KENNEBUNK – Summertime and the Maine coast. The two seem to go hand in hand and Nanci Boutet, the owner of Aquaholics Surf Shop, at 166 Port Road in Kennebunk, makes the most of this short season.
Boutet and her fellow instructors teach people of every age, shape, and description how to surf along the Maine coast and specifically, on the shores of Gooches beach in Kennebunk.
“We teach people how to surf with the right equipment,” Boutet said. “We teach on the long board and usually within three or four attempts, we have them riding a wave.”
“The kids really rock though – by the third wave they usually think they are all that and a bag of chips,” she said, her tanned face smiling as talked about the children.
Boutet’s company has been in business since 2002 and has expanded to the point where they now have a full-service surf shop, rent equipment, run surf camps, and give lessons.
“Kids learn super-fast. A 6-year-old kid really has not encountered anything they can’t learn. But I really like having adults too,” Boutet said. “Once they relax a little bit and loosen up, they are fine.”
But according to Boutet, perhaps the activity she loves the most occurs on the third Tuesday of June, July, and August. Those are the Special Surf Nights.
“In 2005, Maureen Dow asked me if I would help her with some kiddos who had Asperger’s,” she said. “We started with three kids and this and now each night is full.”
Children with special needs of any sort may sign up for the night of surfing and Boutet finds volunteers to help bring the beach and the ocean into their lives.
Liz Provencher, a junior at Thornton Academy, has volunteered for the last two years and said it is one her favorite events. She schedules her work around the three Tuesday nights.
“The kids are so happy and smiling all the time,” she said. “We usually have two people for every kid. One’s a surfer and one’s a catcher,” she explained.
Provencher is an experienced surfer and this year, she helped a boy named Jared. “He was so sweet and so happy to be in the water,” she said. “it just makes you feel good.”
Boutet agrees. “There’s something about those nights. There’s just a good vibe in the air.”
Boutet said the beach closest to her shop is also an ideal place for camps and lessons. “It’s almost like learning to ski on a bunny slope. It’s a really gentle wave.”
Many people come from the Boston area and Canada just to surf the beaches on the southern Maine coast. Boutet said her shop is one of the few in the state and the area that is open all year round.
“We use full wet suits all year,” she said. “In the winter, they’re just a little thicker and we have hoods, boots, and gloves.”
For Boutet and her employees, surfing and this part of the world seem to go hand in hand.
“Some of my instructors give lessons at other places and it’s pretty much push people to their death – because the waves are so bad. Here they’re almost perfect,” she said.
For more information on Nanci Boutet and Aquaholics visit: http://www.aquaholicsurf.com/