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Surf Ambassador to California’s Youth

By Sheena Masterson

Masterson is an intern and instructor for the City Surf Project from San Francisco. She is proud to be a first-generation Irish American born and raised in San Francisco with a passion for all things surf.  We connected with Sheena to discuss the surf opportunities available to California’s youth and get her advice. The City Surf Project is a 2020 Route to Parks Grantee 

Parks California: How did you find yourself working with the City Surf Project? 

Masterson: When I was deciding which high school to attend, and my dearest homie and I were on the 24 bus ranking the coolness of schools, Mission High shot to the #1 slot in my preference list for high schools when she told me about City Surf Project, the surf club at Mission. 

Parks California: What led you to the love of surfing? What connects you to the surf?  

 Masterson: Even though my first surf day was the most refreshing and stoked day of ninth grade, I was too anxious to fully pursue it, because I felt uncomfortable in the male-dominated group. When sophomore year rolled around, I was absolutely frothing for some waves and pounced on every opportunity to surf, harassing my guidance counselor for six months to let me into the overcrowded class. I decided I’d be the ultimate surf bro, and I cultivated a surf community of lady friends, forming surf alliances, pledging to be each other’s emotional support. 

Parks California: What are some real or perceived barriers to surfing? How do you tackle these barriers?  

Masterson: Nearly everyone told me they didn’t feel like they were a surfer type, and I helped them confront their fears to transform their mindset. When they showed up at the beach nervous or insecure, I provided support and coaching to boost their confidence and get in the water. I spent free time promoting surfing to girls and those who identify as queer in hopes that they could experience the empowering and therapeutic freedom that surfing gives me. This led to a majority female surf class, where our mutual encouragement was stronger than the intimidating, judgy looks from the elder surf bros. 

Parks California: How has the City Surf Project influenced you?  

Masterson: Consistently going out twice a week changed my life. Something about the cold water making it through my neoprene catsuit during a heavy wipe-out gave me the endorphin-filled confidence boost I needed to make it through my socially anxious high school experience. I went to class more often because I knew at the end of the day I could surf. I made the most meaningful relationships of my life through a shared love for the ocean, and it helped to manage my ADHD symptoms. But the most important aspect of my surf life has been the sense of community it gives me, sharing a hobby and connecting me to people and opportunities. I have become an intern and surf instructor within City Surf Project, and I am working on designing a summer program for high schoolers in Surf Instructor Leadership Training. 

Parks California: What advice do you have for our readers or resources do you have for our  

readers?  

If you can make it to a beginner’s surf spot, you can probably surf. Do some research on local surf organizations and see if you can buy a second-hand board and wetsuit. If you learn how to safely navigate the water, you just need to commit. You can make surf friends and hopefully they’ll be willing to give you some tips! Stay stoked and you’ll figure it out. Remember to be safe and respectful, and have fun!