Surfing The Nations bids farewell to its long-term staff member, Chris Rehrer. After eight years, three cities and over 15 countries with STN, he has left his mark on the character of this organization and impacted many lives around the world. Read to end to see where he’s off to next (ok, it’s Australia!) and all the fun bits in between to get the insider’s look at what it means to be a long-term staffer with STN. -GP
GP: What was your very first full day at STN like?
CR: I arrived on June 15, 2005 at Honolulu airport. I borrowed a cell phone to call the office (I’m old enough to not have owned a cell phone by the age of 21!). I was told to look for two girls driving a white van: Kristin Flynn – who would later be my co-worker for years – was one of the girls to pick me up. She put an orchid lei around my neck and threw me in the car, telling me how much I was going to love Surfing The Nations. We got on the highway to go to Kalihi valley, where STN was then located, when our car sputtered and ran out of gas. We sat in the middle of the intersection, so my first official STN duty was to push a 15-passenger van out of the middle of the road with the other girl in the car, my new little Brazilian friend Sophia. About 25 minutes later, the oldest man in the world to me at that time, Bobby Baggett (who is still with STN!), came down with a gas can to help us out. This was the start of my amazing adventure with STN.
Once we arrived at the property, I was greeted by a team packing for their trip to Indonesia. I met Hanna who was from Switzerland, David (Davo) Strigl who was from Florida, Sam Culver, Shane and Brad from Florida and some others. As I was unpacking, I got this crazy feeling. “What the heck am I doing?” I thought. “I just moved on a one-way ticket to an island in the middle of the ocean!” I soon realized that this was going to either be a terrible decision or a great one but I needed to simply embrace it for what it was and fight the urge to immediately buy a ticket back home.
In the afternoon my friend Petey Helenius, who had convinced me to go to Surfing The Nations with him, arrived and we talked about the adventure ahead. Pretty soon someone invited us to go to the beach to surf. We headed out to Kewalos and had a blast! I remember being surprised by the power of the waves even on the South Shore compared to what I had been used to in California. Later that night, we arrived back at STN where we were having an orientation for the Indonesia trip. I met some people who became my first local friends in Hawaii. They took us around over the next couple of days and taught us about what it was to be a Haole and if someone calls me a kook it’s probably not a good thing. I learned what a moke and titta were as well as how not to speak pidgin!
That was my first full day. The adventure started out amazing and has continued to be an incredible journey. I wouldn’t trade the past eight years of my life with Surfing The Nations, for anything. They are the best years of my life hands down! I will be forever changed from that first day.
GP: What’s the most exciting country you’ve been to with STN?
CR: It would probably be Iran. As soon as Tom and Kristin Flynn and I decided that we were going, people decided to tell us why it was impossible. We were told that we couldn’t get visas as Americans. We were told that if we did get in, we would be harassed by customs officials and put in prison. We were told that it was foolish and that we should look for a better time when it was safer to enter the country. After all of these warnings, we decided to go for it anyway. It was an amazing journey. We had no problems. Kristin and Nikki Beck went one way around the world from the US and Tom and I went through the Middle East. We stopped in Bahrain and Quatar and arrived in Tehran where our official guides met us. We drove through the night and woke up the next morning to fresh snow on the mountains. Throughout the next nine days we made amazing relationships with our guides, their wives, their families and friends. We were welcomed back and we met some of the friendliest people in the world. Everyone was blessed and curious as to why Americans would be coming to Iran when Iran and the USA were obviously so at odds politically.
I think that the risk we took to go there during a time when people said it was stupid, showed the Iranian people that we were just people too, that we didn’t hate Iran, that we loved people. We wanted to be genuine and kind and share life with people all around the world, no matter their religion, ethnic background or nationality. It was one of the greatest trips of my life. The cool thing about going where people aren’t willing to go is that they want to hear about what happened when you went. Tom and Kristin and I had so many opportunities to come and share what our experience was with people when we came back. People always want to be on the cutting edge of things but often times lack the ability to push themselves over. We had pushed the envelope and returned unscathed and now have the stories to tell personally. We lived the adventure on that trip and that’s why I love STN because it’s all about living the life that others want to live but often need an example to follow.
GP: At Surfing The Nations, you get to meet a lot of people and live with a lot of people. Over the past eight years, who has been your best and/or worst and/or weirdest roommate?
CR: My best roommate was Andrew Carrier. He and I spent a couple of years together after my friend Peter Helenius left STN. I liked that we could both be either clean or dirty, which meant that often our room would look super clean and we would both be stoked and often it would look trashed and we would both be stoked!
I think the weirdest roommate I had was Niklas Eriksson because he had a whole closet full of strange moisturizers and lotions. I always told him he should open up a salon or something. He might be the prettiest man I’ve ever met. If I ever have skincare questions there’s no way I’m going to the doctor, I’m just calling up Nik!
GP: What are the things you’ll miss most about STN?
CR: I’m going to miss the friendships and the culture of people who want to live radically. People here are striving to do really great things for the world. I know that this is not unique to STN, but I’ve found it in this family that I have been a part of for eight years. STN is a family; it’s not just a job, so, in a sense, I’m leaving my family and going into the unknown. I will miss traveling the world and meeting 150 new roommates every year. I’ll miss the late night conversations and early morning surf sessions. I’ll miss the adventurous personalities who come through. I’ll miss Swedes arguing about whether spanking is right or wrong, why it’s illegal to fish with live worms. I’ll miss the melting pot of nations who come through Hawaii and STN. I’ll miss the weather! I grew up at STN. I became the person who I am today because of the trials and the joys that happen in that place. I’m 100% positive I would not be the man that I am today with out the experiences of traveling the world with Tom Bauer and having him show me the kind of life that I want to lead. If we’re really all going to just die and take nothing with us when we’re gone then we might as well spend all of our time giving to others while we are here. That is what I’m going to miss about STN but hopefully I’ll take it with me wherever I go and instead of a subtraction it will become a multiplication of what Tom and Cindy Bauer started 16 years ago.
GP: What’s next for you?!
CR: I am going to work with an organization called XXX Church. My first assignment with them is in Australia, so I’m headed there June 1st to start the next adventure!
To keep up with Chris Rehrer, check out his website www.chrisrehrer.com
It’s one of those days when you wish you were in New York city.
Ten people at a time are allowed into the dark room of pouring rain and, with the help of highly sensitive 3D camera motion sensors, will not get wet. What an experience it must be to walk through a downpour and watch the water part for you!
It’s almost a paradox, that such advanced technology would clash with something so natural, and ‘everyday’ as rain.
This exhibit has the power to awaken wonder by the way that one can manipulate the rain, while also giving us the opportunity to see the extraordinary in what we may have wrongfully tagged as ‘normal’.
Sometimes people look for their ‘calling’ in life, and find it after much seeking. For others, their calling finds them. Yosef, real name Hunter Duncan, is a musician whose road seems to have found him. Hunter was captivated by music as a middle schooler in Lexington, South Carolina and since then has poured himself into developing his natural talent as musician, singer and songwriter. From bands in basements, to solo on big city stages, Yosef has come a long way, and is just now gaining more momentum than ever. In the midst of working the release of his first solo album in July, he took some time to answer some questions for us for this week’s Weekend Jam:
EJ: Can you give me a brief background of how you got started playing music?
HD: This whole journey of mine started when I was about 11-12 years old. I came home from summer camp and noticed a guitar on my bed, but back then I had no interest in music whatsoever. My sister wanted to take lessons and she didn’t want to go alone, so I went with her. I’ll never forget sitting there with that tiny three-quarter size guitar and learning those first chords. It felt right, and I wasn’t going to look back. I played more and more everyday and started to play with my friends in middle school. I began writing songs and tried to sound like Nirvana. I played in a few bands throughout the years, the most recent was The Lion In Winter, but then I decided to go solo.
EJ: Being from the middle of a small state like South Carolina, what was the music scene like, and what would you change about it if you could?
HD: The music scene in Columbia is a love-hate situation for me. There are so many talented musicians here and I hate that the city doesn’t recognize them. I feel like the scene is shaping up though. People are trying harder, going on tour, and putting out solid records. But that’s the city, I’m originally from Lexington right outside of Columbia and there was not a music scene at all.
EJ: How would you describe the experience of transitioning from playing with bands into doing solo projects?
HD: I loved playing in bands growing up and playing music with my friends, but it became more difficult for me to deal with 3-4 other people trying to schedule our lives to make shows and practice work. I miss being loud, though. I will have people play with me later this year when I release my record since the record is a full-band record.
EJ: Who are your influences, both musical and non-musical?
HD: My influences are Jeff Buckley, Nirvana, Radiohead, and recently Sleeping at Last. My non-musical influence would the relationships I have had in the past and present.
EJ: What type of lifestyle would you say represents your music?
HD: The lifestyle that would be best fit for my music would be couch surfing. Floating around from place to place sleeping on floors and couches.
EJ: What is your dream gig?
HD: My dream gig is to play at a stadium or something of that size and sell it out. To know that all those people are filling the place out just to see you, I couldn’t imagine the feeling.
EJ: What are your goals for the future?
HD: My goals are to keep my head up, stop getting discouraged so often, put out my new record and start working on the next. I’m working on releasing my first solo record under the name of Yosef, titled “Run Wild”. It should be out this July. I’ll be getting physical copies of it and I’ll work on getting T-shirts to sell at shows. As far as shows go right now I don’t have any booked for this month.
Follow Yosef music here:
Check out the video of his single ‘Run Wild’ below:
And here’s a song he did with fellow South Carolina artist, Mel Washington (to be featured in the future here soon!)
Photo cred: Alexis Schwallier Photography
Today’s blog post is from our favorite Sheila, Ame Schadel. Ame came this spring from Australia to take part in our Service Team program. Service Team is a program where individuals assist with practical hands-on needs of STN such as painting, construction or service in the local community with our ongoing outreaches. The schedule and jobs are based off of the needs at STN has at the current time. It is a challenge, but the reward of living and growing in the community is unique and gratifying. Service team members must commit a minimum of one month and can stay as long as three months. Take a look at what Ame had to say about her experience:
‘I love those times in life when a really amazing opportunity presents itself and you choose to step out of your comfort zone. There’s a feeling of nervousness and excitement as you start making your plans. But the best part is, after you’ve made that step and you realize that the decision turned out to be the best one you could have made. This is exactly what happened to me when I had the opportunity to be part of the service team at Surfing the Nations.
I flew from Australia to Hawaii not knowing what to expect, nervous about making this new place home for the next month. Nervousness aside, I also had a feeling that this would be the start of an amazing adventure. I was ready for a new challenge in life, ready to meet new friends and ready to have a ton of fun while doing it.
Being part of the Service Team gave me the chance to see firsthand how Surfing the Nations is making a difference in the community and around the world. Not only was I able to help people within the organization, I was also able to help with weekly community events like Feeding the Hungry and the Ulu Pono kids program. Through these programs, my eyes were opened to the need that is in the world today. The need for primary things like food and shelter and also the need for comfort and encouragement. Seeing people line up for food and being able to look them in the eyes, give them food and encourage them was truly a highlight for me.
Another part of Service Team that made my time so enjoyable was all the people that served alongside me. It was great to be working on a project or helping build something with people from different countries, backgrounds and cultures. We worked together, ate together and laughed together. The community of people at STN made me not only feel like I was part of the organization, but like I belonged to a family that was all working to make a difference.
Service Team was the best decision I could have made. It was an incredible way to see Hawaii, meet new people and ultimately make a lasting difference in a community, I loved it so much, I decided to extend my stay.
I would highly recommend taking this adventure and making it your own.’ – AS
*This link is no longer active, as it was a limited time offer*
Americans were required to read it as high school students. A story both exciting and troubling at the same time, it’s possible many of us only remember it as an assignment on our calendar. But from May 10th on, thanks to the vision of Baz Luhrmann and the work of countless others, The Great Gatsby will be remembered as explosive and arresting. The film hits theaters next week, and from the looks of the trailers, is sure to enchant.
This week, while we’re waiting for the roaring 20′s extravaganza, we get to sample the musical morsels from the grand party with NPR’s first listen of The Great Gatsby Soundtrack.
Director Baz Luhrmann and hip-hop great Jay-Z teamed up to produce an album that appeals to a variety of tastes, with remixes of soulful songs, upbeat jazz age tunes and some original tracks from some of today’s most talked about artists including: Lana Del Rey, Florence + The Machine, The XX, and Jack White.
Creating a soundtrack for the Great Gatsby is no easy task. It is a packed grenade of emotional fuel: the story itself a raw layer peeled from author F.Scott Fitzgerald’s own life and heartbreak. Add onto that the turmoil of several characters, each facing their own demons, their own longings, regrets and joys. Then,try to incorporate the weight of an excessive, and often elusive American dream, displayed in the glamour and shine of the jazz age.
We’re not sure a single album can ever capture a timeless book, and we’re not putting that on this album itself; Yet we can appreciate that it is a well thought-out and innovative album. What else would we expect from the creator of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrmann? NPR music states “‘He is cinema’s boldest remixer, infusing familiar works with new rhythms that refresh their relevance.’”
At Surfing The Nations, we love things that are out of the box, and it seems that this film and soundtrack is busting out of the borders to bring something new to the table.
Give it a listen this week and get ready for the main event, May 10th at theaters nationwide!
Have a great weekend!
*Disclaimer: Some of the tracks on this album contain explicit lyrics.*