526 Victoria Ave.
Venice, CA 90291, USA
AWOW Cardiff-by-the-Sea 2019Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California
Transforming Lives Through Surf Therapy
A Walk On Water (AWOW) provides surf therapy to children with special needs or disabilities. Spanning from coast to coast in the U.S. and sometimes abroad (or even landlocked at a surf park), AWOW serves local communities at over 10 events per year. Since the nonprofit was founded in 2012, AWOW has provided surf therapy for thousands of kids.
AWOW collaborates with local businesses, NGOs, and volunteers to provide a transformative day on the beach for local families who may have never been in the ocean before. These athletes experience the bliss of surfing thanks to an incredible team of passionate instructors, lifeguards, and even a therapy dog (Haole Boy!).
In 2018, AWOW benchmarked its Cardiff event against the STOKE Events standard and worked towards becoming the first STOKE Certified surf therapy organization in 2019. Using Cardiff as a case study, AWOW aims to scale its sustainability initiatives across all of its surf therapy sessions. Not only will the groms be stoked on the beach and surf culture, now they can become ocean stewards as well!
If you would ever like to volunteer and be a part of this special cause, reach out via the contact info provided on this page. We guarantee it will melt your heart and provide you with much-needed stoke therapy.
Sustainability ManagementSection Performance - 72%
To integrate ocean stewardship into the AWOW experience, a longtime volunteer of the organization built an upcycled wall art piece to be used at all AWOW events. Made with reclaimed wood, repurposed tires, and upcycled plastic, the AWOW Wall serves as a great photo backdrop as well as a fun educational piece about the need to keep our oceans #plasticfree.View Criteria
Naturally, safety and accessibility are of the utmost concern for the AWOW team. In close consultation with local lifeguards, the AWOW team builds a safety plan for each event and regularly trains their staff and volunteers for water safety, medical emergency, and CPR. Instructors and safety teams are separated from the beach teams and are all easily distinguished by their jersey colors. Instructors have deep water training for big wave risk assessment as well. All sites are chosen based on their accessibility features and AWOW brings its equipment to make sure anyone and everyone can enjoy an incredible day at the beach.View Criteria
- 1.6.2 Upcycled Construction
- 1.6.5 Accessibility | 1.8.1 Safety
Social and Economic Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 72%
Given the organization's surf therapy mission, AWOW takes a holistic approach to mental and physical wellness. Vendors serve healthy, organic food and beverage options while highly trained instructors provide the highest quality surf experience for local youth who otherwise may never have the same opportunity to play in the ocean. When the kids are out of the water, they can play with water-based paints and a local special needs advocate covers the cost of the canvases that the art pieces are featured on. This is AWOW's purpose and they are truly best practice in delivering this experience.View Criteria
As a nonprofit, AWOW prides itself on providing the best surf therapy experience for local children at no cost to the families or NGO partners they work with. Incredible sponsors and donors help AWOW achieve their impact mission and keep the events free and open to anyone.View Criteria
All three food and beverage vendors were local to the San Diego region: Ironsmith Coffee Roasters, Wheat and Water, and Seaside Market. Ironsmith meets directly with their farmers and ensures their contracts result in paying way above the market price for coffee. Wheat and Water sources all their products from Specialty Produce, which is a local San Diego produce supplier who works with local farmers and prioritizes organic products. Katin is a Southern California brand with custom AWOW apparel for everyone and they are featured prominently at their booth. FOCUS SUPs provide the stoke for the day and they are a brand from LA. When possible, local musicians play light acoustic music on the beach to provide a soothing ambience for the athletes.View Criteria
- 2.1.2 Community Development - Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- 2.7 Equal Access
- 2.4 Support Local Entrepreneurs
Cultural Heritage Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 61%
As a volunteer, you’re immediately aware of the strong and supportive culture that AWOW has built over the years. They’re like a family. To keep all of the athletes and their families safe and stoked, AWOW provides its code of conduct for staff and volunteers that is detailed in pre-event emails and celebrated during the morning orientation before the athletes arrive and the safety teams are split into their groups. Long term volunteers are recognized and rewarded with various AWOW memorabilia at different milestones of their service to the organization. These powerful moments are echoed at each event and instill a deep sense of pride in the volunteers no matter if you’re a first timer or a veteran. If there is a cultural nuance unique to the location they’re visiting, AWOW will incorporate those distinct community or cultural elements into their briefing.View Criteria
AWOW's resilient community building mission and surf therapy culture are clearly embedded into all facets of their operation and the athlete experience. Local vendors are highlighted at each event and surf instructors are stewards of surf culture for the athletes and their families who are experiencing it for the first time.View Criteria
- 3.1 Code of Conduct
- 3.5 Incorporation of Culture
Environmental Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 79%
AWOW does not need a lot of power to run their events. In the past, they used to have a small Honda gas generator for their PA system and sometimes for the Paul Mitchell sponsored hair cutting stations. For the Cardiff event (and now all events), AWOW got a Goal Zero generator and solar panel setup to supply all of their power needs!View Criteria
In recognition of the impacts climate change will have on our oceans and coastline—the playground for surf therapy—AWOW offset the carbon footprint of the entire event. AWOW provided their waste diversion data and attendee travel along with staff and volunteer travel to STOKE to calculate their emissions. When it was all said and done, the event’s footprint was fairly minimal thanks to their recycling efforts and Goal Zero renewable power. AWOW purchased 18 tons with CoolEffect.org to offset all staff, volunteer, and attendee emissions and they hope to reduce their average event footprint through better coordinated carpooling among athletes to and from the events.View Criteria
- 4.2.2 Renewable Energy
- 4.4.1 Emissions Management
Commitment to a Sustainable Future
A Walk On Water is deeply honored to hold the title as the first STOKE Certified surf therapy event.
Without a clean ocean, AWOW would not be able to achieve its mission. Surf therapy is just as much about the health of the environment as it is physical and mental health for our athletes. To become the most sustainable surf therapy organization, we hope to accomplish the following:
- Strengthen zero waste initiatives including adding a composting solution for food waste.
- Continue to seek out environmentally friendly partners for all of our surf gear needs.
- Add ocean conservation education to our athletes’ experience.
- Expand our sustainability programs across the country at all AWOW events.
We could not do it without all of our partners, sponsors, and volunteers for making this and all AWOW events such a transformative experience!
Sean Swentek – Executive Director