QUEENS, N.Y. - The day starts with a Hebrew prayer on this stretch of Rockaway by Beach 67th Street. This is Sababa Beach Camp, a Jewish day camp for kids that combines spirituality with surfing.
"You have to be really be connected to the ocean. You have be fully present to be a good surfer. And that also makes you a spiritual person, being fully present,” said Sababa Surf Camp Co-Director Danny Mishkin.
To help the kids ages 8 to 17 become fully aware, there are all kinds of meditation exercises including connecting with nature.
Mishkin instructs the campers, "The first thing we do before we enter the ocean, eyes wide open. I want you to find something that turns the space into a sacred space for you.”
"For us the ocean is our sanctuary. It's a holy space and we create holy space where we are,” says Sababa Surf Camp Co-Director Lynn Lancaster.
In the afternoon, its surf time with instructors from the Skudin Surf School based in the Rockaways.
The day camp started six years ago when The Jewish Education Project was seeking proposals for an innovative spiritual summer camp.
Sababa won the funding.
"Sababa is really this great term that really captures the moment. It captures a particular mood. It's an Israeli slang term,” said Mishkin.
Kids from all five boroughs and Long Island attend the camp which operates the last three weeks in August. The directors say surfing teaches life skills including resiliency, getting back up after a fall and balance. Some former campers are now counselors with the program.
"This is where I actually started to learn how to surf. And I really kind of like the whole experience and the people working here so I stuck with it,” said camper Yonah Adler.
"I like the way everyone is friends and we all include each other,” said camper Derek Mishkin.
"I'm not really much of a risk taker and I feel like I kind of become more willing to take risks and dive right in,” said camper Sasha Rabinowitz.
Sababa has recently received additional funding from the Foundation for Jewish Camp to expand its offerings. It now also runs a summer sleepaway camp in Virginia Beach.