Hundreds of people all over the globe have gone through the Surfing The Nations Internship program. Most of them are surprised upon arrival to see they’re living on an urban street notorious for its high crime activity. The internship is full of experiences in the ocean and nature of Hawaii, but the heart of the internship is to grow in character, learn to live beyond yourself, and bring positive change to people and communities in need; whether that’s through teaching surfing, skating, or simply handing out food.
Surfing The Nations had the privilege of welcoming Leah Jefferson (far right in photo) from Birmingham, England to the internship this past September. While here, she brought her own fun, artistic flavor to our community. She is currently back in England running her vintage shop Bellows Vintage. Leah took a few moments to write about her experience in the internship.
‘I come from a small town in the middle of England. Prior to coming to Surfing The Nations, I had dropped out of university and spent a few years years drifting through different jobs. I had a difficult time trying to find my way and decided to do something I’d always dreamt of: set up my own vintage company. Alongside this, I started working as a sales associate for a high fashion label. Whilst working there, I didn’t have as much time to focus on my company. I saw myself losing the vision of an exciting future and starting to worry about getting stuck in, as my friend put it ,‘the graduate graveyard/silver bubble of doom’(if you’ve been to or seen the Bullring in Birmingham, you will understand)! I’ve always loved traveling and started to talk to my friend who was planning on doing a round-the-world trip. I couldn’t save the money in time and thought I’d missed out on an opportunity of a lifetime, but then I heard about Surfing The Nations. I did some research into the organization and found that they had a three month long internship. As I read about it, I started mentally ticking off boxes:. Hawaii? Yes. Surfing? Please. I also found out that my friend from the Netherlands who was studying in England at the time knew someone who had just finished the internship. Through a series of different events I could never have foreseen, I found myself sitting on a plane bound for Hawaii.
Expectations of the internship being a chilled out surf holiday were immediately blown out of the water: We worked hard, serving the community, while still finding ways to play hard. The internship and Surfing The Nations itself is made up of people from all over the world. I love culture and learning about different countries, so I enjoyed living in an apartment full of different nationalities. I definitely had to learn patience every day, as we lived in such close quarters, but I’ve found that the chaos of community living is one of the things I’ve missed the most since I’ve left-that unique community/friendship/OHANA(family)
Aside from the friends I made and the fun living situations, having a tropical island for a playground was not half bad!
Hawaii is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Hiking adventures, surfing (of course), snorkeling, swimming with turtles, idyllic waterfalls, insane sunsets and rainbows. But there is also a side of Hawaii that I was completely unaware of: Poverty, drugs, homelessness, abuse, and prostitution, just to name a few. It was so cool to be part of an organization like Surfing The Nations that is pushing the boundaries, giving back to the local community and keeping things relevant within the surf/skate culture. My experience of being an intern has changed my life. It showed me the importance of being a part of community, loving and helping others in need, accepting who I am and my future dreams and making those happen. I’ve realized life isn’t to be selfishly lived but to be selflessly lived. That is where REAL life is found, and I’m ready to live it.’ -LJ
On the first week of February, 2013, deaf surfers from all over the world met at Ma’ili Point for the HSA Deaf Surfers World Championship. It was amazing to see this global community unite in the water, but we were there to see one man in particular: Ido Dar-El.
When I first met Ido two years ago, it was a cold evening in Tel Aviv. We were standing across the street from the Mediterranean and he was offering us sahlab, a warm, creamy drink found in the Middle East. Surfing The Nations had found a kindred spirit in Ido Dar-El: Here was a man who shared our heart to use surfing to “give back” to the communities of the world! When I met him again, the scene was very different: in the bright sunshine on a warm beach in Hawaii. Though many things were different, two things that hadn’t changed over those years and that distance were friendship and surf, the very things that led us to Tel Aviv, and to Ido.
It is impressive enough that Ido surfs professionally without the ability to hear, but Ido stands out even amongst the deaf community. Ido’s story is one of ambition, giving back and leadership. As a deaf surfer in Israel, he often felt alone, so when he first came to Hawaii in 2009, he was shocked with the amount of deaf surfers he met from all over the world.
That first trip to Hawaii ended up being a key part of his future, and inspired him to start something in Israel. “When I came back home, I realized that I had a gift to give to other deaf people in my country. I started a non-profit organization to teach surfing to the deaf in Israel. Up to date, we have about 200 members. I give them the happiness of the ocean, and not only teach them surfing but teach them knowledge of the waves, and the currents.”
Ido understands the love for surfing as a sport, as well as the unique struggles that the deaf community face in everyday life. He uses this insight and experience in the water, to make surfing a way of building character and confidence out of the water.
“I give them the tools to be sure of themselves, because most of the deaf are afraid to get in the water; they have no communication with people in the water, and cannot take the hearing aids in the water. When they learn to surf, they are confident and it’s easier for them to deal with the hearing world. It’s a challenge, but in a good way.”
The journey to get over to Hawaii for this competition was a joint effort that Ido describes as a “moving experience” for him. Ido was eager to raise the banner for Israel and the deaf community but could not make it happen on his own. “I asked for help in Israel and all of the hearing surfers joined together and helped me get here.” $1,895 was raised to cover Ido’s costs for the trip and contest! This display of surfers giving back is just a small example of what Ido is hoping to do in Israel.
“I want to win (the contest), but the main target is to make deaf surfing more known to hearing people.I will teach the hearing surfers sign language, so they can communicate better with the deaf, and the deaf can communicate in the water with other hearing surfers. Then, they can bridge both of the worlds and not make it different.”
Ido also shared with us how he thinks surfing can promote a better future for Israel. “I think once you begin to surf you understand the way the ocean is giving: it’s so big and so open and freeing. If you have a hard life, it gives you relief, and you begin to understand that you can also give back… I believe if more and more people surf and give back, Israel will be a better place.”
There could not be a more suited man to promote giving back than Ido. When asked about his desire to win, his simple reply was: “If I win, I want to give it back to Israel. It’s not my win.”
And win he did. Ido took away the first place in the Masters Shortboard Division and proudly brought home a trophy to give to his country, Israel, as he had hoped.
Ido’s work is not done; there is still much to be done and much help needed. If you would like to get involved and support Ido’s efforts, check out his organization’s facebook page, Deaf Surfers Israel.
Photos courtesy of Ido Dar-El
I haphazardly stumbled across this song on a Spotify playlist this past week, completely unprepared for what I was about to hear. It hit my ears with a surprise force that made me want to run and hide underneath a bed, and then at the next second, crawl back out and get as close as possible to it, drenched in curiosity. The song: Tokyo Sunrise by LP and her amazing band.
LP, born Laura Pergolizzi, is a native New Yorker. She got her start with the band ‘Lionfish’ and since the early 200os has been producing and performing her own work, as well as writing for other artists. It is surprising to see that her resume includes writing songs for well-known pop artists such as The Backstreet Boys and Rihanna. Fortunately for us, LP broke free from the the behind-the-scenes and went center stage with her album release this past year of 2012. The 5 song EP, Into the Wild is well-named, as it incorporates its own jungle of instruments, such as violins, cellos, ukuleles and flutes.
The only way I can really describe LP and her album Into The Wild is that, it’s a bit like Winter: Her voice is the chilled blast of wind you feel when you first step outside- it makes you feel awake and alert to life and feeling- and then the instruments are what take you into a warm fireside, and hand you a cup of tea to thaw out. It’s a wonderfully blended paradox: enough soothing instruments to relax you, and enough powerful vocals to make you feel fresh and alive, even if you are just sitting at your desk.
Give it a listen and see for yourself, and have a great weekend!
Photo credit: LP
2013 has just begun, but the 2012 Middle East trip is still fresh on our hearts and minds. Take a peek into what the trip was like from our very own staff member and middle east traveler, Gisele Pitot:
Surﬁng The Nations’ Middle East outreach for 2012 was a blast! The team returned just before Christmas and we were spoiled with adventure in Egypt and Israel. Six of us from three continents met up in Cairo and spent a week taking in the chaos, sounds of revolution, camel rides, pyramids and – most importantly – the friendship of our Egyptian friends.We were really blessed to have insight to the state of things in Egypt by being invited into the lives and homes of a few guys in Cairo. We got to walk through Tahrir Square a few times, soaking in the atmosphere and providing encouragement to our local friends.From Cairo we headed for the waves! A week with the surf crew in Agami, Egypt turned into two as a lost passport set us on a whole new adventure. One man’s disappointment is another man’s opportunity and we saw the door for deeper relationships open with our friends in Agami as our time there was extended. The Agami crew are so full of life, fun, songs and passion– it’s hard to not feel like we were really the ones blessed and loved on.Besides the surf guys we got to see old friends – Wes Luke! – and make new friends with some of the more affluent student’s of Alexandria, who also had revolution on their minds. Passport problem solved, we hopped over to Jerusalem, Israel. What a privilege to experience this city . I am convinced there is no other like it in the world. So special to so many, so hotly contested, so much passion and controversy surrounding it. We got to once again, walk the streets, the walls, befriend local people, share life as a team and see the ancient sights. From there we once again headed for the surf – Tel Aviv! We were hosted with much love by Ido Dar-El, Israel’s foremost deaf surfer and a fellow believer in the idea of “surfers giving back”. We got to meet up with old friends in the water and on the land building lasting relationships from the other side of the world. -GP
“Surfing has taken root in Bangladesh. Jafar Alam, the country’s first surfer, is a national celebrity whose days are packed teaching and promoting the sport throughout his country. He is one of 60 core Bangladeshis who call themselves surfers and are pioneering the sport to creating their own unique surf culture. Yet in a country of 160,000,000 people, where surfing popularity is spreading like fire, why are there only 60 regular surfers? The answer is simple: The number of surfers is determined by the same number of surfboards available. Surfing the Nations recognized this need and started meeting it by bringing surfboards from Hawaii to Bangladesh every year since 2003. support the surfing community.
After meeting Jafar in Indonesia in 2008, and hearing about the great need for surfboards and basic things like surf wax, a dream that I buried years ago reignited. The dream that started on my first day surfing: to make surfboards. The lure of getting to work, creating, shaping, painting, and surfing on something I had made fascinated me. The ability to close up shop and head to the beach when the waves were good, gripped me. That dream was eventually put on the shelf while I pursued other things people my age are supposed to, like getting a college degree. Making surfboards for my friends was my only connection to that dream, and it was few and far between. Whilst talking with Jafar, my mind was flooded with the idea that I need go there and help to develop surfboard shaping. Out of all the countries in the world that needed surfboards, Bangladesh was at the top of the list. I had an opportunity to to do something I had dreamed about and also further Surfing The Nations vision to develop surfing in that country. The dream was the same, but the motives had changed from my own enjoyment, to serving others, which has always ended up being more satisfying.
This past November, a local Bangladeshi named Kamrul and I made our way through the country in search of the raw materials used to make surfboards. We met up with a rad French organization that was developing jute, a local natural fiber, into a cloth that could replace fiberglass. To our surprise, we found all the materials needed for surfboards through the shipyard. Kamrul and all the other surfers were blown away; It was actually possible for them to make their own surfboards! Soon, they would no longer have to wait once a year for a chance to be given a surfboard by Surfing the Nations. They can now make and surf new shapes they never have, or start a surf shop to produce and sell them. The community of surfers can now enjoy the sport and earn a living doing what they love.
Surfing The Nations returns to Bangladesh this April to further the development of surfboard making and to share hope and love with the people. We have a lot of work cut out for us: sustainable and eco-friendly materials need to be adapted, shaping rooms need to be built, surfboard and fin design need to be taught, and the surfers need business training. Surfing The Nations would like to invite you to be a part of this. Whether you are a surfer or not, you can join us and bring stoke to Bangladesh. We are heading out on April 10th-May 3rd. If you can’t come, but would like to help out,we are also looking for donations of surf gear and supplies to take with us. For more info on ways to help out, email firstname.lastname@example.org” -ZT
Some blogs – admittedly – can make us feel less than thrilled with our own lives: all that we see featured is the best of the best, the good times, the perfect images, the things to be proud of. If anyone has a unique and blog-worthy life, it’s The Grommom‘s Monica Swanson. Living on the North Shore of Oahu, Monica blogs about her life as she raises and home schools four energetic board-riding boys. You can imagine that she has a lot to blog about on any given day, and Monica could easily make her life look perfect, but she chooses to write with a fresh transparency that lets us glance into both the beauty and the struggles of her life.
The topics covered on the Grommom are widespread: motherhood, health, fitness, food, surfing, Hawaii, and entertaining are just a few you’ll find (not to mention, some great giveaways!) Monica’s posts are always sure to uplift and inspire her readers, but perhaps one of the best reasons to read the blog is that I have personally met her and can say that whatever she is doing is working (and I am not just talking about her soup recipes). Her eldest son was part of last year’s STN trip to Indonesia in July. The way he and his brothers interacted with all the new people they were meeting here at STN and with each other was heartwarming and rare. The Grommom blog is excellent, but then it’s easy to see how an excellent blog can be the overflow of the amazing journey that Monica has dedicated herself to as a Mom. You will want to get this woman’s advice, you will want to hear what inspires her, you will want to take the chance to share in her life as she goes through the joyful moments and the rough spots.
Monica puts her heart and soul into her work on the Grommom, but the overarching theme of her blog lies far beyond the laptop: it’s about the people in her life. There are a lot of things that we busy ourselves with that can define us, like where we live, our careers, our activities, but even living in a Hawaiian island doesn’t constitute paradise. Monica reminds us that true paradise is found in the relationships we have. That’s the paradise that you don’t have to get on plane to find: the one that is found in your child’s eyes, in your mother’s voice, in your best friend’s laugh, in your spouse’s embrace. You can’t find room for it on pinterest, or recreate it with any amount of words. That is the paradise that Monica lives in and shares first and foremost.
Go ahead and add The Grommom to your bookmark bar – you won’t want to miss a post!
Photo courtesy of Monica Swanson.