Then, a month before the trip, he pulled into a parking lot and collapsed. Dead of a heart attack at 36. Belanger decided to make the journey by herself. Out on the water, on her board, she sat still. She felt the grief. And, eventually, she felt peace.

"It just gave me so much back," she says.

Belanger works at the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence in Providence. And when she returned home, she pitched her boss Teny Gross at a fundraiser at the Aldrich Mansion in Warwick.

The organization's clients — gang-involved kids, wounded kids — are dealing with the same feelings of trauma and loss she'd just experienced, Belanger said. And they are, for better or worse, hooked on the kind of adrenaline that surfing can deliver. Let's take them out on the water. Gross agreed.

The institute, with a big assist from a surf community that's offered up equipment and volunteers, has brought about 50 kids to the shore since the summer of 2009. Mostly to the secluded Surfer's End at Second Beach in Middletown. They feel safe there, Belanger says.

One guy, coping with the murder of his brother, was heading over the bridge on his way back from the beach when he turned to Gross and said, "Teny, I've never felt this happy."

A year later he is out of Providence, out of the gang, working full-time. Recently, he learned his girlfriend had been unfaithful. He called Belanger. He needed to get in the ocean.

Dawn_Patrol_main
CITY SURFING A member of the Providence Dawn Patrol.

THE PATROL

It's ungodly early. There are waves to be surfed.

This is a job for the Providence Dawn Patrol.

With a 45-minute ride to South County, the collective of a dozen fearless capital city surfers has plenty of time to chat about the sport. And the Patrollers have talked themselves into a superheroic mission: uniting Rhode Island's often territorial surf tribes.

A couple of years ago, the group made a grand gesture in that direction with an exhibition of surf films, photography, and boards at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence. And Damian Ewens, Patroller extraordinaire, says the group is considering the creation of an all-girls surf team.

He has daughters, after all. So do his friends.

But the Patrol, above all else, is about getting out on the water. And even when it's flat, the group finds a way.

Start at the Monohasset Mill artists' community in Providence and hop the fence. Then it's into the Woonasquatucket River, onto the stand-up paddle board, and out toward the old bridge off Gano Street.

Shadowy figures, amid the rust and steel and pink of the rising sun. Who says there's no surfing in the city?

McGovernPan_main
HALL OF FAMER Pan.
THE LEGEND

Peter Panagiotis, better known as Peter Pan, sits at Narragansett Town Beach, looking out at the water. "I learned how to surf right here, right in front of us," says Pan, 62.

The motive, back then, was simple: meet girls. But surfing didn't come easy. He didn't like swimming as a teenager. And he still doesn't.

In the decades that followed, though, Pan would establish himself as the wisecracking, boastful, energetic poobah of Northeast surfing.

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