Legions of Southern California college students stare out the window on the sunny days wishing they could be surfing instead of being in class.
Now they can do both. Surf’s up at the Southwestern College Crown Cover Aquatic Center on Silver Strand State Beach. So is sailing, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddling. SWC’s innovative water sports campus has hallways of sand, ceilings of sun and classrooms of blue Pacific Ocean. Director Patricia Milkovich seems reluctant to admit that she loves working there. Maybe she just doesn’t want to rub it in. Aquatic classes, though, are no day at the beach, she said.
“Mother Nature and the water can be very intimidating,” she said. “It is an equalizer when you put people on a sailboat in a team situation. If they cannot work together, they fail.”
Aquatic courses are transferrable and fulfill physical education requirements for AA degrees said Milkovich and they cost only $46 per credit.
Classes also include Community CPR, First Aid and lifeguard certification. There is a Spring Sailing Academy for kid’s ages 10 through 17 and a Summer Aquatic Adventure Camp open for children ages 7 to 15. Erik Blackwood, a medical student at the University of Notre Dame, works at Crown Cove as head lifeguard trained assistant (LTA). He said he came to the center when he was 12 for summer camp and loved it so much he came back every summer. He got his first job at the center after landing a work permit at age 15. “When I was in college I just missed being outside,” he said. “I missed doing things here. That’s why I came back.” Darby Alden, the aquatic equipment technician, said he loves surfing, sailing, kayaking and working at Crown Cove. Alden rigs boats, repairs damaged equipment, welds and can work with fiberglass. Alden, 63, an army veteran and retired post office manager, insists on working and staying active. “I use to watch people when they retire from the post office be dead in a couple years,” he said. “Your body just gives out on you. Figures you’re done, I guess. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I learned you stay active you keep doing things you live a lot longer you have a much fuller life.” Milkovich said Alden is in the right place. “(Crown Cove is) not the traditional learning that occurs in a classroom,” she said. “Our classroom is the outdoors.”
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