Louis Harris
2022

Louis Harris

Community Leader

Surfing waves, making change

meet louis

In 2014, Lou Harris—a surfer and resident of Rockaway, Queens—read about a 13-year-old boy who’d been arrested for arson. When the cops asked the boy why he started the fire, his excuse was he was bored. Harris couldn’t bear the thought of kids in his community growing up with so little engagement. To Harris, the answer was obvious. He would introduce local youth to his passion: surfing. He believed this would keep them out of trouble. In 2016, he founded the non-profit Black Surfing Association Rockaway. He is challenging the idea of who a surfer is.

Surfing waves, making change
Nominated by: Nancy Rosenthal MR'11
Class of 2022 Location USA

I want kids to see that surfers aren’t just the blonde haired, blue-eyed guys from Hawaii and California. African-Americans can surf too. By providing opportunities for the local community in Rockaway Beach to learn how to surf, we hope to make a long-lasting difference, helping to change perceptions and preconceived notions about who can surf. We provide free lessons to anyone who is interested and reach out to the Rockaways community to include people typically excluded from these outdoor activities.

“We are getting kids off the streets and giving them the skills, confidence, and passion to learn something new.”

- Louis Harris

Through our work, we are changing the stereotype of who can be a surfer. We are giving people the opportunity to see surfing as a possibility for them. We are getting kids off the streets and giving them the skills, confidence, and passion to learn something new. For some, just getting into the ocean is a new experience even if they don’t get up on the surfboard.

The hope is that we are empowering kids at Black Surfing Rockaway to become leaders in their community, challenging common perceptions about black youth.

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