Jordan Cinnamon, 15, has been crazy about the ocean since he was a little kid, so when it came to choosing a way to spend the summer, the idea of going to a regular sports camps didn't appeal to him.
"I really don't like that many sports," admitted the high school freshman from Claremont. Instead, Cinnamon has spent his last seven summers at Catalina Sea Camp on Catalina Island. Last year, he became certified in scuba diving, and this coming summer he plans to shoot underwater films during his dives.
Like many kids, Cinnamon's interests don't revolve around baseball, basketball or tennis. In a camp world that is dominated by outdoor sports, many nonathletes feel forced to play ball in order to reap all the other benefits of camp -- like forming lifelong friendships, finding other activities they like and spending time without Mom and Dad. For those who are in need of a change, there are plenty of alternative camps available to Southern California kids who aren't as sports-minded.
Most West Coasts Jewish overnight camps are much more focused on Jewish programming than getting kids out on the field.
"What we do is Judaism," said Zach Lasker, associate director of Camp Ramah, a residential camp in Ojai. "The goal is to show kids that being Jewish is a 24-hour experience and way of life."
While Ramah and other local Jewish camps offer activities like swimming, arts and crafts, archery, hiking and sports, there is usually more emphasis on Jewish study, Hebrew and Israeli dancing.
Judi Joyce from Bakersfield has sent both of her teenage daughters to Wilshire Boulevard Temple-run Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu since they were 8. While her daughters, now 13 and 17, are both aspiring dancers, Joyce and her husband encouraged the girls to spend their summers establishing their Jewish identities.
"We live in a very small Jewish community," Joyce said. "My kids are not at Hess-Kramer for a sports program, they're there because they want to be around other Jewish kids."
If finding a Jewish connection is not a summertime priority, there are number of other specialty camps around the Southland. For the technologically gifted or curious, there is iD Tech Camps, a summer program available at more than 35 universities nationwide, including UCLA, Pepperdine, Cal Lutheran University, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and Stanford. The programs, which are available as day camp or residential camp, consist of weeklong or multiweek computer-related courses. While living in the dorms or commuting, campers can take classes like video game creation, digital video and movie production, Web design, graphic arts, robotics, digital music editing, cinematography and special effects, among others.
Space enthusiasts might explore Astrocamp, the sister camp to Catalina Sea Camp, which is located in Idyllwild. Here campers participate in astronomy, simulated missions into space, science experiments, rocketry, a ropes course and geology.
"Astrocamp brings kids out of their shells," said Paul Kupferman, Catalina Sea Camp director, adding that the program tends to attract academic children. "In school, [these kids] are kind of teased and at camp we're here to embrace and celebrate difference."
For the dramatic at heart, there is Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, which is located between Santa Barbara and Monterey. For half the summer, Ocean Pines is a performing arts camp that offers four one-week sessions relating to theater, singing and music. During the other four weeks, the camp offers "nature camp" sessions in surfing and the marine sciences.
While a nonathletic child might still flourish at a sports camp, specialty camps often help kids gain confidence as they hone a new skill or develop a deeper understanding of an area of interest.
"Kids just thrive here and when the school year starts, they become mentors to other kids for knowing the technology," said Karen Thurm Safran, vice president of marketing for iD Tech Camps. "Their self-esteem just blossoms."
Some kids, like Alyssa Loriezo, 14, who studied digital music editing at Stanford through iD Tech Camps, even develop a career direction from their summer experience. After two weeks of composing her own songs on the piano and manipulating her work through an editing system last summer, the Loma Linda teen is thinking of majoring in music when she gets to college.
"I have lots of other friends who go to other camps, but they don't seem as appealing as [Catalina Sea Camp]," said Cinnamon, thinking ahead to his eighth summer in the ocean. "This is what I'm interested in now and when I'm old enough, I want to be a counselor there."
For more information on Catalina Sea Camp and Astrocamp, call (909) 625-6194 or visit www.guideddiscoveries.org .
For Camp Ramah, call (310) 476-8571 or visit www.ramah.org .
For Camp Hess Kramer, call (213) 388-2401 or visit www.wbtcamps.org .
For iD Tech Camps, call (888) 709-TECH or visit www.internaldrive.com .
For Camp Ocean Pines, call (805) 927-0254 or visit www.campoceanpines.org .