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The World Surf League (WSL) has backed an exciting new youth marine program that will give young locals the opportunity to learn from some of the biggest names in coastal conservation, watermanship and leadership.

The new youth marine stewardship program is being run by Nature Conservation Margaret River Region and aims to build a culture of coastal stewardship, with 20 successful candidates aged 15-18 this week selected from a swag of applications.

It comes as the WSL on Tuesday, February 27 announced that Nature Conservation was the only Australian not-for-profit group – and one of only eight groups globally – to be successful for the WSL Pure Grant Program, which funds initiatives to protect and conserve our oceans.

The recipients span the world with other projects in Hawaii, El Salvador, Brazil, Tahiti, Fiji, and California – each which demonstrates dedication to diversity, environmental justice and Indigenous engagement.

The WSL said it loved Nature Conservation’s project to “teach coastal conservation, cultural awareness, ocean stewardship, and water safety around Margaret River”, and to support and mentor young people to “develop local projects that contribute to the community and help give youth a voice”.

In the Margaret River region, the 20 young locals with a keen interest in the ocean will now be put through their paces in a series of free workshops in March, all linked to the marine world but covering topics including leadership, mental health, indigenous culture, freediving, reading the coastline and coastal conservation. Then they will zero in on threats to our local marine ecosystem or coast, devise innovative solutions, and tap into a funding war chest to bring them to reality, helped along the way by local experts.

The A-list of local leaders, mentors and cultural custodians include University of WA’s Ocean Institute’s Dr Tim Langlois, Nature Conservation’s Caring For Coast program officer Mandy Polley, marine debris group Tangaroa Blue’s WA program coordinator Casey Woodward and Undalup Association’s Zac Webb. Also hosting workshops is freediving and breath-hold trainer and former Navy paramedic diver Joe Knight, Margaret River Surf Academy trainer and mental health professional Simon Tien, Millenium Kids youth board chair Bella Poll underwater filmmaker Scott Bauer, and Great Southern Reef Foundation researcher Sahira Bell.

Nature Conservation general manager Drew McKenzie said it was an incredible opportunity for the chosen candidates – while benefits from the program would flow on to the community. “The coast is a great source of fun and recreation for many of us, but our goal is to inspire locals to be custodians and stewards for the coast too,” he said.

Program coordinator Mandy Polley said the successful 20 candidates were an “amazing group of young people that I’m excited to be working with over the next six months”.

This program is funded by WSL Pure and the Line In The Sand group.