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Q+A With Camp Counselor and Supervisor Mary Windisch

Meet Mary Windisch of Aqua Adventures!

Aqua Adventures: How did you get involved with Aqua Adventures?

Mary Windisch: I got involved with Aqua Adventures because I have been attending camp since I was four years old from there I became a counselor in training, a counselor, and finally a co-supervisor.

Aqua Adventures: What are a few of your favorite memories from camp over the years?

MW: Since I have been attending Adventures since I was little, I have many favorite memories. As a camper, I remember I was really afraid to try surfing for the first time. Once I saw that all my friends were surfing, I wanted to try too! I liked that no one ever forced me to do something I wasn’t comfortable with but instead encouraged me to try if I wanted to. I think there has to be a balance between making a child do something and also allowing them the power to make that decision by themselves. As a counselor and co-supervisor, my favorite memories revolve around seeing kids have a great time, me getting countless hugs, and being a part of children’s excitement and confidence in trying something new.

Aqua Adventures: What do you love about being a camp counselor for Aqua Adventures specifically?

MW: My favorite memory is the same thing that I love about Aqua Adventures. Since I have been a mother’s helper, babysitter, and nanny since I was 10 years old, I truly enjoy being with children as much as possible.

Aqua Adventures: What do you think is one of the most important lessons taught at these camps?

MW: At Aqua Adventures we teach many skills including water safety, communication skills, and confidence. We empower our campers to try new things, make new friends, and stay active and healthy.

Aqua Adventures: Personally, what do you love about the ocean and Del Mar beach?

MW: Del Mar beach is one of my favorite beaches because of the large grassy area, the clean and safe beach, the lifeguard station, and that it is close to the snack bar. The combination of all this makes it a perfect location for camp! In addition, Peg and Aqua Adventures have a great relationship with many people in the area including the lifeguards, Kathy and her workers at the snack bar, and other Del Mar city officials. She has had a permit at 15th street for over 16 years!

Photo by Toby Ogden

Q+A With Camp Counselor Shelby Wright

Meet Shelby Wright of Aqua Adventures!

Aqua Adventures: How did you get involved with Aqua Adventures?

Shelby Wright: I have known Peg since I was very little. My mom actually took one of her parenting classes when I was really young and her daughter Mary and I became fast friends. It was really great to be able to work with people I knew so well and loved!! It definitely made camp feel like family!

Aqua Adventures: What are a few of your favorite memories from camp over the years?

SW: A few of my favorite memories from camp have been hanging out with the kids that stay late after camp has ended. It’s always so fun because we stay in the ocean the whole time and boogie board together or go for a swim! Another one of my favorite memories is when we could see how many push-ups Zach could do with a kid on his back! Whatever we’re doing everyone is always smiling and having a great time!

Aqua Adventures: What do you love about being a camp counselor for Aqua Adventures specifically?

SW: What I love most about being a counselor for Aqua Adventures is that everyone is so positive and can’t wait to get in the water. It has been such a rewarding experience watching the kids grow and learn more and more throughout the weeks. The kids always impress me with how fast they learn to surf! When they stand up on the board they always have a giant smile on their face and it means so much to me when they thank me for helping them accomplish it!

Aqua Adventures: What do you think is one of the most important lessons taught at these camps?

SW: I think the most important lessons taught at Aqua Adventures is that there is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it! Some kids always struggle more than others to learn boogie boarding and/or surfing but learning to persevere and to not give up helps them to achieve so many things at camp. That’s when camp becomes the most rewarding experience for us as counselors and for the kids. Another very important lesson is ocean safety and awareness. We want the kids to have a blast, but we also want them to be safe so they can love the ocean just as much as we do!

Aqua Adventures: Personally, what do you love about the ocean and Del Mar beach?

SW: I love the ocean because being in the water makes me happy and content and when I’m in the ocean I look at the shore and see the world from different perspectives. It makes me realize how big the world is and how much there is to explore. I also love to float on my back and just watch the sky or the rolling waves. It’s a place of peace for me and learning to surf and do ocean activities just makes it that much more enjoyable and fun! Specifically, I love Del Mar beach because of the soft, warm sand and beautiful views with the blue ocean, bluffs, and palm trees. Also, people really make an effort to take care of our beach and that also means a lot to me.

Photo by Toby Ogden

A Brief History of Surfing

The sport of surfing is an ancient one. Known as he’enalu in the Hawaiian, the first known written account of surfing is from the sixteenth century and describes the Polynesian practice. In this culture, the chief of the community was the most skilled wave rider with the best board crafted from the best tree. To the ancient Hawaiians, surfing wan’t just a sport, it was their culture. They often prayed to the gods for protection, guidance, and the power to face the loud, thundering, mysterious ocean.

One of the earliest appearances of the sport in North America is a fascinating story. According to surf historians Kim Stoner and Geoff Dunn, on a summer day in July of 1885, three teenage Hawaiian princes left their boarding school in San Mateo to take a surfing vacation. They went to Santa Cruz, California, where they rode waves on surfboards made of redwood.

Surfing’s development as both a culture and a professional sport happened mainly in Hawaii, Australia, and California. The Beach Boys’ “Surfin USA” catalogues the major boom in surf culture that happened in the United States of America in the fifties and sixties. Nowadays, surfers like Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow and Laird Hamilton are known as the best in the game, and are always amazing people with their wave riding talent.

Photo by Toby Ogden

A History of Del Mar

Del Mar, which is Spanish for “of the sea” or “by the sea,” has a fascinating history. Back in 1885, a man named Colonel Jacob Taylor purchased 338 acres with a plan of building a seaside resort. By 1910, Del Mar had become a beloved seaside retreat for stars of Old Hollywood. Later on, during World War II, the US Navy operated a Naval Auxiliary Air Facility in the area. Del Mar is also one of the only places in the world where the Torrey Pine tree grows—the Torrey is the rarest pine in the country with only two species left in the world.

Del Mar beach, where our summer camps are hosted, has a rich history itself. It is referenced in the Beach Boys, 1963 song “Surfin USA,” in the lyric, “You’d catch ’em surfin’ at Del Mar.” Time Magazine ranked the stretch of Del Mar beach near 15th street  number four of “100 Greatest Beaches in the World.”

In the summer, our camps set up base on the grass beside the Del Mar Powerhouse. In 1928, this Powerhouse was built to be the Stratford Inn’s new means of supplying hot water for the pool, the hotel and its cottages, and the hotel’s laundry. The hotel was eventually sold, and in 1983, the Powerhouse and the surrounding park areas were purchased by the city in an effort to restore it’s former glory and preserve its history. After many years of effort and planning, the Powerhouse Community Center was founded. The 2000 Orchid Award winning design for Historic Preservation has said about the effort: “Hats off to the Restoration Committee for taking the plunge and providing the power to this restoration effort. This structure evokes the quirky and nostalgic past of this coastal community. This is a functional community space with restrooms, an outdoor theatre and beach showers where everyone can rinse off the Del Mar sand, wiggle their toes in glee, and soak in its historic glow.” We couldn’t agree more—and we love the chance to host our summer camps in this very special spot.