As surfers and adventure seekers who are always Just Passing Through surf destinations, we have the responsibility to give back to the communities we explore. With a shared passion for helping people in need and making a positive impact on their communities, Reef teamed up with Saya Nodera aka @papayakook, the “Urban Surf 4 Kids Ninja,” and all-around rad human to shed light on how Urban Surf 4 Kids is helping kids in need in Southern California.

learn more about Our Pledge here.

What does Urban Surf 4 Kids do, and how are they helping kids in our Southern California communities?
The kids we work with come from all over San Diego. They come from various group homes and foster families. All of their life they have been moved around from home to home, abused, and neglected. The odds are stacked up against them, and it becomes hard to see a better life. Our youth need love, consistency, and resources to understand and know how to handle what comes next. More importantly, they need to know that they aren’t alone in this process. Urban Surf 4 Kids provides an escape for our youth to come to our surf camps and simply just “be”.

What is your role with US4K?
They call me the US4K ninja. At events, you will typically find me running around from person to person, booth to booth. I can’t keep still, so this job is definitely perfect for me. I help out with all of the marketing and events for Urban Surf 4 Kids. It’s not hard to want to share with the world the incredible things that this organization does for some amazing kids in need.

Do you surf? How has surfing played a role in your involvement with US4K?
I do. Surfing, but more importantly the ocean has been a big part of my life since I was pretty young. You cannot keep me out of the water. There’s something about the ocean that feels like “home” and it’s a place where I can simply let go of everything else in my life. My love for surfing and the ocean is probably the biggest thing that connected me to Urban Surf 4 Kids. I think we can all agree that the ocean heals, and the fact that I can be part of something that shares this experience with others means the world to me.

What other non-profits have you been involved with?
I have worked with incredible non-profits like Surfaid, Rady Children’s Hospital, Stella Maris Surf Association, WE SAVE, The Surfrider Foundation, Rancho Coastal Humane Society, Swamis Surf Association, The Lion’s Club, and probably a couple more. I’m blown away and so inspired by what others are doing to better serve the world around us.

What is your favorite thing about giving back?
Giving back could be a selfish thing for me, maybe? It makes me feel so good, and it always keeps me grounded. On a day-to-day basis, it’s so easy to get caught up in “life” and get stressed out over things that really don’t matter at the end of the day. When I see our youth smile and laugh at our surf camps, it changes my perspective of really everything. I love to see and make people smile, even if it’s because I’m doing something kooky. I have found that my passion in life is to give back. No matter where I am or what I’m doing; as long as I’m doing something to better the world in some way, I’m a “happy papaya.” My mission in life is to make sure that I leave wherever I am “just passing through,” better than I found it.

What inspires you?
I am surrounded by constant inspiration! To start, the youth that we work with inspire me to be better in every aspect of my life. With everything they have endured and gone through, to see their strength to keep fighting and pressing forward is beyond me. Also, seeing other people put some love and good into the world inspires me to strive to always do the same. 

How can people get involved and join our shared mission of helping people in need?
There are many ways to get involved and support US4K. We need all of the help, love, and support we can get. Whether people want to just come and volunteer at our surf camps and events, sponsor us, or fundraise for us, we are always looking to grow our Ohana. Check out our website at www.us4k.org and see our upcoming events. We would be STOKED to have you.