MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
Marine Corps Cpl. Skylar Hays not only excels as an avionics technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 11, but volunteers in the San Diego community. When Hays isn’t testing, inspecting, and maintaining assemblies for the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, he’s serving children with developmental disabilities through surfing.
“As a kid, surfing taught me respect for the ocean and respect for everybody in general,” Hays said. “I’m drawn to service, and I’m motivated by the happiness the kids express.”
The Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, native spent 70 hours over the last two summers volunteering for the Surfing Madonna Ocean Project’s Special Needs Surf Camp. Each year, 200 children with cognitive delays and physical challenges participate in the surf camp at Oceanside and Encinitas beaches. Hays is a member of the Camp Pendleton Surf Club, an organization of active duty and veteran surfers that partners with Surfing Madonna Ocean Project every summer.
Hays rides on the back of the kids’ long, foam surfboards, paddling into mellow beach break waves to the sound of their cheers. Some children progress to standing up and others cruise on adaptive surfboards with built-in seats. While teaching kids to surf, Hays ensures their safety with standout situational awareness.
“One of the most important things for our camps is to make sure the participants are kept safe and secure at all times,” said Mike Redman, Aquatics Director for Surfing Madonna. “Skylar in particular is always there for us and can be counted on to make sure our surfers have a great day in the waves.”
Nearly all Marine Corps duty stations are next to the ocean. From Camp Pendleton’s direct access to Trestles Beach, to Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s private break at Pyramid Rock, to Camp Lejeune’s unspoiled Onslow Beach, Marines are primed to work hard and surf hard. But for servant-leaders like Hays, the ultimate form of wave-riding is on a shared wave.
“Every time I volunteer, I know I’m in the right spot,” Hays said.
Disclaimer: The United States Marine Corps does not endorse any company, products, or services mentioned herein.