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Making waves 

click to enlarge COMMUNITY Children with special needs can enjoy the Morro Bay waters with the help of Project Surf Camp. - PHOTO COURTSEY OF PROJECT SURF CAMP
  • Photo Courtsey Of Project Surf Camp
  • COMMUNITY Children with special needs can enjoy the Morro Bay waters with the help of Project Surf Camp.

At 9 a.m., campers come together at Coleman Park on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay to be sized for a wetsuit. Once each camper is matched with the perfectly fitting suit, the group makes their way to Morro Rock Beach alongside instructors and volunteers.

After some instruction and tips on how to feel comfortable being on a surfboard within the water, campers are ready to take the waves in stride. The thing that makes these campers unique is that they wouldn't be able to attend just any old surf camp.

"There's a team of us that work with the campers and try to make sure they have a fantastic time in the water," said John Taylor, the founder of Project Surf Camp.

Taylor, a local surfer and a special education teacher, realized that there were surf camps for kids but none that children with special needs could enjoy.

He became friends with the owners of the then Morro Bay Surf Company, which eventually closed its doors in the early 2000s. But before the company closed, Taylor formed Project Surf Camp in 2007 with the help of the surf company.

The mission of the camp is to help foster independence and social skills for the campers while providing a safe environment.

Celebrating its 10th year of ensuring that children with special needs enjoy the tumbling waters of Morro Bay comes with another special marker. The city of Morro Bay formalized its relationship with Project Surf Camp, but not before emotional testimony from parents and 27 letters of public comment commending the work of the camp.

Parents shared stories of their kids being able to enjoy getting into the ocean, a concept many believed would never happen.

"Parents are sitting on the beach and balling their eyes out because they can't believe their kids are out there," Taylor said.

The council unanimously voted to enter into a partnership agreement with Project Surf Camp, meaning the city will continue to waive park and open space fees for the camp.

"One of the key factors of forming a formal partnership with Morro Bay is that it really secures the longevity of the camp," Taylor said.

Many parents talked about the patience and knowledge that Taylor and his team of volunteers and instructors has for their campers.

"It's really something that I think for all of us just really refills our cup, and it's super exciting and fun," Taylor said.

For parents who are hesitant to bring their child to the camp, Taylor's advice is to chat with other parents.

"We don't advertise, and we're mostly word of mouth, so chances are you'll hear honest reviews and testimonials from other parents of past and current campers," he said.

After a couple of hours in the water combined with happy parents and happy campers, it's time for a meal—hot dogs and pizza.

"This isn't something that I'll be able to do forever, but I don't ever want it to stop; I would only love to see it grow," Taylor said.

Fast Fact

• On June 27, the city of San Luis Obispo celebrated the grand opening of 860 on the Wye, the first permanent affordable housing for veterans in San Luis Obispo County. The project sponsored by the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO) is fully occupied, featuring 20 residential apartments with job and education amenities. Veterans will be supported through HASLO staff, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and many other services.

• The Foundation for Performing Arts Center was awarded $16,200 by the California Arts Council. The grant will go toward the foundation's 2017-18 School Matinee Program. The program will bring more than 10,000 local children to free performances at the Performing Arts Center in SLO next season. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes & Plugs. Send tips to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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