Earlier this month, apex PROaupair held it’s 8th annual Surf Outing. Eighty-three professional au pairs living with host families all across the U.S. joined 14 staff members from the U.S. and Germany for a weekend of sunshine, surfing and California dreamin’ in San Clemente, California.
The goal of the weekend was two fold – first, to gather our professional au pairs, both newly arrived and program veterans, to provide them an opportunity to connect and share their program experience with each other and our team. Second, it’s a chance for them to experience California beach culture first hand.
“I carpooled with 6 other girls to the Surf Outing and we had an awesome road trip down there,” said Nina, an au pair from Germany. “I met great new friends there! It was exciting to connect with so many other professional au pairs and get to know their host family’s "stories." My favorite day was the arrival day because we went for a swim, met so many others, and in the evening a bonfire!”
On our first night together, we met at the San Clemente Pier fire pits to have dinner on the beach and watch the sunset. A highlight of the evening was making a bonfire and showing the au pairs how to make smores – a first for almost everyone there. This is always a fun cultural exchange opportunity for both the apex PROaupair staff and our au pairs.
On Saturday we gathered at the beach and met with the San Clemente Surf School who provided an introduction to surfing. Everyone had a chance to don a wetsuit, grab a surfboard and get into the water. The instructors helped everyone to ride (or attempting to ride) the waves. Our favorite weekend photo is the group shot of everyone on the beach with surfboards and our American flag towels. Later that evening, we enjoyed a sunset dinner and group conversation about the program and experiences.
Early Sunday morning, some of the au pairs returned to the beach for another surf lesson – surfing for special needs. Since 70% of our professional au pairs work with children with special needs, we arranged for Rocky McKinnon, a professional surfer who has spent the past 10 years taking kids in the special needs community out surfing, to give the au pairs instruction on adaptive surfing, which includes either tandem surfing or surfing in a specially-designed “chair board.”
“The most memorable “American” part of the weekend was surfing in the sun – 70 degrees in November!” said Julia, another au pair from Germany. “For me as a German it is totally unimaginable to lie on the beach at that time of the year and that is especially what California stands for. I cannot think about something more American!”
On Sunday after breakfast, we boarded a bus for a daylong LA and Hollywood tour as the grand finale of the weekend. Highlights included a visit to the Disney concert hall, Rodeo Drive and the LA Farmer’s Market, where the au pairs stopped for lunch and a little shopping. One of the most photographed stops was the Walk of Fame, where our au pairs (and some staff!) ran around looking for, and posing with, the stars of their favorite Hollywood actors.
By the time the sun disappeared on the final day of the long weekend, most of the au pairs were traveling back to their host families. The Surf Outing weekend provided our professional au pairs the chance to experience a unique aspect of American culture, while it also re-energized and inspired our staff, reminding us all why we are a part of the J1 au pair program.
“Before I came to the US I knew about the beach culture and Christmas on the beach and all that, but I couldn't imagine how that must feel,” said Julia. “Now after one year in California I still think Christmas/winter without snow is not right but I understand it way better and how life must be if it's never cold, if you can go to the beach all year.”