Valpo Surf Project
Graduate Spotlight: Meet Barbara
As promised, Barbara is up next in our review of program graduates turned Tíos. As you might imagine, she has changed a lot since the first years of the program and, lucky for us, we have the photos to prove it. As with Mariana and Pedro, Barb attends our programming on a weekly basis and has made a huge impact on the project in a variety of ways.
Barbara enrolled in the program at age 9, making her one of our youngest students at first. She has grown up with us from the very beginning, experiencing all the changes that naturally occur within a growing organization. This first decade has included: an annual rotation of interns, multiple generations of vans, a changing cast of full-time staff, volunteers from every corner of the globe, innumerable English lessons, two VSP houses, and thousands upon thousands of waves. It’s safe to say Barbara knows the program better than almost anyone else and has been an integral component of the VSP family from the start.
As with Pedro and Mariana, it was impossible for her to turn down the opportunity to surf. It’s clear that surfing has a certain magnetism throughout the world and even clearer that it’s a big draw in our communities, where the ocean is constantly visible. She still vividly remembers her first moments in a wetsuit, the frustration of trying to pop up on a wave, and the determination to conquer a seemingly impossible task. Something must have clicked for her during those first attempts, as she never turns down the opportunity to surf. Barbara is a super stylish longboarder, whose distinctive stance can be easily spotted among the throng of surfers; she keeps her feet close together and always takes a clean line, making the process look incredibly effortless. Her dedication and style are both testaments to the hard work she’s put in over the years and are a great motivator and example for our younger students.
Barbara is not the only member of her family in the VSP family. Her brother and sister, Benja and Juliana, are regulars in the program as well. She is super invested in their lives and is a constant source of guidance for them inside and outside of the water. It has been particularly fun to watch all the progress she has made with Benja, who at nine years old, is in the exact same place she was when the program began. She’s the perfect person to teach him, not only as his sister, but as somebody who has benefitted from the program and has made a tremendous amount of progress in the sport. Her mentorship extends to English class as well, where she is able to relay her own experience and ensure them that the process of learning a second language becomes easier with time. They’re not the only students who look up to her, though.
Barbara epitomizes the goals and impact of our program. She is a dedicated surfer, mentor, sister, student, and friend, who always takes time to give back to the program. I don’t know how she manages to balance all of it while remaining constantly upbeat, but she does. She’s always ready to practice dance moves with our younger students, show them the finer points of surfing, or help them through difficult English vocabulary, despite having her own schoolwork to complete. Her infectious laugh and personality have been a transformative force in the program and our lives and will continue to be through the next generation of VSP. While there’s no way to know what her life would’ve been like without the program, we know for sure that the program would not be the same without her. Thanks for everything, Barb!