It started with kids, quarantine and a 7-mile stretch of white sand beach and water.
Kevin Greer of Bradenton, formerly of northern California and a lifetime surfer, said his stepson, 16-year-old Ayden Bassett, a Manatee High School student, was looking for outside activities during the COVID-19 quarantine.
They looked toward the beach.
Greer already had a stash of old surfboards, which he and Ayden repaired and got ship-shape. Next up, Ayden gave boards to a couple of friends, kept one for himself, and the group, Kids With Boards AMI, was off to ride the wild surf.
The mission is to ensure kids on Anna Maria Island and the surrounding area, who are interested in learning to surf but might not be able to afford a board, are given the opportunity, according to Greer.
“Just because you grew up on the island, doesn’t mean you have $300 for a board,” he said. “After giving those other boards away, we got interested in doing more.”
Greer started a Facebook group in early November to share his mission, posted photos of their refurbishing work and riding the surf on their boards and encouraged people to donate used boards, no matter the condition.
Within two weeks, the group received more than 100 “likes” and several surfboards were donated.
“We exist on donations,” Greer said. “If you have an old board on the back of the fence or just don’t surf anymore, we will fix it up and give it to a kid.”
Additionally, Greer said he teaches kids to surf. He follows the daily surf reports and, at the lessons, keeps one person in the water teaching and two onshore, watching, managing safety at all times.
“We put the smaller kids on bigger boards and give them some pointers,” he said. “Of course, we are not pro surfers, but we’re going to let the kid get on the board, stand up for the first time, then give them the board to continue from there.”
He said they instruct younger kids in calm waters, saving bigger swells, like those generated by Tropical Storm Eta’s Nov. 11-12 passage through the Gulf of Mexico, for older kids and adults.
“We have a lot of kids out there just watching when we surf,” Greer said. “They all want to do what we are doing. But it is not that easy unless you have the money or knowledge.”
He said by teaching kids to surf and providing boards, they are more likely to become conservationists.
“You get the kids out on the water and they fall in love with our beautiful island,” Greer said. “These are our children and the future of AMI. Every one of them. All seven miles worth.”
How to help, participate
People interested in donating a surfboard or finding out more about Kids With Boards AMI can visit facebook.com/kidswithboardsAMI.
For more info, call or email Kevin Greer at 941-357-3598 or email@example.com.