An ocean of colors

In the summer of 2020, the surfing world – like the rest of the United States – was counting on an amplified social justice movement sparked by the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Surfers paddled all over the world, from the open waters of the northern shores of Hawaii to the shores of southern California, coming together in beautiful shows of solidarity against racism.

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Standing up for social justice isn’t exactly what most people expect from the surfing community, whose population in California is dominated by wealthy white men. The sport also has a well-documented history of racism. Access is another reason why surfing is seamless: like other adventure sports, surfing requires expensive equipment, reliable transportation, and mentorship from others to make a beginner feel part of the community. .

In many ways, “learning to surf is like generational wealth because it’s generational knowledge,” says Mario Ordoñez-Calderón, co-founder of Un Mar de Colores. Ordoñez-Calderón, a child of Mexican immigrants and former Navy medic who lives in Encinitas, was welcomed into the surfer community in his early adulthood. In surfing, he found a sense of belonging and personal tranquility.

“The aha moment for me was in a lot of people I met while surfing,” says Ordoñez-Calderón. “There’s just something about connecting through this medium. It’s just different. Drawn to the outdoors from a young age, Ordoñez-Calderón says he never looked to the ocean as a place of solace. “Surfing sucked for me at first, but something kept reminding me,” he says.

That something was a growing sense of purpose to connect surfing to social justice, showing kids from all walks of life that, as Ordoñez-Calderón says, “the ocean is for them.”

Un Mar de Colores, meaning “An Ocean of Colors,” is a non-profit organization that provides surf therapy to children ages 6 to 12 from historically marginalized communities through mentoring and mentoring programs. sensitization. “I think surfing has the potential to change a human’s life, and I just wanted to pass that on to kids with similar backgrounds to mine,” says Ordoñez-Calderón. Some of those kids, Ordoñez-Calderón acknowledges, may not see surfing as something for them. “Coming to a Mexican-American immigrant family,” says Ordoñez-Calderón, “you’re a little more focused on academic success, and extracurricular activities might not be your priority.”

Un Mar de Colores invites young people into the surfing community and reinforces a historic connection to the coast. According to Ordoñez-Calderón, it’s also good for surfing because it increases diversity in the sport and expands the next generation of surfers.

Ordoñez-Calderón recalled a story from the organization’s first community giving campaign, when she gave a surfboard to a local family, but the parents had no way to bring it home: their car was not big enough and they lacked roof bars. It may seem like a small detail, but it’s an example of how access can be limited by things that many internet users take for granted.

Fortunately, Ordoñez-Calderón and his team were able to purchase and install a surf rack for the family.

These two young siblings who received the counseling will celebrate their graduation from the organization’s mentorship program this month. For two years they have been surfing with Un Mar de Colores, developing a new relationship with the ocean. They join the rest of their cohort as part of the organization’s first promotion.

This summer, Ordoñez-Calderón and her team will begin working with the next group of children, new members of a growing community who recognize that the ocean is for them.•

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