Surfers ride waves for cause
In 1999, a group of surfers went out on a trip to the Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia to catch some waves and take a break from the daily rigors of life. A chance venture onto the island led the surfers to discover a cache of small graves, and, after inquiring further about their origin, learned that the young local children of the islands were dying of malaria, malnutrition and inadequate living standards. The decision they made that day, to provide relief for the area and foster a sense of hope in its people, has created what we know today as the non-profit organization SurfAid International.
Over the past 13 years, SurfAid has sponsored a number of humanitarian programs in the area not only to bring aid to its people, but to help them better understand the issues and work as a community to solve them.
“What we don’t understand here in the United States . . . is that clean water and hygiene are pretty much fundamental things that we take for granted,” said Randal Schober, executive director of SurfAid International, USA. “There are kids dying from parasites in the water and from malaria and simple things that we can prevent through education.”
Some of the programs SurfAid sponsors in the region include providing mosquito nets, health education, fostering community based health programs, water sanitation, resources for local schools, emergency response and preparedness for natural disasters.
The program is expanding across the nation of Indonesia, and as the organization grows, so too do its programs both internationally and domestically. SurfAid brought their mission to Malibu this past weekend, sponsoring the SurfAid Cup and other programs to raise awareness and generate funding for their cause.
The SurfAid Cup, a surfing competition consisting of eight local teams, each of which is headed by a professional surfer, including Tom Curren and Lisa Anderson, was held on Sept. 8 at nearby Surf Rider beach. Hundreds of surf enthusiasts and locals alike adorned the beach to enjoy the sun and watch the competition while raising awareness for the SurfAid program here in Malibu.
Leah Ball, a volunteer for SurfAid, believes the mission of the organization is one that can inspire good not only in surfers, but everyone. “The way (the founder) shifted his whole point of view when he found out how these people were struggling and the help they needed, really made an impact,” she said. “It helped me shift my own personality from just looking for things for yourself or your own dreams … to dreaming for other people.” The eight teams and the local event were able to raise nearly $60,000 for the SurfAid program.
In addition to local surfing events, SurfAid hosts a number of other programs to raise funds and awareness here in the United States. “(SurfAid) has the Schools Program where a group here in California . . . go around to different schools teaching kids about what’s happening on the other side of the world and how we can help fix that,” said volunteer Gracie Pierson. Other local programs include Swim for Humanity and the Board Art Benefit, which sponsored a special event this past Saturday night at the Quicksilver store at the Malibu Lumberyard. The event featured music from environmentally sound DJs The Sycons and showcased art pieces painted onto surfboards from various artists like Nathan Paul Gibbs and Erik Abel. The surfboards will be auctioned off Oct. 6 to help raise funds for SurfAid, and can be viewed at boardartbenefit.com. SurfAid capped off its weekend here in Malibu on Sunday night with an event screening of “Behind the Palms,” a short film showcasing the issues that SurfAid is dealing with in Indonesia.
The work being done by the SurfAid organization is admirable to say the least, and the awareness they have raised here in Malibu through their programs is something that many will not soon forget.
“We have some really great followers and supporters here (in Malibu) . . .
It’s important as a non-profit to be a part of the community (in places) like Malibu which have supported us in the past, and we continue to bring fun events and they continue to support us in the future, and its great to be a part of it,” said Schober.
Although SurfAid has done a lot to provide aid and increase awareness to the issues in Indonesia, there is still more to be done, and he encourages anyone interested in finding out how they can help or to learn more about the organization and the issues to visit the SurfAid website at www.surfaidinternational.org.