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Paddle Sports Center and Wilderness Youth Project Team Up to Bring Enriching and Fun Programs to the Community

One of the most satisfying aspects of running Paddle Sports Center is that it gives us the opportunity to give back. We are often involved in projects like beach cleanups and safety trainings, and we hold regular events that educate and involve our community. We’re always looking for more ways to spread our love of the ocean and grow our tribe. For the past 8 years, we’ve been partnering with a fantastic local non-profit to share resources and create programs that get more people exposed to the benefits of being on the ocean. We wanted to let you know what we have going on this summer, and give you a closer look at our partner and their outstanding work with youth in our community.

Wilderness Youth Project – A Boon to Our Community

Since their inception, Wilderness Youth Project has been positively impacting and enriching lives in the Santa Barbara area. What started as a short kayak trip out of the Harbor with a group of homeless youth has grown into a bustling non-profit organization that serves over 1000 students every year.

kids paddleboarding

WYP envisions teaching our next generations to be peaceful, respectful and confident stewards of our world – a goal that is perfectly aligned with our mission here at PSC. For the past 8 years, PSC and WYP have been working together to find ways we can help each other and our community at large. This relationship allows WYP to offer paddling as part of their curriculum, expanding nature’s classroom to include the ocean as well. We provide equipment and instruction to their students on an ongoing basis. We also train their staff in water safety for their camps and after school programs. This is been a wonderful symbiotic relationship that has enriched both of our communities, and we continue to work together to plan more programs in the future.

Anthony Hickling, WYP’s Development Coordinator, comments, “Spending time in the ocean is an integral part of connecting with nature in Santa Barbara. Paddling pushes kids’ edges just enough for us to create peak experiences where they demonstrate teamwork, bravery and connection with the world around them.”

What do the kids have to say?

“The ocean looks so different when you’re on top. It’s definitely not flat. “

“The most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

Full Moon Paddle Outs

Now in it’s 19th year, Wilderness Youth Project provides after-school, school-day and summer programs to students age three through high school with child-centered, nature-based programs that teach naturalist skills and provide long-term individualized mentorship. They also incorporate the ”Principles of Peace” into their curriculum, a program that teaches communication skills, peacemaking and conflict resolution. Students visit local creeks, beaches, mountain trails and open spaces, where they return to the traditions of childhood – outdoor time, connection with the natural world, and child-led, hands-on exploration. WYP has an impressive 4 to 1 youth-to-counselor ratio, and uses a long-term mentoring model where most participants return for multiple years, building long-term relationships with their mentors and with the program.

Exposure to nature is far more than just fresh air and exercise. Studies show that spending time in nature dramatically reduces a child’s’ propensity for violence, stress and symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Research also shows that nature-based education has a compelling impact on shaping both environmental attributes and behaviors in adulthood. The programs at WYP have had overwhelmingly positive effects on their participants. Here is what one parent of a 6 year old participant had to say:

“In my entire life, I have never seen such dedication, kindness, and unconditional love from these human beings [Wilderness Youth Project Staff]. My son has grown so much in the areas of responsibility, compassion, respect and discipline in these short weeks. This experience through the “WYP” program has been life-changing to say the least.”

But the positive impact of WYP’s work is extending even further, into the local educational system. WYP’s Bridge to Nature program is a way for elementary schools to give students exposure to the natural world in a deep and meaningful way. Once a month during the school year, each student goes out for half of their day with WYP’s mentors to be immersed in nature. The regular monthly trip, repeating eight or nine times during the year, gives the students time to form relationships with their mentors and an attachment to nature, and to learn about science and our environment on a deeper level – a far deeper experience than just a quick afternoon field trip into the woods.

WYP Full Moon Paddle

WYP Full Moon Paddle

The impact of this program, currently being taught in six local schools in their 4th grade classrooms, has been overwhelmingly positive, where they’ve proven to be supplemental to the school’s science curriculum – the children come back with lots of stories and inspiration to dive into the subject matter. Students, teachers and parents have all expressed the impact this program has had on the students’ emotional health, interest in nature, interest in academics and participation in class.

Part of WYP’s mission is to make their programs available to students who may not otherwise have this opportunity. Through their outreach and fundraising efforts, an impressive 60% of their students are scholarship-based participants. For their Bridge to Nature program, WYP has focused on schools where 50% or more of the student population is receiving free or reduced lunches so they can reach more students who are in need.

WYP is currently ramping up to celebrate their 20th anniversary next year. They will be hosting their second Bridge to Nature campaign, raising funds to expand the program into more schools. The highlight of this fundraising campaign will be their second annual Moon Dance – a large-scale but down-to-earth event that was a huge success last year. WYP has extensive support from local businesses, foundations and individuals who have embraced their initiatives. For more information on their programs and organization, including volunteering opportunities, please visit their website at

PSC and WYP – Ways We Work Together

Last summer, our two groups started running Full Moon Paddles together. They were such a success, we decided to make them a monthly event this summer. The paddles are a wonderful way for the entire family to connect and experience nature together.

The Santa Barbara sky from the water is beautiful on any given evening, but when the sun is setting and the full moon rises it is especially spectacular. The two-hour Full Moon Paddle takes you out in the Santa Barbara Harbor on your choice of kayak or paddle board, and is perfect for all ages and abilities (children under 12 will share kayaks with their parents). The next Full Moon Paddle Outs are scheduled for the following dates:

Monday, September 24, 6pm – 8pm

Tuesday, October 23 – 6pm – 8pm

More information

Ocean Explorer Kids Camp & After School Program

We also want to let you know about another excellent program we’re running here at PSC – our Ocean Explorers Kid’s Camp & After School program are very popular programs that continue to grow year after year. They’re run in collaboration with Save The Mermaids, another outstanding local charity that we love to work with.

The camp is run in week-long sessions all summer and focuses on ocean sports and marine education, with topics that directly correlate to the local marine environment in Santa Barbara. Kids learn skills in the water, build confidence and get a unique perspective on the ocean and marine life through activities like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, boogie-boarding, surfing, body surfing, beach play and beach cleanups. All instructors are CPR, First-Aid Certified, and have gone through our internal Ocean Risk Management Program (OMRP). Most hold higher medical training. Camps run 9am – 3pm Mon – Fri.

More information & signup

We are holding a Paddle Sports Member benefit mixer at Endless Summer Bar. From 5:30pm-8:30pm $1 of all ‘Froze’ drink sales will be donated to Save the Mermaids / Paddle Sports kids summer camp programs, helping get at-risk youth out on the ocean building confidence. Come hang out after work and cool down. Optional group paddle at 4pm before the mixer. Let’s have some fun! Let us know if you coming HERE

Please visit our website often for updates on our programs, more stories about great organizations in our area, and fun paddle tours!

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