Campers Catch a Wave
This summer marked the third year that two local businessmen have been able to bring the gift of surfing to a group of kids who may otherwise never have experienced the joy of catching a wave.
Jamie LaVier and Brent Nultemeier, owners of obxsurfinfo.com, have been putting smiles on kids’ faces ever since they brought Lee’s Lil’ Shore Breakers Surf Camp to the Outer Banks in 2013.
Geared for children ages 8 to 14, the camp was founded in Virginia Beach by Jean and Brian Brackins in memory of Jean’s son, Lee Terrell. Terrell, who his mom says was always the first one in the water and the last one out, died during a surfing accident in 2011 at the age of 22. Attempting to do a barrel roll, Terrell wasn’t aware of a high sandbar, broke his neck, and went into cardiac arrest.
Looking for an opportunity to help other children who had a love of the ocean and may not have the opportunity to surf, Jean and Brian started Lee’s Lil’ Shore Breakers a year after Lee died.
What the Brackinses didn’t anticipate was that her mission to share his love of the water would help her begin to heal in the years that followed his death. The camp’s expansion to the Outer Banks is the first in what she hopes will be a chain of surf camps up and down the East Coast in his memory.
“This has been a major healing experience for me and I know Lee is smiling down on us,” Jean said. “This is what he would have loved. He was a very giving child. Whatever he had, he wanted to give it to someone who didn’t have it.”
The camp, according to the website, “carries the spirit of love of the ocean and surfing to local kids in need.”
“It has been one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I have ever had,” LaVier said.
The local camp works with Dare County Friends of Youth to identify children who would be a good match for the camp. Free of charge, the three-day camp also provides an ocean safety talk by Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue and lunches catered by local businesses.
At the end of those three days are friendships, self-confidence, and often a newfound love of the ocean that will bring these kids back to the water year after year. The 2015 event was held in late July in Kill Devil Hills and hosted 10 local children with the help of 12-15 volunteers each day.
“These kids are so stoked by the time the second day rolls around,” Nultemeier said. “Everyone learns to surf, and through donations, they get everything from rash guards to sunblock in their swag bag.”
LaVier admits that the months of planning and fundraising can be stressful but he hopes the impact of the camp is felt years down the road for the children participating.
“I think I cry at least once during the camp every year. It is so rewarding. It is an amazing experience to watch these kids become great friends and learn to surf in the three days,” adds LaVier.
Over this past summer, Nultemeier had enough donations to give each child a surfboard, further cementing their connection to the ocean and the waves that come onshore.
“Once you have your board,” he points out, “surfing is free, and we are sitting on some of the best waves on the East Coast. Our hope is that this camp will turn them on to, not just surfing, but other outdoor activities and nature itself.” ♦