play

Surf Bus and partners present: Splash Force LA, a comprehensive guide to beach access and ocean play

Surf Bus Foundation

Non-profit organization

Splash Force: The quantum effect of exposure to one droplet of surf stoke, rippling through and transforming LA's legacy of lack of access to swimming pools, ocean play/sports, and ocean education.



What does your organization do?

Surf Bus empowers people to foster a healing connection with the sea. Through play, we teach ocean safety, wave readiness, science, and surfing. Our methods make the ocean a welcoming place for all.

Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.

“Splash Force LA” is a multi-level solution to the lack of inner city park space available across Los Angeles. We seek to energize and mobilize elementary aged students and their immediate and extended families to claim their place at the shore. We use the ocean as a tool of assimilation for immigrant communities, as an expansive and connective force for shifting demographics, as a healthy antidote for stress, and as economic driver toward new job markets.

Which of the play metrics will your activation impact?​

  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park

Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • Antelope Valley
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles
  • LAUSD

How will your activation mobilize Angelenos?

  • Trainings and/or in-person engagements
  • Encourage businesses to change practices
  • Influence individual behavior
  • Connect Angelenos with impactful volunteer opportunities
  • to shift the perceptions of “open spaces” as only green spaces. We want angelenos to consider blue spaces as diverse intergenerational play spaces with equity of access.

Describe in greater detail how your activation will make LA the best place to play?

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” -J. Cousteau

LA is home to over 2.2 million children. We have so much space to play–mountainous wilderness, vast desert/prairie plains, over 200 park & rec. depts., and 57 miles of coastline. Yet, there is a legacy of segregation of swimming pools and ocean spaces in LA that has led to what we term a “crisis of blue culture.” Our children are not learning how to swim (in 2017 64% of African American children, 45% of Latino children, and 40% of caucasian children cannot swim) and they are not visiting their beaches to play (50% of middle school aged children in LA Co. have never seen the beach). For young Angelenos to realize their full potential, we have to transform our legacy. Like the ocean, we must afford our youth equal opportunity by bridging gaps in access to swim lessons, ocean safety and surf lessons, and a fun and interactive marine science curriculum to buttress their physical experience. We must focus on involving entire families/communities in the solution. We seek to measure the quantum impact of their inclusion and support on the whole of Los Angeles.

Surf Bus and partners have created a multi-level plan to activate 100,000 Angelenos to claim coastal spaces through play. Our program, “Splash Force LA” is a collaboration with AltaSea and Los Angeles Maritime Institute. Together, our focus is on measuring the following three LA2050 metrics:

  1. Number and quality of informal spaces for play: Where do water lovers hang out between sessions, how come, what is happening there? Beach parking lots, pool decks, port hangars…

  2. Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities: pools and beaches provide open and creative play opportunities for all generations. Our program integrates entire families into various levels of “play” and we have a plan to encourage and measure family involvement.

  3. Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park: “Vibrancy” to us means amount, quality, and creativity of use. Beaches provide tons of open space–both structured and unstructured. Vibrancy is impacted by the ability to travel with ease, the confidence to start the trip, a feeling of support, and a sense of belonging upon arrival.

Our plan combines our reach to achieve the following:

  1. Teach 3rd graders (100,000+) in LAUSD how to swim as part of their in-school pe experience.

  2. 40 field trips a school year for elem/middle/high school LAUSD students that include a Surf Bus lesson in Santa Monica, lunch, a visit to AltaSea/Cabrillo Aquarium, and a sail on a LAMI tall ship.

  3. We will host two urban luaus a month at LA Park and Rec facilities to build relationships with families and community.

  4. Each partner will host a quarterly “ohana day:” visits to the beach/altasea/lami for family/friends.

  5. Perfect attendance earns eligibility for end-of-year trips: 2 voyages to Catalina for 30 people on each ship and/or 1 surf camping trip for 20 groms.

How will your activation engage Angelenos to make LA the best place to play

We are experiencing a quantum impact of last summer’s county wide LA2050 TOES project. We will follow the lead of this organic wave of continued engagement, fortifying what does work and strengthening areas of perceived challenge:

-We hosted our first of many planned Urban Luaus in South LA with members from all impacted groups in attendance: volunteers, surf students from 4 of 8 parks, family members, park staff, Surf Academy staff, and community members in proximity at the time of our party. Attendees were outfitted with Surf Bus tshirts/sweatshirts/hats/pins to help build brand recognition–we want Surf Bus to be synonymous with “safe ocean family fun.”

-the beach games we taught the kids are played on a daily basis during after-school programming and shared with new friends.

-we’ve expanded our upcoming summer reach from 8 parks to 16 parks. Lateral job shifts/promotions have moved park coordinators to new areas. We weave these new parks into the program and continue our relationship with past partners.

-requests by our westside advanced surf students to participate in a volunteer capacity have doubled.

-the City of Santa Monica is helping us develop a swim curriculum for all 3rd graders in Los Angeles.

-our continued collaboration with AltaSea/LAMI is on paper. The kaleidoscope of angles we offer youth to engage with the sea allows each organization to more fully realize our mission to activate LA for the health of residents and our ocean.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your activation.​

  1. before and after surveys for the students (beginning/middle/end of school year) that include measures of inspiration, action, learning, and engagement.

  2. short answer surveys for the teachers (beginning/middle/end of school year) that question the perceived impact of this programing on their students.

  3. repeat attendance by individual students.

  4. number of applications for incentive trips (based on attendance and “free will” to apply for the camping trip or the ocean voyage to catalina).

  5. staff participant observation journals.

  6. daily job site logs with basic info: number of students, timeline adherence, perceived level of interest, actual number of staff and how/what they did on the fieldtrip.

  7. urban luau participation and popularity among immediate and extended family and friends.

  8. engagement by family and friends with quarterly “ohana days” offered by Surf Bus and partners.

  9. increased social media engagement and quality of that engagement–do likes and comments turn in to in-person visits

Where do you hope this activation or your organization will be in five years?

In five years, we will continue to measure the quantum impact of this initiative on the legacy of blue culture inclusion in Los Angeles and make alterations and course corrections as we are met with challenge and success.

Surf Bus summer programming will continue to grow–by including more park partners and more beach locations. We will have supported surf bus students to positions of leadership among their peers, inviting them claim their place in a legacy of a diverse surf line up and supportive inclusion at the beach.

Urban Luaus will be highly anticipated monthly events at LA park and recreation departments in every LA City district.

“Splash Force LA” high school graduates will seek additional training and/or jobs in the blue economy and feel like every day of work is a day of play.

Surf Bus students will start surf clubs for their schools with regular weekly practices and meet ups at the beach, independent of their weekday field trips and monthly surf bus lesson days.

True to surfing’s roots in “counter culture,” our surf bus families will start to see any and all open spaces as the possibility for an impromptu playground, similarly to how we ask them to see open ocean space as a wave playground of possibilities. The urban luau format lends itself to “pop-up” events that will have an organic feel–based on the unique communities where they occur–and will be used to claim informal open spaces and turn them into into vibrant intergenerational community gatherings.

Surf Bus, AltaSea, LAMI, and Cabrillo Aquarium will be household names, as recognizable to Angelenos as “starbucks” or “the dodgers.”


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