Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


Article excerpt

Sachia, a reedy fifteen-year-old from the Lower East Side, is a man of many passions: Nike Air Jordans, limited-edition baseball hats, snowboarding. Until recently, learning to surf was decidedly not among them ("I like hot water, not cold," he said), but to hold his place in the extreme-sports mentoring program, Stoked, which, come January, will host the same snowboarding excursions he loved earlier this year, he consented to try the wetter sport of wave riding.

Stoked, which has programs in New York and Los Angeles, pairs mentees selected from inner-city schools with young professionals, all of whom are board-sport novices. The eleven pairs in this year's New York surf clinic, the program's second, took five trips out to Rockaway Beach, in Queens, to "achieve the impossible," as the program's Web site puts it, "by standing on water."

The group departed from West Twenty-third Street on a recent Saturday morning. Unable to make the third outing, Sachia's mentor, Dave Brennan--indisposed by one of the seven weddings he will attend this year--had arranged for three female volunteers to stand in for him. One of them, Sasha Shlyamberg, sought Sachia out on the sidewalk. (A photographer, Shlyamberg also bartends. "I tell the kids I waitress, though," she said.) "Hey, we're Team Sachia!" she told him. Sachia rolled his eyes and walked away.

On the subway, a mentor in his late twenties assumed a surfer's stance as the train jerked from side to side. "Practicing balance," he said. Sunscreen was applied and passed around. A survey was handed out to the teen-agers, with such questions as "During the last 30 days, how many times did you carry a gun?" and "During your life, how many times have you used marijuana?"

"Are you trying to get us arrested?" Sachia said.

Two subway transfers and a short walk later, the group had reached its destination: a five-hundred-yard stretch of beach that is the only spot in New York City designated for surfers alone.Close to eighty surfers bobbed on the four-foot swells.

A male volunteer said, "The mentees don't need to stretch, but we do."

First, though, some public service: a beach cleanup. Ten-odd members of a local environmental group were waiting on the beach when the Stoked crew arrived. …

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