In the alley behind Compound Board Shop, John Bowman stands next to five stacks of long cardboard boxes, each stack standing a few inches taller than him. He removes a box from the top of one of the stacks, slices through the packing tape with a razor blade and reveals its contents: a bright-blue surfboard emblazoned with the words “Eternal Summer Surf Camp.”
Bowman, the director of the non-profit Christian surf camp for children, has just received a delivery of 130 of these boards to launch the camp’s new Sarasota location, which is set to open Sunday, June 30.
Today, a handful of campers help unload the boards and move them into storage, and Bowman is quick to show his appreciation.
“Nobody leave before I get your hat size,” he says. “Everybody helping out gets a hat.”
In 2008, Bowman founded the surf camp on Anna Maria Island, where he and friends Ryan Bodie, Jay Travis and Justin Hey set out to make Christianity more relevant to children through teaching them to surf.
“I really think (kids) need good mentors, so we wanted to use this ministry as an outreach, so that kids who want to learn how to surf can learn about God at the same time,” says Bowman. “It’s a combination of my two passions.”
In five years, the camp has grown from a small group of 15 students to 1,000 surfers last year. Camp directors enlisted the help of more than 100 volunteer instructors. Bowman says with the camp’s evolution, he felt a calling to expand the camp to Sarasota, where more children would have access to the same sense of awe he felt when learning to surf.
“I was 13 years old the first time I stood up on a wave, and I never looked at life the same,” says Bowman. “Surfers have always had this idea that they’re searching for something, and all it takes is to go after it. It’s the same message in the sermons.”
Thanks to a Tucked In Media sponsorship collaboration with local supplier One International, Eternal Summer Surf Camp now has 130 new boards, as well as bracelets, signs, trophies and raffle items for this year’s camp.
“That was huge for us,” says Bowman. “Now, we can have more kids in the water.”
Jake Shields, of Compound Board Shop, will help run the Sarasota location near the south bridge on Siesta Key, and with more than 200 children already signed up, he’s excited to share the experience with them.
“It’s such a contagious feeling, and it’s like nothing else,” says Shields. “Every other thought you have just goes away. It’s a blessing for me to be able to be a part of that.”
Contact Nick Friedman at [email protected]