Providing possibilities with Los Courage Camps

Organization helps provide opportunities for inner-city children to enjoy the beaches and waves of Malibu

By Emmanuel Luissi

Special to The Malibu Times 

Giselle Carrillo has always known she was meant to be a leader and educator. The first-generation Latina said that her mom always reminds her that even as a little girl she would round up all the kids on her block and try to teach them lessons on all sorts of activities.

Carrillo is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Los Courage Camps, an organization that takes children from inner-city neighborhoods to attend free surf camps such as one in Malibu.

They have been invited as special guests to Malibu’s Queen of the Point all-female surf competition. The Los Courage Camps surf camp will take place following the surfing competition. 

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Carrillo says the ocean is the classroom for Los Courage Camps. 

“Our goal is to teach all these children self-development skills and work on self-empowerment, self-esteem, and self-belief that they just don’t get to learn in school anymore,” Carrillo said. 

The former teacher said that she has witnessed schools lose arts and music classes due to budget cuts, and she believes that students today have less opportunities for character development through traditional school programs. 

She explained that Los Courage Camps’ main focus is teaching children the importance of representation, and giving kids a feeling of belonging in places that they may not have ever imagined visiting and doing things they can not do in their own neighborhoods.

Carrillo takes pride in being able to open the door for a new generation of Latinx surfers. 

She said this passion project began as a result of what she called her quarter-life crisis.

At the age of 25, she began to feel that although she had accomplished a lot, she was yet to feel that any of that was for herself personally. She had felt that up until that point, she had done things mostly to help her family.

She was a Venice resident at the time, and as an alumna of Loyola Marymount University, she had been exposed to surfboards, wetsuits and the surf community. This is when she decided that she would try and take on a new challenge.

Carrillo and her sister paid $150 each for their first surf lesson. 

She said the humbling experience made her question if surfing was really meant for her.

“That first lesson, neither of us caught a single wave and it was so awkward just holding the surfboard — I felt like an alien,” Carrillo said.

However, she said that sharing the experience with her sister and being able to laugh at each other through the process allowed her to stick with surfing, and soon making friends and immersing herself in the surfing community.

Carrillo turned this new passion into Los Courage Camps, and wanted to share what she had learned with kids like the ones she grew up with in her childhood neighborhood of East Los Angeles. 

The organization was founded in 2017, and has brought hundreds of children and families out to the beach to have their first surfing experiences.  

She said the organization has been able to operate with the help of community partners with almost no funding over the last five years, but the organization has been experiencing a growth in interest every year, so this year the organization has officially become a nonprofit organization. 

She said they are seeing more kids coming back to their camps and more kids interested in surfing more often and at a more experienced level. She hopes to soon be able to host more camps and different experience level camps to keep kids coming back and working on their mastery of surfing.

Currently, the organization can only operate in the summer with the surf camps, but she believes they will soon be able to serve more children with more opportunities.

Her goal is to expand on their mission of teaching and encouraging children by opening a Los Courage Camps location, as well as offering teaching camps in more sports and activities and operating year-round.

“We hope to have programming every single day that kids want and need,” Carrillo said. “Picture a more authentic YMCA with cooler sports.” 

Currently, kids and families are connected to Los Courage Camps through Instagram, but Carrillo aims to partner with schools by next year, allowing students to sign up for the surf camps through their school.

She believes what Los Courage Camps offers besides new skills is exposure to places and people that are not typical to kids from “los barrios.” 

“For a lot of them it’s their first time ever in Malibu and it’s like this awareness that the world is bigger than the few blocks that they live in and it inspires them to believe that there is something greater for them to achieve,” Carrillo said.

She said the surf community has shown her acceptance and creates the perfect opportunity for these kids to be accepted and feel a part of something new and unique. 

“The ocean is just a bunch of little drops of water put together and that is community,” Carrillo said. “It’s all of us, just little drops. This moment of all of us coming together in Malibu is a testament to that. All these little drops together to have this beautiful moment of oneness.”

To learn more about Los Courage Camps, visit them on Instagram at @couragecamps

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