Polynesian surfing has been practiced for over a thousand years. Westerners first caught a glimpse of surfing in 1767 off the coast of Tahiti when the British Royal Navy’s crew of the HMS Dolphin visited the island. Explorer Captain James Cook wrote about the sport in his journals; Mark Twain too wrote about the activity on a visit to Hawaii in 1866, calling it “the national pastime of surf-bathing.” (from Roughing It, 1872)
The sport first came to the United States in Santa Cruz, California, where three students who were Hawaiian princes surfed the mouth of the San Lorenzo River on redwood-crafted surfboards. (“Riders of the Sea Spray” Santa Cruz Good Times, 2010)
By the 1930s, Florida was hosting surfing demonstrations with Hawaiian surfboards. The first native Florida surfboard was shaped from sugar pine by Bill Whitman, who is considered to be one of the state’s first surfers.
Florida has several preferred surfing locations, but one new location is getting growing recognition—Florida’s Treasure Coast.
Surf coach, Brett Jenkins grew up a native son of Florida, calling Martin County home for the past 25 years. The ocean’s salty waters run through his veins. His grandmother helped him purchase his first surfboard at age 14. Brett states, “I ended up going to a surf shop and was sold a board that I couldn't ride. It took me about three years to learn how to surf and lots of frustration! But through that, I was able to figure out what not to do while surfing and I learned the right way to stand up. That experience was what helped form my way of teaching.” Brett has also expanded his personal surf experiences, traveling and surfing off the coasts of South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
In 2014, Brett Jenkins a Special Olympics Florida surf coach, helped take the team to Cocoa Beach, Florida. There, several participants took gold medals. Brett is a volunteer, committing several weeks of coaching to approximately 30 contestants. His Special Olympics athletes are between eight and 65 years old. They can swim, but need a coach to push them out into the waves. Brett Jenkins states, “The sport helps those with disabilities overcome their fears; anybody can do it. Usually in one hour a person can learn to surf.”
Brett loves watching these athletes surf. “Their personality switches because they relax and enjoy the water. Their faces show pure joy.”
Brett adds, “I like to give back to my community.”
This summer’s Special Olympics Florida State Surfing Championship will be held September 12, 2015 at Alan Shepard Park, 202 E. Cocoa Beach Causeway, Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Brett Jenkins also began Cowabunga Surf Shop Surf and Water Sports Summer Camp six years ago after friends of the family wanted their own children to learn the sport.
Beginning with just a few children, his camp has become one of the largest surf camps on the East Coast of Florida. Brett staffs with one counselor per every three children. The staff is personally screened, loves helping kids succeed and are well trained in surfing, paddle boarding, and skim boarding. All are Red Cross certified in first aid and CPR and several also have lifeguard experience. Because of the longevity of Cowabunga Surf and Water Sports Camp, Brett is seeing his first students grow up and return to lend their own surfing expertise to the next generation. During the summer of 2015, well over 600 children will pass through Cowabunga’s camp ranks.
With men like Brett Jenkins working and living in Martin County, the Treasure Coast has been and continues to be a place where families choose to live.
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