First Waves provides experiences in conservation, river surfing, standup paddleboarding, and filmmaking for under-served youth.


First Waves was founded in 2014 as a collaboration of organizations seeking to reinvent education, mentorship, and watershed conservation for under-served youth.  Through the use of standup paddleboarding and river surfing, First Waves offers a unique approach that attracts, inspires and retains participants while providing a hands-on education in filmmaking, digital media, and watershed conservation.

The inaugural program was successfully completed in 2014 through partnerships with The Sprout Fund, Pittsburgh Filmmakers / Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Paddle Without Pollution, Big Brothers Big Sisters, SurfSUP Adventures and Body Glove International.  The program was offered to a group of 10 participants between the ages of 14 and 18 years of age.

The program’s success continued in 2015 with the inception of three additional programs in the Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and Beaver regions.  Each program was completed successfully, enabling more than 70 – youth participants to receive the benefits of First Waves initiatives.  The program’s success made such an impact as a model for at-risk youth mentorship in the Pittsburgh region that The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization named First Waves the 2015 Partner of the Year.