The New River Gorge Adventure SUP Race has become the epicenter of whitewater standup paddleboard racing in the Eastern US, but not because of a cash purse (there isn’t one!) or fantastical prizes. Instead, this race has ingrained itself in the hearts of a community that it has helped to grow since its inception in 2011. This year, First Waves has partnered up with Active Southern West Virginia to bring the first Youth SUP race to the Gorge.
Nestled in the urban sprawl of Pittsburgh’s East End, The Mount Ararat Community Activity Center provides innovative programs and experiential learning to the area’s families and youth. Earlier this summer, the Center debuted a new program for a select group of students, part of which involved teaching them to surf in whitewater rivers. While surfing might be the last thing many think of in this landlocked region of Pittsburgh, that is exactly what Mentorship Director, Dr. Charles Howell, has brought to the Center through partnership with a local organization called, First Waves.
The youth participants of First Waves are not passive tourists enjoying a day on the river. They are active citizens shaping the way our society views watersheds and its impact on our daily lives. They are demonstrating how to be involved in cleaning up our rivers, and how to enjoy them. They are setting an example of cleaning up litter instead of perpetuating single-use plastic and its careless disposal. They are the first waves of hope for cleaner water for our communities. Filmed and edited in part by First Waves students, this film tells a small part of their story.
A tremendous thanks to our supporting partners, volunteers, mentors, and instructors. This program would not exist without your dedication to the mission of educating and inspiring our youth to care about our watersheds. Your work ripples on into the future as they take these lessons, skills, confidence, and self-esteem with them.
WPXI’s, "Proud to be from Pittsburgh," is a program designed to highlight people who are doing good in our communities.” SurfSUP Adventures and First Waves founder, Ian Smith, worked with Channel-11 News Anchor, Peggy Finnegan, to document a First Waves event on the Pittsburgh Riverfront for the segment earlier this year.
The USS Requin is a floating museum of World War II era technology along the Carnegie Science Center on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. While educating and enchanting hundreds of thousands of visitors about the life and science aboard a submarine, the ship often helps divulge a more sinister story about Pittsburgh’s waterways.
At First Waves, we have been dealt the opportunity to work with amazing partners and volunteers. The latest project in conjunction with VIP Sports was one of the most memorable. By working with Slippery Rock University volunteers and VIP Sports instructors, we were able to provide a standup paddleboarding experience to more than 60 youth participants that were blind or semi-blind. Here's a short film documenting the training process and the event itself! Enjoy!
The river wave at Greenhouse Park is little more than a pile of foam during the hot month of July in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The Stonycreek River is the tamest version of itself and instead of whitewater enthusiasts, the park attracts sunbathers, tubers, and swimmers to its shores. What most have overlooked, however, is this wave’s potential as a training ground for the area’s youth to become river enthusiasts. When presented in the right way, the wave can capture the attention of teenagers better than the latest X-box and carve a path for outdoor recreation and education that is widely available but pervasively ignored. This is exactly what the First Waves Johnstown Program is able to provide to underserved youth in the area.
First Waves and the Benscreek Canoe Club is celebrating the 2015 success of First Waves Johnstown with an outdoor film screening of "River of Change" and FREE Paddleboarding and River Surfing lessons at the 2016 Stonycreek Rendezvous.
In 2015, The First Waves Johnstown Program was conceived thanks to support from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies in partnership with the Benscreek Canoe Club, Goodwill of Conemaugh Valley, the YMCA of Greater Johnstown, Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and SurfSUP Adventures. In the first year, the program accomplished the recruitment and certification (through Goodwill Goodguides) of 7 new mentors, completed 4-intensive workshops, removed hundreds of pounds litter from the Stonycreek River outside Johnstown, and produced a high-definition film documenting the experience through the eyes of youth participants as well as mentors, instructors, and community leaders.
Cheryl Jones has a way of getting straight to the point when it comes to the impact of programs on the youth of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. She describes things like overcoming challenges, working with peers, and being active outdoors, but this statement was one that tickled the tummy and fogged the windows. So simple. So delightful. “This group of kids will NEVER litter.”