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Overnight Surf at Camp Pendleton – San Onofre

Guest Blog written by Erika Rogness of Outdoor Outreach

July 14 San Onofre #1The smell of salt water mixed with the faint scent of smoldering bonfire is an amazing smell to wake up to. I crawled out of my sleeping bag to sneak off for a quick morning jog before the MCCS teens woke up. I looked out at the ocean as I put my shoes on and smiled seeing empty sleeping pads of most of the Outdoor Outreach staff who woke up at 5am to check out the surf.

Camp Pendleton’s MCCS partnered with Miramar’s MCCS and Outdoor Outreach to allow us to surf and camp directly on their San Onofre Beach and we couldn’t have had a better location or a better experience. The first day the teens arrived on site via large yellow bus and we spent the initial few hours getting to know each other through ice breakers, having the teens set up their own tents, and completing surf safety discussions. 

Looking out onto the water, you could see the energy traveling in all directions.  The wind was certainly pulling its weight that day, rolling the water like a boiling pot.  Layers upon layers of waves peeling over and waves so easy to launch the teens off of, that it felt like the ocean was setting a day up specifically for us.

This trip was very important to one teen in particular, as it helped them build new relationships with the other teens and strengthen their self-esteem.  This teen’s parent’s are divorced and their military parent recently gained custody and moved them here to California. Between talks at the bonfire and morning talks over pancakes, it sounded as though they were having a hard time finding a sense of belonging due to frequent moves and having difficulties relating to either parent. I felt for this teen, understanding the hardships of divorced parents, but I definitely could not relate to the constant uprooting and resilience she must have gained from this.  I was not worried about this teen’s ability to create friends, as they were an incredibly outgoing individual and fun, but more so about their ability to create lasting attachments. This should not have been a worry.

July 14 San Onofre #2

What did this teen do that weekend?  Opened up about their personal life, expressing thoughts and feelings more mature than most people I’ve encountered. Showed persistence out on the waves while actually letting go of their worries for the day; I saw more smiles than a dentist office waiting room. Bonds developed – more than once I saw this particular teen helping others and reminiscing about stories from the different areas they had lived in.

When I went on base that following Monday, this teen came up to me in excitement, exclaiming that they had talked to their parent about possibly staying for the school year and attending the Military Adventure Club program with their friends. I asked them if they had fun and they continued to refer to the time spent with their friends. I could see that they had finally found where they fit in and I was not only happy to see this happen, but happy to be a part of it.  There are more elements to our trips than simply taking youth and teens out on fun adventures, everyone leaves with something different, but the point is, they never leave empty handed.


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