Surf Bus connects inner-city youth with the ocean

For one particular set of California teachers, education comes from hands-on experience, the kind that literally gets students’ feet wet in the subject.

The instructors with Surf Bus are exposing their kids to something most have never seen before, the sandy beach.

“These kids live about 12, 15 miles away, and a lot of them haven't felt sand between their toes,” said the organization's founder, Marion Clark. “The fact that there's salt in the water is a surprise.”

Clark, whose mother was a professional surfer, started the non-profit to help connect inner-city youth from the Los Angeles area with the sea. The program, she said, helps inspire kids.

“Motivation goes up. Self-esteem actually drops a little bit but it's not self-esteem like, ‘Now I don't feel good about myself.’ It’s ‘I had an inflated sense of self and now things are more in balance,’” she told TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe.

Jenna Wolfe gets ready to brave the waves with the kids.

Since its creation in 2003, the Surf Bus Foundation and its team of 30 regular volunteers have helped put more than 10,000 students, ages 5 to 18, into the ocean and onto surfboards.

The program gave 12-year-old Janay the recent opportunity to go to the beach for the first time, even though she lives and attends school only a few miles away.

“It was amazing. When the waves started to push me, I was excited because I wanted to do it over and over and over,” she said of the experience. “I was thinking I was on top of everything.”

Shayla, another student, said she was initially petrified of the idea of surfing.

“I mean, I was terrified, and now, I'm not terrified of getting out there in the water, I'm not terrified of nothing like that,” she said.

The Surf Bus hopes to expand its program to coastal towns across the country and the foundation is currently in talks to open a charter school based on the principles it teaches in the ocean, like the ones gleaned by another youth, Larry.

“I learned that you can do anything you set your mind to,” he said.