Why Did We Create the Drop In Coalition?
by Ben Rewis
Tushar and I became surf buddies hundreds of sessions ago, and he was my best friend. Tushar and I loved to surf when facing tough problem solving situations, and since we both had high tech careers, that meant we surfed together a few times a week over the last decade.
We often faced complicated challenges in our work and life, and found surfing (or experiencing flow state from sport or activity) opened our minds. When we got stuck trying to figure something out, we went surfing for a new perspective on how to move things forward. The same holds true for mountain biking, snowboarding, and skiing, because they all provide for dropping-in and flow state awareness.
Working in technology and leveraging nature for creativity became our way of life over the years of our friendship. We increased our flow state with surfing – and that helped us deal with stress and stay focused.
Wilderness and technology combined are like two oars in the water for me; I’ve been lucky to have both oars underway since my first Outward Bound course, and soon after when I began programming. Nature and technology, wilderness and computers. Twenty-five years in the mountains and 15 years in oceans; a STOKE and STEAM model for a balanced work life inspires my desire to give back.
Tushar and I often talked about social justice and racial equity in the water, with Tushar commenting on how the surf line-up was predominately white and male. Tushar hated being one of the only people of color in the water, and he wanted to see more female surfers out there. So after he was taken from us, Nisha and I decided to create an organization that would help address diversity, equity, and inclusion as a way to heal.
We established a non-profit (out of Tushar’s beautiful home in Pleasure Point) that would help underrepresented kids around Santa Cruz learn about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math), and surfing. Today we are actively developing curriculum, scheduling field trip experiences through 2021 for both boys and girls, with initial pilot sessions focused on Marine Biology. The results have been very positive. We are starting with surfing and STEAM curriculum but are excited about all the ways we can expand and grow our curriculum to help inspire kids.
At the end of the day Drop In is a candle: it’s about making light from darkness, and creating something positive in the world. Drop In is about responding to evil with love, and that would make Tushar proud.
by Nisha Atre Richardson
Tushar Atre (1969 – 2019) was my older brother and only sibling. His life was tragically cut short after his 50th birthday.
Growing up, I was a tomboy and played sports (field hockey, basketball and lacrosse) seriously for seven years in middle school, high school and into college. I credit this focus and lifestyle to my big brother who I, as a young child, ran after on a tricycle, bicycle, go-cart, foot…any mode of transportation I could manage.
As a young girl of color in a homogenous NYC suburb, I gained confidence and acceptance through playing and excelling at sports. Studies show that “girls who play sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries.”(1) I was often the only girl of color on the field; that experience trained me early on how to exist, persist and excel in a country plagued by racial inequities.
Tushar moved to Santa Cruz, CA, in 1996. Santa Cruz was a place where he could more easily pave his own path while excelling in his technology business. Tushar was always drawn to the water and learned to sail as a young teenager. In fact, his name, Tushar means ‘fine mist’ in Hindi. He took up surfing in his 30s and experienced that harmonious bliss of the ocean’s energy, never looking back. He biked and surfed to break up his 18 hour work days enabling him to step back, take a break, contemplate, release. It helped him to think creatively and uniquely. But he lamented that he was the only person of color on the mountain or in the ocean.
At Drop In, we are aiming to teach underserved kids how to surf. They gain confidence by taking on and harmonizing with the ocean and then use nature’s kinetic energy to problem solve with STEAM instruction; all in a beautiful setting at Tushar’s home in Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz, CA.
Tushar’s family and friends have been dealt a blow beyond comprehension. We lost Tushar tragically and violently at the hands of hate and greed. But we aim to move forward constructively with Drop In. I think Tushar would be proud; he’s in those waves and kinetic energy that will lift a kid on her board and spark the thought, ‘Maybe I can.’