Project, “There is no cost to join the club, to join the project on the other hand we all qualify for a scholarship in which we will only have to pay $15 dollars for our shirt and disqualifies the total cost of $400,” said Lizbet Calderon.The only location to surf is in Monterey, “We usually surf down at Del Monte Beach, but at this time of the year (winter) we get calmer waves at Wharf #2,” Calderon added. According to Calderon, there is no limit to who can join the club but prefers there being only a small group of girls at a time because of the instructor to member ratio. “Wetsuits are offered by the project, we use the ones they provide for us for that day only. Some of us members are drivers therefore we give each other rides, and when parents are available they can give rides too,” clarified Calderon.

Some people might be opposed to the idea of joining the surf club because they might not know how to swim or they’re just afraid, but senior Mayte Reyes believes it gave her confidence, “The surf club has taught me to trust myself, because the first time I went on the boogie boards I was so scared I thought I was going to drown because I don’t know how to swim and then I went on it and it actually helps you float so then I thought ‘Okay, I got this.’ The first wave did knock me down, but then it actually built my confidence.” She also added, “I feel that other girls should join the club because they want to experience the world and this is a little way to start, and surfing is so cool you have a new connection with something new and you’re not just in Salinas.”

For senior Elizabeth Lopez, surfing was a form of a stress reliever and gave her a new perspective, “The surf club has taught me to let go of my stress, that’s a huge thing that they’re always talking about that the beach lets go of stress. And something I’ve personally learned from surfing and apply as a life lesson is that you can either ride the wave or let it wipe you out, like whatever life throws at me I can either choose to overcome it.”

For people who join the club and feel inspired, the Wahine Project actually encourages girls to come back and volunteer/intern as a form of giving back. “We have a program and again this was sort of in the big scope, so it’s like be in the program, feel what it feels like, be sort of changed by it, and then come back as interns and do like an internship, it can be paid or not paid, and then be hired, and so we have a handful of girls who have now been hired because they participated, volunteered, and now they’re in like the next level of giving back,” stated Ibarra. Elizabeth Lopez is an example of one of the girls that were changed by the experience. “I’ll actually continue to surf after it’s over since I’ll be attending CSUMB I’ll be able to be a part of a program in the Wahine Project and be a volunteer supervising, but I’ll actually get to be in the ocean surfing as well,” said Lopez.

“I feel that other girls should join the program because I think it’s life changing, Alisal is really important to me because that’s where I’m from and my heart is there and I just know how it’s changed my life being here, why wait. I used to be so scared to go past my ankles in the water that I waited, I didn’t do it. I have done a lot of stupid things in my life things I should have made better decisions but I’m telling you that the only real regret I have is not doing that earlier because I just love it,” said Ibarra.

The only downside of the club would be that this club, for now, is only limited to girls. “It is exclusive to girls because we want to provide the opportunity to join a sport that is male dominated,” said Calderon. Unfortunately Calderon will not be able to decide whether the next years will permit boys, but will have to be up to the future leaders of the club. “This is the first year of the club and since I am a senior I will not be able to determine if there will be boys that will be able to join. This opportunity though will be great for both males and females because another barrier of this sport is that it is dominantly white,” stated Calderon.

 

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