To this St. Augustine teen, there’s nothing more enjoyable than combining his passions for surfing and serving others. More often than not you’ll find Ethan Johnson at the beach riding the waves and prepping for his next day out in the water volunteering with Surf Quest, a program that serves to connect a caring community of surfers and people with disabilities.
Ethan Johnson is an amazing fourteen year-old St. Augustine High School student who truly enjoys riding the waves under the bright North Florida sun. What is so special about this avid young surfer is his desire to help others. Ethan found an interesting way to combine his love for surfing and his compassion to reach out and help others in his community.
“About two summers ago I attended the Pit Surf Shop camp,” says Ethan. “That was the first time that I actually stood up on a surfboard.” He immediately felt that he had found his sanctuary and destiny in the shifting warm waters. He says about surfing, “I like the calm of it, not worrying about anything. When I stand up, the motion of being moved by the waves feels like time is slowing down.”
That experience at camp introduced Ethan to the life of wave chasing and board wax that he would grow to love. It also led him to to join Surf Quest. Surf Quest, a program run by the Arc of the St. Johns, serves the community by helping adults and children with mental and physical disabilities learn to surf and enjoy the waves of St. Augustine Beach. This activity is held every third Saturday of the month.
When asked about his first time helping with Surf Quest, Ethan answers, “It was really fun! Some of the kids stood up on the boards on their first and second tries. It was really great to help!” One child attending Ethan’s first outing with Surf Quest comes to his mind and an honest and inviting smile appears on his face. He says, as the memory unfolds, “There was this one kid that just wanted to keep going out in the water. He didn’t want to stop! It felt really good to be there with him, helping him surf. That feeling was so awesome!”
Ethan’s kindness doesn’t end with Surf Quest. He also assisted as the local Rotary Club fed the homeless last Thanksgiving. Then, landing a job at the Dustin Estes Surf School gave Ethan yet another chance to help others learn to surf.
Just as Ethan finds the mental focus and physical stamina to keep his footing on a wave barreling toward the hot sands of the beach, he also manages to stay focused on his education. As a student in St. Augustine High School’s AICE program (Advanced International Certificate of Education), his school work can be arduous, but he perseveres to keep quality grades. He even squeezes in time to teach his younger siblings to ride the waves.
After a long day of school books and pounding waves, Ethan likes to enjoy his evening admiring the stars through a very impressive telescope that he purchased with funds earned from teaching surfing lessons. He says, “I like astronomy. On real clear nights it’s fun to look at the stars. I really love looking at Saturn.” How fitting that a young star burning brightly on earth finds peace and comfort watching stars in the heavens above.
Photo by Brian Miller