Sandy Feet Initiative!
Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Surf Careers: Mo Langley, founder of Sandy Feet Initiative.
If you've been following our blog, you'll have heard of our Surf Careers Series. With this series we hope to inspire by showing you how women all over the world combine their studies or careers with surfing. Making a living, doing something they love.
This time it takes us to sunny California, where we speak to 52 year old Mo Langley who co-founded the charity Sandy Feet Initiative. Find out how Mo's charity helps children and what inspired her.
I started surfing 12 years ago! I had just found out my triathlon career was over, due to bad knees, and I needed an outlet! A friend took me surfing at San Onofre and I was so stoked, I bought a board on the way home from the beach. My first board was an 8’6” gun!!!!! Yup, the guys in the shop certainly saw me coming! It did not take me too long to realise what kind of board I needed, my current fave is an Infinity Rad Noserider, named Ridiculous, ‘cos, you know she is Ridiculously wonderful to ride!
At 52, I am on my 4th career. I started out as a Paralegal, dove into retail, got bored and started personal training. After 20 years of personal training, I realised I had a call to help out kids!
After spending several years volunteering with local special needs surf programs, I recognised the brothers and sisters of children with special needs, who were always in tow by their families for these events, but rarely are able to participate. My sharpest memory is of a little one who I invited to ride in a kayak with me. She looked up at me and replied that she couldn’t, because she wasn’t autistic. This broke my heart, and I realised that the siblings have needs too! I took her out on a kayak ride and then brought her over the the stand-up paddlers, and they took her out! At the end of the day, she came up to me to thank me and give me a hug. At that point, the idea for Sandy Feet Initiative was born!
Sandy Feet Initiative, www.sandyfeetoc.org, is run entirely by volunteers and offers beach programs for the siblings, relatively free of charge. We teach the kids how to surf and boogie board, give them beach and ocean safety tips and have a beach cleanup after every event. We give them a place to be themselves, without the responsibilities of taking care of their sibling. This past summer we held three events, with a maximum of 45 participants total, and got to play with 31 kids. This fall I am running a program for teens, ages 14-18. I have 3 teens that meet with me every other week to surf, vent about their responsibilities and to just have some fun and camaraderie! As we go into our second year, we have a few week long camps planned as well as events after school for all the kids!
The siblings of children with special needs often come in second to the needs of their sibling. They are dragged to countless doctor and therapy appointments. They are often babysitters and caretakers for their siblings at a relatively young age. They are also face a future of taking care of their sibling as their parents, doctors and caretakers pass on. All of this on top of education, families, jobs and normal stresses of everyday life.
My typical day consists of personal training until noon, then some free time, and at least 2-3 hours of administrative work. At least once a week I am out and about networking, taking training classes, and generally schmoozing to create recognition for my kids! I love the schmooze and hate the computer work, but I am finding the two go hand in hand. When I started this endeavour, I had NO idea how much administrative work it involved, I thought I could just show up at the beach and the kids would follow! I have learned an awful lot since July 2017, some good and some bad.
I have learned how to budget my time, how to organise and lead a Board of Directors. I have learned about insurance and city rules and regulations, fundraising, training volunteers. The most amazing project I recently completed was an entire calendar year of programming! I have NEVER planned out a year of anything!
My favourite part of running Sandy Feet Initiative is the kids! Oh my God, they are the best! I get to spend hours at the beach teaching kids 7-18 how to surf and boogie board. I get to see them conquer their fears and forget about their responsibilities at home. I get to the see the “first wave stoke” over and over... I don’t think it gets better than that! Our siblings are so serious when they first show up to our program, they are used to being in second. That seriousness goes away after about 2 minutes of ocean time, they start giggling and screaming and generally getting stoked! Their personalities and their super powers come out and are recognised and celebrated!
I never had any idea I would be the founder of a non-profit organisation! It just seemed to happen because it needed to happen. These kids need a voice, and I guess that is me! In order to found and run a non-profit, it is definitely necessary to have a strong support group, especially with your board members. I was extremely lucky to have a great group of surfing and non-surfing peers from all ages that were more than happy to help with my dream. It is imperative to be organised...and flexible! In one day, I may speak to city officials, a worried mom, a lifeguard, a potential donor or volunteer, and then have to go home and fill out insurance forms! And, of course, a love for kids is the most important!
As Sandy Feet steadily grows, I find myself planning ahead to 5 and 10 years from now. My most important goal is to increase awareness of the issues my siblings face. My dream for the future is to expand our program to other beaches! In five years, I hope to offer programs in North Orange County and also to have a payroll to pay some instructors and lifeguards. In ten years, it would be absolutely fabulous to step down and just be the founder, and work on fundraising and creating awareness.
There is no greater joy in life than sharing my of love of all things ocean... I am so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do this!