Streaking down the front of a curving wave, a girl balances fleetingly before tumbling — she is one of dozens of poor children in El Salvador getting a chance to surf their way out of poverty.
El Zonte is a world surfing mecca, where powerful Pacific swells explode onto pristine beaches an hour’s drive from the capital, San Salvador.
The 11-year-old girl is one of about 20 local children from economically disadvantaged families being offered an opportunity to surf their way to employment.
Schooled by volunteer instructors, the goal is to prepare them to become watersports professionals, part of a multimillion-dollar government project to develop the watersports industry.
“We are opening an opportunity to learn how to surf and other activities, so that these girls and boys can be empowered leaders of their communities and can escape poverty,” said Yasmin Solorzano, 34, a coordinator of the volunteer program called Medusas.
The children also learn English from their instructors and are encouraged to study up to the university level, added Solorzano, speaking before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the program.
“It’s a path for them. We want them to use what they learn here so that they can have a professional career and at the same time surf,” instructor Mariam Lopez, 37, said.
The program started two years ago, initially for girls to take surfing lessons two Sundays per month, but it now also welcomes boys who live near local beaches.
El Zonte’s laid-back ambience is a world away from El Salvador’s notorious gang violence and central to a plan by Salvadorean President Nayib Bukele to present a tourist-friendly face to the world.
Surfing draws tourists from the US, the Netherlands, Canada, Brazil and Germany — and many have chosen to stay.
Learning to surf in El Zonte is not cheap. Classes alone can cost between US$10 and US$50 per hour.
However, instructors at the entirely volunteer-supported Medusas program — many of them foreigners — do not charge and boards are rented out at a minimal cost.
“I really like children and I also really like helping people — and I don’t just come here to enjoy the waves, but also to give something to people,” 33-year-old Nette Klement from the Netherlands said.
The children also take lessons on the environment and art provided by Medusas one Sunday per month in the courtyard of a small hotel.
El Zonte is part of a US$200 million Surf City development project promoted by Bukele to turn this part of El Salvador into an international destination.
“Surf City is an ambitious project with which we want to position El Salvador as one of the best destinations for surf and beach tourism in Latin America,” Salvadorean Minister of Tourism Morena Valdez said.
The pandemic prevented El Salvador from putting itself on the world surfing events calendar when this year’s ISA World Surfing Games event, due to be hosted by the nearby El Sunsal Beach, was canceled. Up for grabs at the event were qualifying spots for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
China wants to unite its 1.4 billion people through soccer, while also using the sport as “a bridge to work with the rest of the world,” Chinese Football Association secretary-general Liu Yi told reporters in an interview published yesterday. Liu spoke about what lies behind the country’s push to become a major soccer power by 2050. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping — who is described by state media as an “avid soccer fan” — the world’s most populous country has grand plans to host and even one day win a World Cup. Liu spoke about “using football to motivate the whole nation.” “Football is
‘JOB NOT DONE’: The outfielder, who hit a homer and stole two bases, said that players ‘have to be good at all aspects of game all the time and not take plays off’ Los Angeles outfielder Mookie Betts put himself in rarefied company with a standout performance in the Dodgers’ Game 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the 116th World Series on Tuesday. Betts sparked the Dodgers’ four-run fifth inning with a walk and two stolen bases, joining Babe Ruth as the only players in World Series history to record such an inning. After walking to lead off the inning, Betts stole second base. After Corey Seager walked, Betts reached third on a double steal, giving the Dodgers runners on second and third with one out. Betts took an aggressive stance off the bag
TENNIS Federer eyes Australia Roger Federer is practicing pain-free after undergoing two knee surgeries this year and said that he expects to return to the circuit at the Australian Open in January. The 39-year-old Swiss reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park at the start of the year, but missed the rest of the season after undergoing a second arthroscopic procedure on his right knee. “I’m on the right track,” he told German-language magazine Schweizer Illustrierte. “I’m gradually coming back, but I’m going to take my time and don’t want to put any pressure on myself. I will only take part in a
Marcus Rashford once again sank Paris Saint-Germain after netting the decisive goal in a 2-1 Champions League win in the French capital. Rashford, who scored the winning spot-kick when United knocked PSG out two seasons ago, drilled home a low shot three minutes from the end, which won a thrilling Group H contest at a near-empty Parc des Princes. United had taken the lead in the 23rd minute when Bruno Fernandes slotted home from the spot at the second attempt, but Anthony Martial inexplicably headed Neymar’s corner into his own net 10 minutes after the break. The rest of the match was an