Surfer group gets wave of food donations

Local area surfers and the Long Beach Surfers

Local area surfers and the Long Beach Surfers Association sponsored a food drive and free surf camp in Long Beach. Four-year-old Gavin Smith of Long Beach is testing which board he likes by hopping from one to the other. (May 12, 2012) (Credit: Jim Staubitser)

Surfers gathered at Long Beach Park Saturday -- to surf, of course, but also to give back.

Having asked people stopping by to surf or trade old boards to bring food donations, they gathered several shopping bags and boxes of food for the Long Beach Food and Friendship Inn, a local soup kitchen.

Rachel Bobis, a board member of the Long Beach Surfer's Association, which put on its first Surf Day, said the surfers wanted to do something for their community, as they got together for competitions and hanging out on the beach.

"People have this image of surfers as slackers, but we're doctors, lawyers," Bobis said.

"I'm a social worker, and there's a need all year. It's not just Thanksgiving," said Bobis, whose husband, Daniel, died while surfing in Indonesia last summer. She works at West Elementary School in Long Beach.

As he stood on the park's boardwalk, the beach and the waves behind him, Will Hallett, 51, of Long Beach, who serves on the association's board, said the surfers wanted to raise awareness that "there's hunger right under our noses," even near the idyllic scene.

On the beach, about 25 people in wet suits paddled into the water on surfboards, most for the first time this year.

Two Long Beach surfing schools, Skudin Surf and Surf2Live, gave free lessons, said Billy Kupferman, 32, the association's president. "In Long Beach, we're blessed to have the ocean be our backyard," he said.

Bobis, who has been surfing for about 10 years, said of the experience, "It's an escape. There's no cellphone, just the ocean, and the elements, and the feel of riding."

Nora Smith, 7, was among the first-time surfers, and her father, Andy Smith, 39, watched from shore.

Andy Smith, of Long Beach, said he's taken her out with him on his surfboard before, but this was her first time on her own. He let out a whoop when he saw Nora suddenly stand on her board and glide through the waves for a few short, exhilarating seconds.

"I liked standing up," Nora said, afterward, agreeing that it is preferable to falling down.

"Great job," her father said, as the two walked off. "You caught a wave!"

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