DEL MAR BEACH
9 AM to 3 PM
9 AM to 3 PM
June 3, 2019 – press release
Manhattan Beach, CA–Actor, activist and surfer, Matthew McConaughey created the just keep livin Foundation, after his father passed away. The non-profit is dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices. The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation was formed after the sudden death of local waterman, lifeguard, writer and creator of Camp Surf, Jimmy Miller. JMMF provides Ocean Therapy as an adaptive surfing program to assist individuals coping with mental, emotional and physical illness by accessing the ocean environment. Together, they will host 90 just keep livin students at El Porto Beach for a day of fun in the sun and learning about the ocean environment.
This is the 3rd annual pairing of these two non-profits. More than 300 kids from inner city schools have experienced the joy of surfing and team-building, assisted by more than 150 JMMF beach volunteers, surf instructors, yoga instructors and Los Angeles County Lifeguards.
According to Leon Clayborne, Program Manager of just keep livin Foundation, “The smiles on the kids faces when they were catching waves and riding into the shore was priceless. The students totally embraced the moment and trusted the process all the way through. They are looking forward to surfing again this year!”
Partners for this event include: The Curry Girls, Grades of Green, Los Angeles County Lifeguards, Shelley Williams/Yoga Mittra, Providence Little Company of Mary Hospital Center, Camp Surf and Jersey Mikes.
When Jimmy started Pure Surfing Experience (PSE) in the summer of 1997, he had been preparing for a year. He spent part of the year learning to code, so he could offer classes online. That in itself was not expected of a “Spicoli-looking Surfer Dude.” He carefully created a website with colorful photos of kids surfing at his contests, he wrote a mission statement, personal bio and offered information about surfing in general. He shared where to go in Manhattan Beach for equipment, and which places offered the best discounts. He wanted to include his friends and mentors who had guided him from a sandy grom to a young man starting his own business. I think the key word here is “include.”
He called the local press and reached out to Charlie Saikley, the head of the Manhattan Beach Recreation Department and long-time sports coach and friend. By the second year of business, thanks to much hard work and professionalism, and at Saikley’s recommendation, Pure Surfing Experience became the “Official Surf School of Manhattan Beach,” and handled all the surf classes that the city offered. Local surf companies that sponsored Jim as a competitive surfer offered to sponsor PSE and include recommendations for PSE, and he was off to a great start.
And then there was the equipment! Tents and all sizes of surfboards, rashguards, and leashes, had to be purchased and stored. At the time, Jim was living in a bathroom-sized apartment on 43rd Street called the “Cave.” So of course, we offered a corner of our garage and that was the beginning of the June ritual of “equipment day!”
Every year in early June, Jimmy and his growing staff of groms: Mark G, Tommy O, Ryan P, Keith W, John K, Anthony, brother Jeff and so many more, would lug all the equipment out of our garage, and on to the driveway. Buckets, towels, boards, chairs, tents, coolers, and cases of unused water would be lined up and catalogued. They would hose everything down and the sand and grime would float down our hill, to return to the ocean. At some point, there would always be a huge water fight with Jimmy and our front windows getting the worst of it from his group of groms. He loved this day so much, because it would signal the start of summer and his chance to share his stoke and passion with a new generation of surfers. It was always really about the Pure Surfing Experience in his heart, even after he wisely bought the URL’s of Camp Surf, Camp Volley, Camp Yoga and Camp Skate. June was a month of new beginnings for Jim each year.
Just one more thought about inclusion. Throughout his life, Jimmy was an “includer.” A family trait perhaps, but he loved to be surrounded by friends and family. As he grew up, he included his surfer friends, college buddies and friends from his travels around the world. He started PSE to include as many others as possible in the charmed surf life that gave him so much joy. Through his work, he was able to include his colleagues from the surf industry who would benefit from being included as sponsors. It was always about sharing the stoke with others.
When he suffered his break-down, he pulled away from everyone and everything that had been included in his life. His world got smaller and he excluded those who be believed were out to harm him. The world of delusion does that to you. For us, in hindsight, the clues were there. We just were too blind or too shocked to realize what they meant in the greater scheme of things in the whirlwind of that last summer.
And finally, when we moved from 524, our garage looked so strange and empty without the scores of boards, tents and equipment that had lodged in one small corner and ended up taking up more than half of that cement garage space. The name on the equipment changed over the years, from Pure Surfing Experience to Camp Surf and then to the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation. I know this for sure: Jimmy’s spirit continued to touch every sandy tent, rashguard and board that was ever stored there. And today, some of those very items are included, somewhere in the JMMF storage space in El Segundo! Ahhh, June!
PS. June is also PTSD Awareness month. Please take a moment to read the information included in this newsletter. We work with Marines and Vets with PTSD and surfing has been shown to help symptoms of this terrible and debilitating syndrome. For those of us with PTSD, the moments of “pure surfing,” can change the course of a day. If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, please reach out. Our Ocean Therapy sessions can make a huge difference in your life. You may not have any idea that the person sitting next to you in our “sharing circle” is suffering from PTSD, but I want to let you know that you are not alone.
What May Means To Me…
Fifteen years ago, May became the meanest month. Jimmy was broken- hearted from his separation and looming divorce, he had torn his labrum and could not surf for one of the first prolonged times in his life. He was feeling a bit over-whelmed with the success of Camp Surf and the huge responsibility he felt towards his students, their parents and the City of Manhattan Beach, as Camp Surf was (and still is) the official Surf School of the city.
There had been many factors leading up to Jimmy’s break with reality on Memorial Day Friday. What we do know now is that Jimmy used his love of surfing and the physical action of being in the water and catching waves, as a form of personal therapy for most of his life. He followed his passion and was able to build a career centered around surfing, helping others, traveling and teaching kids. Those things remained constants in his life. As a world traveler, Jim taught hundreds of people to surf. From Africa to Ireland, and from Fiji to Tahiti, he brought his special brand of laid back and “pure surfing” to kids and adults all over the world. He was “living the dream” and it appeared to all of us that despite some personal and physical set-backs, his life was pretty golden. There was no known mental illness in our families, and Jimmy had never shown any indication of a serious mental illness or depression. He followed the beat of his own drummer, but that was just “Jimmy.”
On that Memorial Day Friday, Jimmy calmly told us that people had been spying on him and gone into his trash to get personal items. He firmly believed that he had broken laws and that his company was in jeopardy. He was worried about people “getting in” his computer and leaving him messages. This was definitely not the Jimmy we knew, and the intensity of his insistence of guilt for everything that touched him, frightened all of us and moved us into taking some type of action.
Living in a community like Manhattan Beach, one would think we would have resources to call when a loved one becomes delusional. We realized we only knew one person in the mental health field, and we immediately called her. As a working psychologist, she just happened to be her office on this holiday weekend. She counseled us to bring Jimmy in to speak with her immediately, and thus began our first experience with the odyssey of finding mental health help.
She did an assessment of Jimmy, speaking with him privately and then asking him if it would be OK if his parents came in to hear what she was thinking about next steps. As an adult, Jim had the right to refuse, but he quickly said he wanted us to be in the room with him. Her suggestion shocked us, but also gave us a glimpse into the world of the mentally ill.
It was suggested we get Jim to UCLA Medical Center, to be evaluated by their psychologists and psychiatrists, and make a plan. He was delusional and had a break with reality, and was in danger of harming himself.
We followed through with her advice and spent a long and ultimately frustrating day at the ER at UCLA. The final verdict after 10 hours in the ER, was to take Jimmy home, keep an eye on him, give him some medication, and find a psychiatrist as soon as possible. Not the easiest thing to do on a holiday weekend.
The reason I am sharing this story with you is that I want you to know that so many people are at risk for mental illness. And it happens in families just like yours. Even the most well adjusted “golden boy,” who seemingly had it all, was harboring fear and depression. From his initial trip to the ER on Memorial Day weekend to his death in August, we raced from expert to expert, Jimmy stayed in Cedars Sinai psychiatric ward under his own choice for two weeks, and started intensive out-patient therapy and medication that made him drowsy, gain weight, and ultimately, he discarded.
We firmly believe that if Jimmy had kept surfing and he continued to use the release of endorphins and the joy he had experienced almost every day of his life, that he would still be alive. We understood much later, that when people give up the things in life that have always given them the most joy, that they are in serious danger.
This is one of the many reasons we formed the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation. We knew we needed to help others experience the joy and release of surfing. And we wanted to give them a safe place to express their feelings about their experience. When Carly Rogers approached us a few months after Jimmy died, and shared her thesis for her concept of Ocean Therapy for at-risk kids, we knew that this was a way to help the mental health of everyone who could participate. And in the past fifteen years, we have helped thousands of people feel the joy and release that Jimmy felt every time he stepped in the ocean.
We celebrate JMMF and Jimmy’s legacy on Saturday, May 18 with our BeneFiesta. Benefit +Fiesta! The funds we raise will go to our continued efforts to enhance the mental health of every participant and volunteer that joins us. Our Ocean Therapy Program has grown from 4 sessions to more than 50 sessions a year. The need for alternative therapies like Ocean Therapy keeps growing, as we face new challenges of mass shootings and the devastation of the drug and opioid disasters. We have started on the road to help these new populations and need your help to keep sharing the live-saving grace of surfing and therapy. You can change the meanest month to the most meaningful month when you join us at the Benefiesta.
This Mental Health May, I hope all of you take time to take care of your own mental health, and reach out to those you believe may need help.
There are so many happy endings that are available to everyone. And in the meantime, we will just keep helping ourselves and others heal, one wave at a time.
As Lennon and McCartney sang:
“You say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too —yeah
They say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you!”
Birthdays are meant to be shared. Joyous occasions, celebrating new life, another trip around the sun, and ice cream and cake. Jimmy’s birthday is April 28 and in our family, we always made a big “do” on the actual day if humanly possible. Or rather, as the only female in a household of guys, including the cats, I was the one “doing!” From parties with piñatas in the back yard to crack of dawn surf trips for as many kids as could fit in our white and brown chevy van, we shared the kids birthdays with their tribe. Homemade chocolate cakes eventually were replaced with Becker’s Bakery masterpieces, complete with blue waves and surfboards, crashing down upon a realistic portrait of Jimmys face. Captain Crunch in the morning, Doritos all day and pizza for dinner were the ingredients for a perfect celebration.
Jimmy loved the trips and craziness of his birthday parties, but was never really comfortable with all the attention on himself. I learned this the hard way, when I sent a singing, dancing pizza man to find him at lunch time in middle school. “What could be better,” I thought. “He loves pizza and would be stoked to share it with his friends. As he relived that “the single most embarrassing experience in his entire life” to me (years later) I wondered how I could have been that thoughtless and unaware of how standing out in the school yard would be so cringeworthy. It got me to thinking about how well we really know our loved ones. Maybe I was creating something I would have loved at that age, but instead, created trauma for Jimmy. As an adult, he loved to tease me about the “pizza man incident,” and our whole family always laughed as he described the debacle each birthday. And yet, I wondered.
As Jimmys 50th birthday approaches, the question of how well do we really know our loved ones resurfaces. My heart is filled with joy and remembrance, and so much love for the incredible human being who we lost almost 15 years ago. His last birthday was one of our family’s happiest. We spent it in our backyard at 524. I remember the smell of the jasmine, the softly burning candles and the fact we didn’t need jackets or sweatshirts in April at the beach!! Jeff and Alissa had just gotten engaged and we were all so excited and looking forward to sharing an amazing time together. I made the old fashioned chocolate brownie cake with his name and the number 35, with a huge red heart around it. It felt like we had come full circle, back to his happy place. As we started to clear the table and go back inside, Jimmy leaned over and whispered, “Mom, this is my best birthday.” That’s the Jimmy I knew.
“I’m glad it’s your birthday, Happy Birthday to you!”