The Sea League

Spotlight: TSL Sea Lion Camp 2023

Spotlight: The Sea League's Sea Lion Camp 2023

By: Rachel Zook-Brimer + Erika Lindemann

The Sea League (TSL) is a fiscally sponsored program of Wilderness Youth Project.

TSL Sea Lion Camp
June 26-30, 2023

Long days soaking wet, with salty hair in the fresh air. A day hanging over the bow of a big boat crossing the SB Channel, spotting whales. No screens, just clear skies, sleeping under the stars next to new friends. It’s safe to say that we sent our kids home feeling alive, relaxed, and the best kind of tired.

Camp Overview

TSL’s Sea Lion summer camp is designed to introduce young people to camping and to deepen their relationship with the ocean and coastal areas. Monday is a day camp at Dos Pueblos Ranch, a beautiful stretch of land that sits about midway between El Capitan State Beach and The Ritz Carlton. Tuesday is a day trip to Santa Cruz Island for sea cave kayaking at Painted Cave, the 2nd largest sea cave in the world. Wednesday-Friday we overnight camp at Dos Pueblos Ranch. Our days are filled with surfing, boogie boarding, snorkeling, giant stand-up paddle boarding, sand castles, teamwork, sea creature scavenger hunts, and sleeping in tents at night.


Enjoy lots of photos from the trip.

What We Learned Together

We know that spending time in nature, alongside peers and caring adult mentors, provides a wonderful environment for young people to learn and grow. Camping together for multiple days creates even more opportunities for positive changes in self-confidence, mental health, and overall well-being. Kids gain valuable self-sufficiency skills, such as food preparation, safety, clean-up, personal hygiene, and getting enough shade, water, and sleep. Additionally, the dynamics among peers become increasingly important for 8-13 year-olds, and during the camping experience, we witnessed substantial learning and personal growth as our kids worked together on camp chores, games, and conflicts. Plus, camping is just fun! That’s why it helps young people release stress, experience happiness, and feel more alive.

As you may have seen in the news or on local SB Beaches, we also witnessed some dead and dying sea lions wash up on our shores. We expressed our sadness by talking it through over the campfire, naming the sea lions, and honoring them in our daily huddles. 

Boat Trip, Kayaking, Sea Caves & Whales

We were incredibly lucky to spend Tuesday aboard the “Vision” with Channel Islands Expeditions. Due to heavy NW winds and short-period swells in the forecast, the crew decided to change our itinerary from going to Santa Cruz Island to Anacapa’s Middle Island. There was a point during our channel crossing where we were surrounded by humpback whales, accompanied by diving seabirds and hundreds of dolphins chasing schools of fish- you can imagine the squeals of delight! We did a downwind/down current sea kayaking adventure with plenty of sea caves and calm, clear waters to explore. After our kayak excursion, the crew called out “Pool’s open!” and we all got to jump straight from the boat into the deep blue sea. The CIEx team took incredible care of us - including keeping us fed (taco bar for lunch yum!) and equipped us with kayaks and wetsuits and lots of personalized care. 

Ocean & Beach Time

We found a place to boogie board, spending hours at a time growing more confident in the waves. We found lots of local treasures along the beach, using our field guides to determine names and anatomy such as “the operculum of the turban snail.” The site itself held us with such a great natural set of boundaries and created a true sense of freedom for young participants to wander and roam. On our last day, we held our final circle in a cave by our boogie spot. We each shared one thing we were going to leave behind at camp and one thing that we were taking with us from camp. It was a special time of reflection, empowerment, and camaraderie.

Giant Inflatable SUP (Stand Up Paddle) Boards & King of the Hill

The Giant SUPs were the highlight for most! Together, we all helped inflate these large crafts, launch them through the surf, and paddle them against the wind. We started with King of The Hill, a competition where players battle for dominance atop a colossal floating platform, using their balance, agility, and strategy to dethrone their opponents and claim the coveted crown as the reigning king or queen. It’s pure fun and leaves everyone happily exhausted. On Thursday, we did a longer giant SUP excursion that included packing peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in a dry bag, timing it correctly with the wind, and of course, plenty of king of the hill along the way 😉  

Camping: Learning the Basics

Our kids learned to camp in a wonderful setting. The Dos Pueblos Ranch site has ocean views, soft, green grass for tents and games, running water, a basketball hoop, a campfire pit & chairs, and a full camp kitchen pumping out delicious food!  We all slept in small tents, mostly in pairs, which meant we were protected from dew and the cold. We still had plenty of time to enjoy the wide night sky filled with stars, planets, and the bright half-moon.

Youth helped with preparing meals as well as with dishes/clean up and were responsible for looking after their camping gear, clothes, wetsuit, and equipment used in the water.

Time for Slowing Down

One of the best parts about camping is having more time; more time to laugh and talk with friends, more time to explore, more time to play games, and more time to just relax. Ask your children about the game “King of the Hill” - which was the single most requested game/activity and one that we played for multiple hours over several days.

Questions To Ask Your Children: Conversation Starters

  • What was something that surprised you about camping with TSL?
  • What was the campsite like?
  • Did you have a favorite part of the trip?
  • Was anything about it hard?
  • Did you see or hear any animals?