“Helping our community thrive and protecting Laguna’s natural beauty” - FLOW Program motto
Fire, land, ocean and water are the four elements that make up the acronym, FLOW. FLOW is a program created at Laguna Beach High School by English teachers, Sarah Benson and Dave Brobeck–integrating the subject of the environment into the English curriculum at the school. Each class level is assigned a different book pertaining to a specific topic of the environment and students within the class have to read and discuss the book, creating a way of taking action.
“You have the land and mountains and then the surf and it’s about joining those two communities together and celebrating” - Enich Harris
A Start To The FLOW
On Wednesday, November 9, 2022, Laguna Beach High School partnered with the 2022 Coast Film and Music Festival, to present the FLOW Program–the third series of multi-day event. Held in the Dugger Memorial Gymnasium, the school broke down the presentations across four days from Monday to Thursday, only bringing in one class level per day, giving the students a chance to gain a better connection to the spoken topic and more inclined to asking questions.
Professional surfing world champion Shaun Tomson was invited to speak and inspire the junior class.
A Simple Message
Tomson’s simple message he gave to the students was one word–POWER–how to find it within yourself and make your life better from it. Following up with a clip from his produced and co-written documentary Bustin Down the Door, created in 2006, Tomson dove into the conversation of finding one’s purpose. Bustin Down the Door shows a group of Australian and South African surfers, including himself, in the winter of 1975 traveling to Hawaii to surf and socially acclimate to the constantly changing surfing community around them. Being conscious of their purpose and the “why” in their surf, allowed them to persevere through the difficulties they were facing politically, socially and mentally.
His activism has always been a part of who Tomson is, but his passion to now help others become part of the positive change was a more recent revelation. In 2006, Shaun and his wife Carla lost their son Luke within 3 minutes to a bad decision made at school. Now Tomson’s mission is to create a wave of purpose and power across the planet, allowing the youth to make their own decisions and turn away from negativity. He created an “AIM AT” motto that the youth should implicate for themselves - standing for Aspirational, Inspirational, Moral, Authentic, and Timeless.
“Words have great power to activate change and our’s have the greatest power of all” - Shaun Tomson.
A Little Bit About Shaun
From South Africa, Tomson grew up in the water - being taught how to swim and surf by his father. Tomson’s mother was a survivor during World War II when she and her family fled Matla before the bombings. His father was a powerful swimmer, moving on to become an Olympic champion when he lost an arm in a shark attack. Tomson says, even after his father’s devastating accident, he still looked at life with a smile on his face.
Tomson had the pleasure to travel to Hawaii for his Batmitzfa, then when he was 17 years old, he joined the army. Upon coming home, Tomson took up surfing as a passion - competing in 19 major professional competitions and moving on to becoming World Champion in 1977. He was inducted into the Jewish and South African Sports Hall of Fame and the US Surfing Hall of Fame. He was also named one of the 10 best and 25 most influential surfers of the century by Surfer in 1999 and one of the 16 greatest surfers of all time by Surfer in 2004.
“Words have great power to divide & unite, to hurt and to help, to be unkind & to be kind, pessimism & optimism - your words create your mindset.” - Shaun Tomson
At only 23 years old, Tomson established ‘Instinct’ surfing apparel in 1979 with the hope of being able to help and sponsor other surfers. His thought behind the name was “the best tube ride is when you're operating on instinct.” This apparel company gave him a lot of exposure, especially in America. Surfrider reached out to Tomson to become the first member and ambassador of this newly developed foundation. Tomson traveled to the U.S. and helped create one of Surfrider’s first marketing posters declaring “Do a good turn today!”
In the 1990s, he and his wife Carla started ‘Solitude,’ a sustainable surfing apparel company. Their products are created without harmless dyes, chemicals and materials. Tomson also worked for Patagonia for two years before retiring in the United States.
The Surfer’s Code
In Rincon, Santa Barbara California, the community on top of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean had an issue back in with leakage from their cesspools. The sewage was spilling into the ocean and causing sickness to the surfers. This was a 50 million dollar problem, but Tomson was given a 100 dollar budget to help fix it. Tomson used what he knew would inspire people to help - his words. He gathered students from the local schools, brought them down to the beach and asked them to write down 12 lines of life lessons for themselves. His 12 lines were created from the fundamental lessons surfing taught him about life - calling this “The Code.” A magical tool that he believes inspires motivation in the younger generation to find their purpose and power.
Tomson wrote his first book, Surfer’s Code - 12 Simple Lessons for Business and Lifein 2006 and was asked by many schools locally, nationally and globally to be their keynote speaker. He spoke to the students at Anacapa School in Santa Barbara and asked each of them to send him their “Code.” Receiving 80 responses, Tomson has created a powerpoint of those responses that he shares at the schools he speaks at, one being the Laguna Beach High school.
Then writing his next book,The Power of I Will: The Code in 2015 as the framework for positive decision making - how to turn hope into action, and now releasing his latest book in 2022, The Surfer and the Sage. This book is different from the rest because he added in a 13th line to his original 12, repeating the statement “ I will be myself,” because he believes that’s the most important line. Now with three published books and a documentary film under his belt, Tomson continues to share his words and experiences to ignite confidence in others.
Waves Across the World
Tomson has spoken at 135 schools worldwide and continues to inspire the younger generation with his endless positivity. Growing up in a segregated community, Tomson knew it was his duty to give back and help those that originate in underserved areas. Being asked to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa was a lifetime opportunity but he was hesitant. He did not know if the students at this school would accept him or relate to his speech. He stated, he didn’t want to be that one white man that’s trying to teach those less privileged than him about opportunities and motivation - but his words resonated with the students. Creating their own “Code” sparked a fire within each student and allowed them to believe they can achieve something greater than themselves.
According to Tomson the code is designed to create a feeling of confidence in oneself, an attitude of strength that results in positive decision making to combat despair, risky behavior and negative peer pressure, and helps students see beyond today and set a course for tomorrow.
The achievable and sought after results of the “Code” are - it motivates students to improve their performance, emotionally engages students with each other, it activates positive change, it helps to identify personal goals to achieve success, becomes useful in uniting the class, makes students feel accountable to reach their stated goals, it helps students realize they share common values, and it creates a sense of shared purpose.
“Drop a stone, start a ripple, create a wave right across the world” - Shaun Tomson
The Laguna Beach High School has created a forum for students to express their concerns about the earth and how they believe they can change it. The FLOW Program and inspirational individuals like Tomson, bring hope and determination to the negative times. The Coast Film and Music Festival has brought together the beauty of filmmaking, art and music, and married it with the actionable thoughts of making a brighter future for all generations.
Write down the 12 “I Will’s” and build your own personalized “Code” of what you believe will inspire, motivate and ultimately create a better outlook on life for yourself.
Get involved & educate yourself with organizations such as Surfrider and Patagonia - and read Tomson’s books!
If you are a high school student, get involved with the FLOW Program or find a similar program in your local area - become hands on and devise the change you want to see.
Find the power and appreciation harnessed within yourself, in turn gaining a purpose and building the tools for wanted action.