Cynthia Y.H. Derosier

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - September 23, 2009
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“Art director, advertising person now helping at-risk youth learn marine biology,” Cynthia Y.H. Derosier states in a baritone worthy of an evening news anchor before breaking out into an infectious laugh. “It’s mind blowing!”

Six years ago Kailua resident Derosier was busy launching her own business. Around that same time she decided to take up a lifelong desire to learning to surf. Her passion on the water must have seeped into her subconscious, because one night she says she dreamed of positive affirmations swirling around watermen out on the waves.

Her dream quickly materialized into the book The Surfer Spirit, and just like the ocean tide, things quickly changed for Derosier.

While teaching an art class one day, she was approached by Hawaii Girls Court Judge Karen Radius with the request to teach at-risk youth the lessons found in the book. Derosier took it one step further and said she would take a group out onto the waves.

Fast-forward two years and that initial excursion has expanded into The Surfrider Spirit Sessions, a nonprofit program that pairs a youth with an adult mentor to show them the chances that await on the horizon. Since its inception, Theese sessions coaxed 50 high-schoolers off the streets and into the water. It’s also got them stoked about getting into the classroom, as is evident in the recently launched NALU Studies, which awards college credit for the completion of an intensive two-week marine biology course at UHWindward and Coconut Island.

“Surfing is a place for them to get that adrenaline fix, work out stuff, but they’re doing something positive and having fun,” Derosier says, “And once we give them the challenge of the marine biology, they get really into, like, ‘Oh my God, how are we going to save the planet? What are we going to do to watch water quality?’ ... And they have something they can be really proud of because they’ve done something that other people haven’t.”

The programs, which are under the He’e Nalu Learning Center umbrella, have partnered with Target to launch the Surfer Spirit store within all three Hawaii locations (Salt Lake, Kapolei and Hilo). All proceeds from the sale of stickers, four unique student-designed T-shirts, and copies of the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award-winning The Surfer Spirit go directly toward keeping the programs afloat. For more information, visit

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