Sand, surf and self-confidence at Morro Bay camp

Every summer, Project Surf Camp’s Executive Director Katy Davis is lured from her Texas home to spend several weeks with her “families” in Morro Bay.

“Families come back year after year because they see the benefits for their children,” Davis said.

Project Surf Camp (PSC) has served more than 3,000 children since 2008, when camp sessions began with 125 campers.

“We mostly serve children from California, but after being on the 'Today' show … we get children from all over the country,” she said.

In 2010, PSC was featured on the NBC morning show “Today” for winning $50,000 as a runner-up in the Pepsi Refresh Project.

“What I want people to understand is we are not just a surf camp for children with special needs,” Davis said. “Our specialists are professional teachers. There are master’s degrees in the water with these kids, providing needed intervention. It’s just done in a fun way.”

For example, Project Surf Camp’s founder and director, John Taylor, earned his master’s degree in therapeutic recreation from Indiana University, plus a Clear Education Specialist Teaching Credential from Cal Poly. During the school year, he works for the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education. Core PSC specialists with master’s degrees or certifications are Caleb Cole, William Walters and Matt Makowetski. 

“I get to do the fun stuff,” Taylor said. “A couple of years ago, Katy and I switched jobs. Her skills were better suited to run the business side of the operation. After she landed the Pepsi account, I chose to get back to what I started the camp for: teaching kids with disabilities self-esteem and fostering independence. I love having the kids come back every summer, but if we can teach them skills they can use on their own, we’ve done our jobs. That’s the teacher-therapist in me.”

Taylor determined that his recreation training brought another niche to PSC beyond the goals found at other camps.

“Hundreds of camps are filling a great need.” he said. “Our families are comfortable that we have specialists working with their children’s disabilities. We also encourage parents and siblings to enjoy camp together. It’s magic when families do activities together they would never do at home.”

To keep fees nominal, the camp’s half-day sessions are supported by sponsorships. Family and community volunteers provide extra hands. The Pepsi Day event brought more than 75 volunteers from all over the country, Davis said.

San Luis Sports Therapy; Morro Bay police, fire and recreation departments; and local churches are some of the groups that volunteer each year. PSC specialist and newly elected Morro Bay City Councilman Makowetski teaches at Lompoc’s Maple High School, which also provides volunteers.

Volunteers are still needed. Contact www.projectsurfcamp.com or call 903-2724.