Surfing as Therapy: Jennifer Baker at Surf House Puerto Rico
The first time I heard of Surf House Puerto Rico, I wish there was such a school system around when I was in my teens. I could have been education via surfing at Puerto Rico, and learning about life and everything around it. Surf House Puerto Rico, as known as Puerta a Via Puerto Rico, is “a supportive co-ed community for young adults ages 17 to 25 seeking a specialized experience where they can complete high school or engage in college and career readiness programming.”
I found Jennifer Baker when I was surfing at Playa Domes, Puerto Rico. She paddled outside with determination and solitude. She caught all the waves that the boys could not, carved with her tall and beautiful surfer physique, and disappeared in the water without saying a word. I later learn that Jen works at Surf House Puerto Rico, where she puts her heart and soul into, that is why she always has limited time to surf. Her passion for making the world a better place via children’s education, her love for ocean and her constant search for balanced life intrigued me. Therefore, I surfed and chatted with Jennifer about her life, passion and things around it to give you some perspective about this complex, beautiful yet fun loving human-being.
SMM: Jennifer, can you tell us a bit about who you are? (your passion for life, what do you for for living now?)
Jen: Well that’s a complex question, straight out of the gate! I feel that I wear many hats………..psychotherapist, surfer, philanthropist, as well as being a nature loving, crunchy yoga vegetarian, dub step and reggae listening, dog walking, armchair philosopher. Right now, I am currently living in Puerto Rico and working with 17-25 year olds in a Gap Year program. I moved from New Jersey, USA, to come here and follow this path to it’s completion, until I find the next door open to expand my knowledge and experience. It certainly was an easy decision to shrug off that 5 mil and go straight into surfing 80 degree water, that’s for sure.
SMM: Can you tell us about what’s Surf House Puerto Rico and what do you do for Surf House PR?
I am a Clinical Life Coach here, based on the coaching model developed by Dr. Bill Rosenblatt. I coach students both “in the moment” and have sessions with them to develop strategies to strengthen their executive functioning and also provide a ‘net’ for them to try new things outside their personal safety zone. We do yoga, surf, practice mindfulness in the moment-to slow things down, get better insight, and facilitate making different choices. I have personally also developed and authored a Transitional Life Map through my experience here working with my students and their journey as they move through our program. Pretty cool stuff, makes every day a challenge and also fills it with the gratitude of helping others.
SMM: How can young adults benefit from surfing within your program?
Jen: I kind of see surfing as being pretty much based on trust; like when Indiana Jones had to take the Leap of Faith and step of the ledge into the abyss-trusting he would be okay and not fall to his death. For people that don’t surf, dropping in can feel like that leap of faith to trust themselves, be able to fall down, flounder, and then be okay with it. The ocean is also like a public playground where you learn all kinds of things. To take turns (or not and get yelled at), learn from others, how to make friends, how to gracefully make mistakes, to persevere, frustration tolerance, internally goal directed persistence, how to remember to breathe when you are really scared, how to relax when pinned on the bottom, and, of course how to dig urchins out of your feet and scrub out your reef cuts.
SMM: You are a great surfer. Why do you love surfing? And how has surfing/ adventurous life style improve your quality of life?
Jen: Surfing is my moving meditation. Stop brain, just be-mindfulness at it’s best. Slow it all down, feel the gratitude for the warm water and sea life, sunshine, great waves with good friends, both old and new. I also love the challenge to relax into the wave and ride it how it presents itself not how I insist to, I know that is a little tangential but I surf a lot and cripes, I am a therapist! I guess surfing improves my quality of life because I am truly myself out there: joyful, relaxed, scared, shy, aggressive, flowing, snapping, slamming, carving, learning, and always stoked.
SMM: Where is your favorite surf break? and where do you want to go next?
Jen: I would have to say Second Ave, my home spot at New jersey for the last few years. I have traveled all over surfing, and lived all over as well, and that place wears every face imaginable; inside out and dredging, fat and rolling, small, fast and hollow……I can ride all my boards out there. I also love surfing in the snow, the silence is deafening- not just because I am wearing a hood either. Only the next door opening will say where I go next, I am open to any and all possibilities.
SMM: Can you give all surfers out there an advice in surfing or life in general?
Jen: Come from a place of kindness in all that you do, both towards yourself and others. I know that sounds odd, but being gracious, forgiving yourself, and allowing people to be who they are makes life, and surfing, always a better experience. I guess my last words would be…..don’t give up. Trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in this moment. Oh, and surf, a lot. It never gets old.
As a woman who surfs, I have to agree that we surf girls are very unique. Our sense of freedom, fun loving for ocean and life, and the need for spirituality connection are so strong that our whole life direction changes according to our lives paralleling to ocean. Jennifer is one of the surf girls who I admire because of her belief in surfing and her passion to cure people through her love and determinations. Not everyone understand our lives as surf girls but we will stand up for each other and accept each others for who we are.
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** Disclaimer: Jennifer Baker is LPC RPT. Clinical Life Coach/Liason. Jennifer Baker has since left Surf House Puerto Rico as the article published.