This Fall marked the beginning of a new program – “Surf & Turf Conservation 101” – a collaboration between Norman Bird Sanctuary, the St. George’s School Surf Club, Gnome Surf , and the Rhode Island Department of Education (who funds the program). These organization’s coaches provide their expertise in this beautiful blend of recreation and environmental science.

For 8 weeks, learners ranging from 6th – 12th grade are able to explore local land and water habitats after school (Mondays @ Norman Bird Sanctuary and Wednesdays @ Surfer’s End – 2nd beach) create experiences where learners can begin to tackle climate change, develop environmental literacy and personal interest, and connect emotionally, physically and intellectually with nature.  Simply put, the main goal is to provide young people with the inspiration and opportunity to fall in love with nature.

Increased collaboration is the direction we are moving toward to fulfill our mission of ensuring equitable access to the resources, opportunities, and relationships so our youth can thrive. FabNewport has no expert adult surfers on our staff but with the partnerships Gnome Surf and the surf club at St. George’s, we have more than a dozen kids who previously had  no experience surfing.

Surfing changes the way kids think about themselves and about the ocean and it’s just downright fun and exciting! The fourth part of the collaboration with the Norman bird sanctuary learners though Rich-O’s turf partner class, focus on they earth and growth all around us as another part of our vast ecosystem, locally and globally. 

“I think people should go out there and build a different and unique relationship with nature…Why not? It’s not an exclusive thing or for just a specific group of people…It’s an everyone thing.”

Historically, surfing often serves as more than a sport.  From its beginnings in Polynesia to today, it carries spiritual and social significance. Surfing brings people together and requires practice and patience to progress.

Adrien, age 17, was among the first to jump at the chance to get in the water and try surfing.

My entire life has been in and around the water. I can’t really swim but I’ve always been around the ocean with my family. I grew up in skate culture – a lot of people would surf as another equivalent to skate boarding. I’ve always wanted to learn.”   

The first session I didn’t feel prepared. I realized all the components that go into having a successful surf session…there’s a lot of physics and mathematics that goes into catching waves and staying on the board.” 

Adrien was up for the challenge.

I’m a perfectionist so I started working out and learning how to properly do all the foundational things on a surf board…ankle and knee mobility, upper body strength…the endurance when you wipe out in a swell and waves are crashing on you.”

During last Wednesday’s surf session – Adrien stood up on their board for the first time with a big smile while being cheered on by their surf instructors.

It felt nice…it was my day.”

Adrien worked hard to make it happen – but was quick to highlight the “reassurance and non judgemental space” created by Gnome & St. George’s surf instructors as the reason for their quick progress.

So – what next? In Adrien’s words: “I think people should go out there and build a different and unique relationship with nature…Why not? It’s not an exclusive thing or for just a specific group of people…It’s an everyone thing.

Surf & Turf Conservation 101 is accredited through RIDE’s all course network (ACN) – and another session is set to be offered in the spring.

The All Course Network (ACN) is a statewide course catalog that lets students take free courses at colleges, schools, or online.
For more information and help on how to register for the following courses, contact Sam Logler at, Chris Gross at,
or Josie Machaud at
OR register online at