Ocean-based summer camp turn boys to men, but can it turn groms to hell-men?
It’s the middle of the night and the ship’s Captain wakes you up. A plane has gone down, he says, on the other side of the island. You scramble out of bed and slip into a wetsuit. Shimmying to get your search-and-rescue gear—flashlight, first-aide kit, knife — the Captain tells you that your mission is to find the plane’s missing crewmember. This is hardly your typical summer camp activity, and it’s a far cry from the surf-centric hedonism of an Indo boat-trip. For better or for worse, this is the Waterman Academy’s.
Started by Laguna Beach’s Captain Scott McClung in 2004, the Waterman Academy is a 21-day program at sea for young men between the ages of 13 to 19. Conducted aboard the Rapture, a 145 foot-ship, the academy embarks on a three-week long adventure from the San Diego harbor up the coast to the Santa Cruz Islands. “Everything that we teach,” says program publicist Mark Williams, “is really the traditional waterman skills: snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaks. We teach them how to operate small boats (zodiacs), and they get certified and endorsed for about 17-18 different things in those 21 days.”
Really? What about swimming, paddling, sailing, navigation, and fishing? WHAT ABOUT SURFING?
While the Rapture will occasionally stop at places where there is surf along the way, admits Williams, the program’s objective is only remotely interested in finding surf. Instead, it offers young participants the opportunity to become better and more well rounded watermen, honing their skills in the ocean and giving them 18 official credentials that will help to qualify them for future ocean-related careers. Photos on the Academy’s website showing young men bellying up to heavy, deck-mounted machine guns suggest some alternative-type “watermen skills”.
Along the three week journey the crew members — who are either ocean-life guards, EMT’s, men in the reserves, Navy Seals or law enforcement — instruct the youths in ocean survival and safety skills, marine science and education, and the positive values of team-work and self-confidence. “My son Troy recently returned from the Academy and I could immediately see a physical change in his physique,” says one mother. “His arms and mid-section were ripped from push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups, and now he says, ‘Yes Sir’ and ‘Yes Ma’am’.”
“We’re not a boot-camp or anything like that,” says Williams. “But we do have a lot of structure on the ship, and we put them through a lot in terms of the swimming, scuba diving, ship-board firefighting and things like that.”
The program’s motto is “Where men are made” and it is intended to offer young men a more positive direction in life by challenging them with mental and physical obstacles, ultimately introducing them to possible future occupations on or around the ocean. Is it surfing? Well, maybe not. But, ultimately, it may help you live your life closer to the sea. And that is definitely surfing.
For more information log on to www.WatermanAcademy.com