When one stirs up the classic image of California surfing, San Francisco is likely not the setting of that picturesque vision.
For one, the Northern California waters are often frigid in a brain-shattering way. For two, the lack of constant sun doesn’t immediately inspire the local population to dawn a bikini or some trunks and hit the coast. No, a neoprene wetsuit should probably be involved in your outing if you want to prevent the onset of blue-lipped, body-shaking shivers that no one could ever describe as pleasant. Despite these indisputable facts, the surrounding waters of San Francisco are home to some serious swell. One of San Francisco’s own native sons is intent on bringing the water, the waves, the wetsuits, the wipeouts—basically the whole bit—to our city’s underserved youth.
Johnny Irwin founded City Surf Project, a nonprofit organization with the mission of serving San Francisco’s youth through surfing, in 2015. The number of youth served by CSP since then exceeds 4,860 and counting. With over 150 surf outings a year, the organization operates within schools from five districts of the city, those being Bayview, Mission, Excelsior, Sunset, and Fillmore.
Irwin learned the ways of the waves back as a kid, though he admits he didn’t tackle Ocean Beach until he was about fifteen years old.
“I actually learned to surf in Southern California while on summer vacation,” he said. “My father surfed Ocean Beach and hung out at Kelly's Cove, but wouldn't let me start surfing in SF until I could prove a I was a strong enough swimmer.”
// Photography by Lorenzo Cirelli, want to read the rest of Johnny’s story? Click below and purchase your copy of Bob Cut Mag.
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, arts & culture magazines, and more. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.