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Hands Across The Sand

By Michael Ray
Photos by Angela Sun

Saturday May 19, the Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club, Stokeshare, the Alma Foundation, and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Cadets lined up on the coast at Bay Street, Santa Monica, for the second Annual Hands Across the Sand. Drawing together teams of surfers, volunteers, youth, and environmental advocates, the event was part skill share and part environmental education.

CJ Todd, an organizer of the event, explained that “the day started with a surf lesson” and concluded with a discussion about “plastic pollution and watersheds.” He added that the concept of “one watershed” represents “everything being connected.” In addition to surfboards, wetsuits and volunteer surf instruction, the youth in attendance were also treated to burritos from Plancha in Venice.

A first-time participant, Cesar J., said that he was glad that he came to learn how to surf. “I was a little nervous,” he confessed. He was brought to the event through Alma Family Services, an organization servicing the Ramona Gardens and Boyle Heights area. Gema Rodriguez, a case manager at Alma Family Services said that the youth were brought to the event via organization Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD).

“[The youth] were a little apprehensive at first, they didn’t want to put on the wetsuits,” Rodriguez said, adding that once they started, “surfing was a great opportunity for them to do something that they may not have tried to do otherwise.”

Joy Cernac, an Executive Committee Member of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter, shared information about past, present and upcoming events with people in attendance. She stated that “it is not all gloom and doom, we can change this and enjoy our coastlines” citing that the group’s presence at Hands Across the Sand was “a show of solidarity against offshore drilling.” L.A. Waterkeeper’s Mithsy Hernandez stated that as an organization that works with “Water quality and quantity” from the Los Angeles River to ocean and marine protected areas, “we don’t want to see offshore drilling.”

As the youth, adults, and organizers held hands, a drone operator flew overhead to document the occasion. The line of people spread both directions from lifeguard tower 20. At the end of the day, the group gathered proclaiming, “we are one watershed!”

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