Miami, a Place for Healing"There's a lot of healing that takes place in the ocean."
Five years ago, Maurice "Maui" Goodbeer drove from Seattle to Miami, looking for healing.
His beloved younger brother had been murdered two years earlier, and he was finding life in the Pacific Northwest rainy, dreary and depressing. After a month-long journey he reached Miami, not knowing what he would do here, or even if he would stay.
He found healing in the ocean, in surfing, on the beach.
Now he is sharing the peace he finds in the ocean with inner-city youths through a nonprofit organization called StreetWaves, which provides free surfing instruction to at-risk kids and young adults. During the week, he teaches surfing to tourists at SoBe Surf in Miami Beach.
"I made a promise at my brother's funeral that I would personally do something to help inner-city kids," he says. StreetWaves was founded Aug. 31, 2008, on the birthday Goodbeer shared with his younger brother, Melvyn W. Patterson III, who was shot to death in San Diego by a 16-year-old gang member.
The surf students are 4 to 24, recruited from gathering places all over Miami, from churches to detention centers.
Anyone who knows surfing knows that Miami, with its nearly motionless sea, is not a great place to surf. But, says Goodbeer, it is a good place to teach surfing.
And swimming. Though Miami is surrounded by water, many inner-city children have never learned to swim. Some have never seen the ocean, less than 10 miles away. Goodbeer teaches them first to swim, then to surf and, he hopes, to find the same peace he has found in the sea. "There's a lot of healing that takes place in the ocean," he says.
When he's not teaching surfing, Goodbeer, 38, trains therapy dogs for people suffering from posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression. His own Staffordshire terrier, Yoda, has been an enormous comfort. Yoda likes the beach, too, and he likes to travel. "Everyone who meets him falls madly in love with him," Goodbeer says.
Goodbeer's Miami starts and ends with the beach and the ocean. In addition to Miami Beach, he likes Virginia Key Beach, once the only beach open to Miami's African-Americans and a place for which black Miamians have many fond memories of barbecues, parties and dances in the 1950s and '60s. It was closed in 1982 but reopened in 2008 after a citizens' campaign that also put the beach on the National Register of Historic Places.
Goodbeer reminds us that there is more to Miami than Miami Beach. One of the things he finds most interesting is the diversity of Miami's people.
"I've never come across a place where there's been so many different people from so many different areas," he says. "What I encourage people to do is embrace Miami, embrace Miami and embrace the diversity of the people."
Check out Maurice's Miami.