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STN Down Under!

Today’s post is from one of our internship staff members, Andy Keefe. Andy, a native Aussie just spent some time in his home country, promoting STN and connecting and encouraging people whenever possible. We are stoked to have some more Aussies (and kiwis!) at STN in the near future! 

“This last month I have been so privileged to be part of the very first Australia promotional and recruiting trip with Surfing the Nations, nd to put it in so many words, I was frothing!!!!  Accompanying me for various parts along the way were Chris Rehrer and Australia’s very own Ame Schadel.

Throughout this time, we were fortunate enough to meet so many amazing organisations, churches, schools, and business’ which were more than happy to get involved and help us spread the story of the good that is happening in Wahiawa and other parts of the world.

Before any of the PR work began, I thought I’d take the liberty to head up towards my old friend Noosa, a long time favourite surf spot. After surfing a couple of hours at Noosa, one of the most crowded waves you’ll ever surf, I noticed some kids dropping in on everyone in brightly coloured vests and as I investigated more closely, I saw that they were from a local school. Then an idea struck me like someone just turned on a switch; Australia is full of little blonde haired grommets who love to surf, and travel, and most of all are adventurous cheeky youngsters. From there I started making phone calls to the school where they came from to try and talk to the surf school teacher. Yes that’s right, in Australia you can take surfing as a subject. As soon as I mentioned to the lady on the phone that I saw them in the water, you could tell she was thinking, ‘Oh no,what have they done’. After getting in touch with the right person, I was stoked to find out that these kids were just about to go on a surfing outreach trip to Bali as the school excursion for the year. Before long, Chris and I got the chance to go to the school and stoke these kids out on their trip just days before they left. I have a feeling we might be seeing some of these kids in Hawaii someday, changing the world.

Next stop was Easterfest. Easterfest is a huge Christian music festival which, of course, occurs over the Easter weekend, where somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 people and make the yearly pilgrimage to the rural city of Toowoomba. Surfing the Nations setup a small booth where we talked story for three days and shared with hundreds of people a little bit about what STN is about. One of the greatest things I got out of this experience was that I had my eyes opened to so so many other amazing organisations which support absolutely fantastic causes. I mean if you ever start to think that this world is a bad place, you just need to take a look around and you’ll realise also how much good is actually happening in the world.

Amongst all the connections made, the individuals visited, and the places we spoke at, I was most of all blessed just to hear people’s stories and take time to inspire and encourage them. It really is amazing how sometimes we can just be connected to the right people, at the right times, in the right place.

Overall, the recruiting trip was a huge success, and much Aloha was shared with the Australian people. In fact, even after a long day I met a girl from New Zealand who we invited to come to Hawaii to join us. I must have been delusional from standing up for 13 hours, but nonetheless, the invitation was made, and we may have another kiwi on our hands!”



Chris, Ame and Andy at Easter Fest


The kiwi/aussie peace treaty is made!

 Cover photo: Student Universe

Update From Bangladesh!

Today’s post is from our Bangladesh team member, Taylor Jones. Taylor just graduated the internship mid-April and after a few short days, took off for Bangladesh. She sent us a little update on what’s been going on the first few days of being there. Next up, they’ll be getting ready for the annual Aloha Surf Contest!  Enjoy, and check back for more updates from the team!

“Well, where do I even begin! It sure was a long forty hours of traveling to Bangladesh. We had three flights, a few long layovers, and a crazy bumpy bus ride that I will never forget.

We arrived in Dhaka with twenty-one suitcases, nine surfboard bags, and each of our two carry on bags! We piled the luggage onto carts and made our way outside of the airport to our personal bus that Aziz, our Bangladeshi friend and former intern at STN, rented for us! Andy, our team member from Australia was also with Aziz since he arrived a day earlier. It was refreshing to know that we all made it safely and that our entire team was now together.

Our bus ride was a wild fifteen hours long! Let’s just say there really aren’t any rules when it comes to driving in Bangladesh!  There was constant swerving, speeding, and slamming of brakes. As crazy as the bus ride was, I absolutely loved the suspense. We finally arrived to our Hotel in Cox’s Bazar at 2:30am.

Our first day here was pretty mellow. We just became familiar with the town driving around, eating at the local restaurant, and buying our own three pieces, the traditional Bangladeshi outfit for women. As we explored the town, so many colors overwhelmed my eyes, different smells took over my nose: good and bad, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful all the people were. It was nice to have a day with not too much going on to soak everything in.

The last couple days here has been one stop to the next. We have been surfing three times so far; the water is warm and the waves aren’t too big. We have been to some of the surf club boy’s homes; all their families are so kind and welcoming. One day, Aziz gave us a tour of the school that he went to as a child and we got to play with the kids that are attending there now. After that, we went on a boat ride to a harbor and Aziz showed us a fish market where he used to work.

Later on, all of us girls got to spend a few hours with a few local girls doing nails, henna, and braiding  hair. Even though we didn’t understand too much of each other’s language, the room was filled with laughter and smiles. A few of the street kids have been hanging out with us from morning till we go to sleep; following us everywhere.

All of us are enjoying our time here and no one wants to go home. We are building many relationships, which will make it even harder to leave. It is amazing to see how much transformation has come to Bangladesh since Surfing The Nations first came here. We are all very blessed to be here and are excited to see what the next two weeks has in store for all of us!”






The Vintage


The town of Wahiawa has welcomed a new addition to its local business family and the irony is that this “new kid on the block” isn’t really “new” at all.

On March 30th, The Vintage, a vintage clothing and antique shop, opened in a former liquor market, which used to be sandwiched between a strip club and a 24-hour porn shop.With the purchase of these properties by Surfing The Nations, the strip club, 24 hour porn shop and the liquor market were all turned into family minded businesses. The Vintage is the latest addition to this street transformation.

The Vintage has been carefully crafted by Swedish sisters in-law, Beatrice and Elin Ahlander. Both with a passion for design and background in retail, this powerhouse duo put together the one-of-a-kind store in only a matter of months(Beatrice even had her one year old with her most days)!

When you walk through the shop, you can see every item and display has been cultivated by their expertise. The shop caters to a large variety of tastes: From a much-prized pair of Vivienne Westwood shoes, to old books, children’s clothing, Hawaiiana memorabilia and home decor. Moms, fashionistas, collectors, and anyone that happens to be passing through is bound to find something that catches their eye.

 Vintage shopping has burst onto the scene with force, disarming mall windows of the allure they once held. Vintage stores don’t put items in your face and scream for your business; rather, they hold out an  invitation for people to go on their own treasure hunt.If an item is truly vintage, you can be sure of a few things: First off, it’s probably one of a kind; you won’t have to worry about someone else showing up in the same outfit. Secondly, it is going to offer a completely different look than what’s available in mainstream retail. Vintage shops open the door to the styles of several different eras at a time and unleash opportunities to shape a creative style of your own. Lastly, it has a value that can only be added to. When you find a vintage item, it  already has a story, and that story continues on to a new chapter in your possession.

The Vintage has its own part in a story of restoring and rebuilding a community.
Come and see what role The Vintage can play in your personal style!

The Vintage is conveniently located in the gateway to the north shore, 43 South Kamehemeha Hwy, Wahiawa. Shop hours are Wednesday-Saturday 10 am -4 pm.

Elin and Beatrice on opening night


A few treasures


Everyday items from another era.


Glasses in the window display


Beatrice and her little helper, Tyra.




The Vintage is waiting for you to walk through its door!

The Graduates!

This past week was a busy and bittersweet one, as we said our congratulations and goodbyes to some of our Ohana. This week was the graduation of our 10 Surfers Leadership School students and our twenty-nine interns. It was an exciting time for the students to reflect back on the three months of their time in Hawaii and celebrate their accomplishments. For the interns, that meant reading books, passing tests, and working hard in several different departments at STN, including Waianae surf and swim and Feeding the Hungry. Many of them are going back to different corners of the world: Sweden, Canada and all over the United States. The SLS students celebrated the completion of their leadership training and apprenticeships (not to mention their Big Adventure!) and they are pressing on in their full time staff positions for the remainder of the year.

We are so thankful for the interns and staff that have chosen to come to STN. You guys are what make us run and what makes this Ohana incredible.Thanks for giving back!


Surfers Leadership School Graduates!


The January 2013 Internship Graduates







SLS Big Adventure: Waimanu Valley

When it comes to adventure, Surfers Leadership School does not mess around. Surfers Leadership School (SLS) takes place during a staff member’s first three months of  being on staff. Among reading books, writing papers on leadership, leading group lessons and apprenticing in a department, the ‘crown’ of the three month training is the Big Adventure.

For eight days, SLS students strap on 50-70 pound packs and hike into the Waimanu Valley of Big Island.  There in the wilderness, they set up camp right next to a black sand beach and forage for food from the earth and sea. Hiking to waterfalls for water and keeping track of your water purification tablets becomes a number one priority.

The hike is strenuous, but for every painful step, the valley compensates with beauty, eclipsing the present discomforts. The time in the valley is filled with pristine star gazing, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, exploring untamed wilderness, and of course,  taking everything learned about leadership and putting it into practice.

Here are are some of the photos captured on the trip:



Before the trail.

The SLS crew at the start of the hike in.

On the trail

Crossing streams along the way

Finally in the valley!

Fishing for survival 101: When you forget your net, use your wetsuit!

A view worth every step.








Weekend Jam: Field Recordings

A few months ago, I blogged about the Black Cab Sessions: where well known musical artists pile in a black cab and record live while driving through the city.  It was so fun to watch these musicians get into these cramped spaces and belt their hearts out as they moved through the streets.There’s something about the unexpected environment that made the music seem that much more special.

Now, we bring you a new out-of-the-box recording experience, one with much more space, but just as much randomness!

NPR Music has a series called ‘Field Recordings‘, where musical artists do a live recording in a variety of spaces; sometimes literally in a field, other times on bridges, on top of picnic tables, or in the middle of the forest, to name a few.

Not unlike the Black Cab Sessions, you feel like you’re there with them. You see them goofing off,  taking in the scenery, trudging through nature to get to their destination. Some of the videos are slightly humorous as you watch them awkwardly adjust to their surroundings, some of them highly unfavorable for recording.

The one thing I love most about this series is that I imagine these silent and unexpected settings could be where many of these musicians discovered their art: Inspired by nature and their surroundings, inspired by the moments when they were alone. Those are the moments when nothing’s expected, and everything is gain with only the wild for an audience.

See for yourself from our picks below! And next time you go on a hike, bring a guitar, a harmonica or just some pen and paper and your voice and have your own field recording session.

Have a great weekend!







Photo credit: NPR


An Insider’s Look At Summer Challenge

It’s always fun to work in a place with creative and talented people. Today’s post is from native Floridian and musical artist, Sheree Pantuso (artist name, Sheree Michele). Sheree is currently on staff here at Surfing The Nations, but she first experienced Surfing the Nations when she came to our one-month summer program, Summer Challenge. The Summer Challenge program is packed with opportunities to give back to the community every week, and go exploring the island the other half of the time! Here she gives us her perspective on her month in Summer Challenge (and while you’re at it, give a listen to Sheree’s amazing rapping ability on her new EP here !)


“Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you have felt refreshed on the deepest possible level?  Have you experienced a much-needed time of rejuvenating your soul and washing away all of the burdens that life can soil us with?

I experienced this deep refreshing during my experience of serving at Surfing the Nations in the Summer Challenge program.  Before I arrived, I felt weary from the place life had me at.  I was nervous to move to an unfamiliar place for a month and experience something totally new and different. This leap of faith to go serve and experience the Summer Challenge program turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made!

Participating in Summer Challenge gave me so many incredible experiences and growth opportunities, ranging from acts of serving like Feeding The Hungry to teaching kids how to surf and swim. My eyes were truly opened to the world’s needs around me.  I got to experience giving back to the community that I was in and I learned that I really come alive when I put the needs of others before myself.  It was a beautiful thing to see the hope and transformation that Surfing the Nations has brought to Wahiawa. To personally be a part of that transformation and witness it first hand was a great honor and joy.

Another aspect of the Summer Challenge program that brought me refreshment was the constant adventure that we pursued : Diving into the beautiful waters of Hawaii and witnessing the beauty of the land is something that will stay with me forever.  I was so blessed to have the opportunity to go on different hikes around the island, spear fish for the first time, camp on the beach while falling asleep to the sound of the tossing waves, and of course, surf!  I felt like a little child in complete awe of the beauty of everything around me.

I would highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and pursuing an experience like Summer Challenge.Not only does it refine you as a person, but it also refreshes your spirit, soul, and body with new adventures, new friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime. ” -SP

Sheree Michele
Photo credit Michael J Photography