Catherine Mao and the Laru Beya CollectiveThe Laru Beya Collective is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the excluded youth of the Rockaways through surfing. We connected mentor Catherine Mao to learn a little more about the organization and its efforts.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the Laru Beya Collective and its mission?
Formed in 2018, the Laru Beya Collective exists to provide education and access for the historically excluded youth of the Rockaways, as well as addressing the challenges to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) surfers. Representation matters—our programs are structured around our mission to diversity. Additionally, Laru Beya creates long-term access to well-rounded mentorships, building connections within the surfing community, while incorporating sustainability and driving positive change in environmental movements. Through our monthly beach clean ups, climbing excursions, snowboard days, etc.
Why is this organization important to you?
As a surfer, I believe in nurturing the community that in turn, nurtures us. Surfing can oftentimes be romanticized as a solitary endeavor. A temporal act that enables us to steal a glimpse of an intangible connection between our bodies and the natural world. As John Severson would describe, “In this crowded world, the surfer can still seek and find the perfect day, the perfect wave, and be alone with the surf and his thoughts.” And while surfing has been a place of solitude and reflection (sometimes even recovery or meditation), it is the community that surfing offers that brings inexplicable joy and belonging. Many of the surfers in New York travel from other boroughs and neighborhoods to enjoy what Rockaway has to offer. And I encourage all of us to think about our impact on the community that brings us so much happiness... its impact on us. Rockaway is both urban and oceanside - which has fostered a unique surf break on the East Coast. This is a place that holds the opportunity for immense diversity and inclusivity in surfing. As we have all come to know, representation matters. Accessibility matters. Mentorship and generational depth matters. And in the water here, Laru Beya has become one of several vessels for the hope to cultivate and enrich our community with all of what the above can offer.