VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The normally quiet summer mornings on the north end of Virginia Beach are louder this week as nearly a dozen, or so, kids try catching almost every wave the low tides have to offer at the 68th Street shoreline.
Lee’s Lil Shorebreakers Surf Camp is underway for its 12th annual summer week of fun. As Jean Brackins, the camp organizer, watches from the sand, she solidifies the joy surfing can bring.
“Unless you’ve surfed, it’s really hard to explain the feeling,” said Brackins.
But in 2011, surfing did the opposite as it uprooted her life. Jean’s only child, Lee, passed away tragically at 22 years old after suffering cardiac arrest when he went under a wave while surfing in Croatan Beach.
“He was off the charts,” Brackins said. “His smile would warm my heart, and I could look at pictures now, but it’s not the same.”
She and her husband had asked themselves, what would Lee do? And the answer was quite simple — surf.
Now every summer, Lee’s Lil Shorebreakers Surf Camp goes strong on the sands of Virginia Beach and Nags Head. The non-profit gives kids who may have trouble at home, or with their family, an opportunity to escape into the waves and make lifelong friends.
“Lee was a very giving child, so we’re just doing what he would have done,” said Brackins. “I got with his friends and said, ‘Let’s come up with something to keep his name going.'”
With donations from the community and local surf shops, Lee’s friends, and fellow surfers, mentor the campers’ techniques, and teach safety measures needed to enjoy the waves.
And while Jean surrounded herself with the one thing that took her son, she also surrounded herself with the joy and passion that it gave him.
“One day I woke up and I said, ‘I’ve got to do something,'” Brackins said. “I feel his presence here.”
The surf camp will run through the end of this week in Virginia Beach, with the weeklong camp in Nags Head being held the second week of August.