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Falling In Love With FTH: A California Girl’s Story

STN’s Feeding the Hungry (FTH) program is 16 years in the running and one of the biggest food distribution productions in Hawaii. FTH has been featured on several news channels and in multiple news publications. Throughout FTH’s two main locations for food distribution, we distribute 30-40,000 pounds of food donated by the Hawaii Food Bank and Aloha Harvest to over 2,100 individuals in need. Regardless of how the numbers continue to grow, it’s the personal stories and individual experiences that keep us loving this life of service.


Rachael Andersen came to STN from Southern California specifically to work with Feeding the Hungry.


Rachael and STN go way back: Tom and Cindy Bauer, the founders of STN, were leaders at YWAM (Youth With A Mission) during her mother’s time there. Rachael followed in her mother’s steps and came to Oahu to work with YWAM. Through an unexpected turn of events, Rachael was unable to join her YWAM team on an international trip, and instead, chose to work with STN during that time. It was then that Rachael experienced and fell in love with FTH. “I was doing so much more than passing out food; I was building relationships,” Rachael explains “I got to know people’s names and their stories and see them on a regular basis.”


Through the closing of doors in one area, a world of opportunity opened up in another. “ I came to STN thinking it would just be a short term thing, but now I’m full-time staff with FTH and I love it!” Rachael says. “I love being busy. I get to see everything, interact with the people we are serving and all the volunteers. It’s so fast-paced and there are so many people to see.” Rachael and the other FTH staff and volunteers work 10-11 hours on distribution days and interact with almost 700 people. “It’s so exhausting, but so rewarding. I look forward to it every week.”


FTH’s food distribution program goes to Kalihi every week, alternates weeks in Waikiki and Wahiawa and goes once a month to Waianae. “It’s so satisfying to begin a day with 24,000 lbs of food and see it disappear throughout the day as it goes to families in need”. Seeing the people she interacts with throughout the week is one of the highlights of her job.

Rachael’s love of serving others began long before her arrival at STN. The high school she went to in Murrieta, CA had a small food distribution on Wednesday nights which she regularly served at. Once a month, she would also go to downtown San Diego and participate in a distribution whose primary participants consisted of Hispanic immigrants.


“It’s always been about building relationships. Growing up, I never wanted to be a missionary, but I’ve always loved helping people.” Rachael attributes her passion for service to her family upbringing. “I come from a good family and stable household, but both of my parents were raised by single mothers and lived off of food stamps. They taught me not to take things for granted.” Instilled with the value of being thankful, Rachael views her parents as the inspiration for her love for volunteering and serving others less fortunate than her.


Rachael first volunteered with FTH three years ago and has now been working with FTH as full-time staff almost every week for the past eight months. “The physical and mental demands are pretty tough,” she said. “It takes a hundred percent of my brain capacity a hundred percent of the time. Even on lunch breaks people are wanting to talk to you and ask questions or just hang out. You’re on your feet and socially ‘on’ the whole time; trying to be friendly and professional simultaneously.”


Despite the wear and tear on her body and mind, the rejuvenation in her heart keeps Rachael constantly looking forward to food distribution days. “Having the mindset that it’s enjoyable to serve people and that you can be ‘silly’ and let loose, in a sense, allows volunteers to have fun. It makes it less of a chore to serve,” she said. The relational aspects of FTH help to foster this kind of fun and familiar environment. “It’s like when you go to church or your old neighborhood and you get to see a whole bunch of people that you know and say hello to all of them. It’s like a family reunion every week”.


FTH has grown a lot since Rachael first volunteered with the program three years ago during her DTS. “It was pretty chaotic then, and now it’s really peaceful. That is a big change.” FTH has come a long way and is at a great place, but Rachael hopes that it continues to grow and develop even better coordinated orchestration. “I’d like to see FTH providing more services than just food-related needs,” she said. “Right now we have a lady bringing free cell phones for people and a man setting people up with medical aid.” Rachael’s passion for education also adds to her desire to see FTH grow. “There are people who want to learn; foreigners who need language classes, single mothers needing a career and people who haven’t finished high school,” she said. “Someday, I would like it to be that there is no more FTH because we aren’t needed anymore and people are taken care of.”


Farther down the line, Rachael hopes to become a teacher. She said, “Passionate teachers are way better than passive ones. So, having gotten to see so many different sides of life, I know I want to work with at-risk kids rather than middle-class or upper-class kids. Working with FTH is helping me to line those kinds of things up. Someday, I’d like to have my own food distribution in San Diego.”


If you, like Rachel, have a passion for seeing needs met, you can join FTH by volunteering, donating goods (i.e. finances, food, clothes or household items) or simply spreading the word about what is happening here.


Email us at info@surfingthenations.com

Details concerning distribution times and locations can be found at: http://surfingthenations.com/fth/

Check out more photos from FTH on our Flickr


Written By: Akela Newman

Sri Lankan Surf Safari

After his first trip with Surfing The Nations to Sri Lanka way back in 2008, Brendon Johnson is looking forward to leading the surf adventure to the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. We accompany him down memory lane to his trip 6 years ago to the war-torn nation and hear his thoughts about what the next month in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka is going to bring.



I’m excited to go back and see the change from 2008. Sri Lanka is a really rugged environment and only the really adventurous tourists would go there. The trip was incredible back then: we really had that surf safari approach checking out surf spots, riding those little three-wheel tuktuks loaded up with boards, just going out to explore. It was a really awesome way to be immersed in a culture that still wasn’t really used to foreigners. We came face to face with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and all of them had their own subcultures within Sri Lankan culture. I was just soaking it all up, seeing how they relate to one another there. Being open to that created a big awareness for me – it taught me to be flexible in building cross-cultural relationships. I had a lot to learn!

The surf is really fun. Every morning I went out, it was really glassy and pumping right hand waves. It would barrel in some sections and then go really flat and then connect again and go around this point. Then when you’re done surfing the wave, you basically walk onto the beach, walk around the point and start all over again!

I was around where all the local hardcore surfer boys were and they knew exactly where to take off and knew how to scoop around the tourists. If you stayed of their way, they were cool with you but they don’t want you getting in their way –everyone eventually learns the hierarchy.



We know a bunch of local people, since we’ve been going consistently for the past 11 years, especially this kid named Babu. He is a young surfer who’s really open to enriching his life and who has always been an amazing help to us on our trips.

The three-day Red Bull “Ride My Wave” surf contest happens right as we touch down and Babu is going to be in there with all the other hardcore local surfers.

We’re going to support him at the contest and he’s going to be getting his own special surfboard to compete with. We see him as someone who is going to bring some of that positive change to Sri Lanka’s surf environment, which has been a “taking” environment in a lot of ways. Some of the young guys learn to surf on their own and don’t know how to properly teach others about surfing, or giving to the community. We’re really trying to nurture that “giving back” aspect to this young man and he is really receptive.

What the local guys know about surf culture is almost exclusively from surf magazines, and it’s so far from their Sri Lankan and religious culture that it brings this contrast and conflict. The older people don’t respect it and the young kids just think they’re supposed to chase girls, get drunk, and live a wild life. They see surfing as a life of self-gratification.

We’re saying that that’s not what surfing is! Maybe that’s what marketing uses to sell the brand but it doesn’t show that positive side. Surfing is a fun lifestyle, and you can teach kids about the ocean and water safety, about taking care of the environment and enriching their lives.

We’re also going to be doing some community projects like beach clean-ups, working on some poor families’ properties, where we can get really hands on.

We are also lining up a teaching opportunity at a local Muslim school where we will be teaching English. We’ll go spearfishing for sure – the fishing is incredible! Whatever fish we catch, we give away to help feed local families, like Babu’s. It’s a good way to model that service and “giving back”.



Philippines 2014

Imagine yourself on a crowded ferry boat with about 200 other people all on the same deck. It’s late at night and there are bunk beds stacked all around you. Very few of them are being used, however, because everyone is mingling and conversing; sharing names and sharing stories, making a speedy transition from stranger to friend.

A guitar is pulled out and songs and laughter are exchanged. Food is passed around as if this midnight ferry ride is a family picnic. By the end of the trip, it is basically true because you’ve been welcomed into the hearts of many Filipinos who will consider you family thereafter. Now, stop imagining and go experience this as reality.

(Photo: Camille Abernathy, STN Staff)

The fourth annual surfing adventure tour to the Philippines is just around the corner! October 8 through November 1, you are invited to join STN Staff and volunteers as they travel to the islands of Siargao and Cebu (and take a ferry ride similar to the one above!), reaching out to impoverished youth, volunteering at orphanages, teaching at local schools and, of course, surfing with the Filipino community.

Brendon Johnson, on staff with STN, spent 17 years in the Philippines as a missionary kid, but didn’t realize it was a surf destination until after he had left for college. Years later, he returned to the islands on a surfing trip, and again in 2009 to help pioneer STN’s first outreach trip. Johnson will also be leading this year’s trip, marking the 4th annual of its kind.   (Photo: Far Right – Brendon Johnson, STN Staff)

While in the Philippines, the team stays with a local couple, Jing and Jasmine. “We met Jing in the water (at Cloud 9 surf break) a couple days after first arriving in the Philippines,” said Johnson, “He told us we had to stay with him.” Jing and his wife were there at Cloud 9 when the first surfers arrived. Jing was one of the first to tame the faces of this epic break, and lives only a short five-minute motorcycle ride away from the famous surf break.


What is special about the Filipino culture is the purity of their hospitality in which they offer their very best with absolutely no strings attached. “You’ll go to their house for a ten-minute visit and they’ll just start cooking chicken for you,” Johnson said. “It’s not like here in America though, they only eat chicken about twice a month, but their value of hospitality is so high that they’ll pull out the best they have to offer you right away,” he said. (Photo: Dave Winters)

“The Filipinos warmth is contagious, the surf is amazing, and the travel is adventurous,” Johnson said, “If you go on this trip, you’ll immediately want to adopt a whole bunch of Filipinos into your extended family.”






To apply for the trip or get more information about it, go to:  www.surfingthenations.com/philippines/

For more photos from our trips to The Philippines, check out our album on Flickr.

Waves For Water

We love water, whether we are in it, on it, observing it or ingesting it.

As surfers, the interaction between our bodies, surfboards, and the wave is something we live for. However, as human beings, water is more than just something we enjoy playing in, but a critical part of everyday living.  Unfortunately, access to clean water is a luxury often taken for granted.

Recognizing this reality, Waves for Water (W4W) decided to take action. W4W is a humanitarian, non-profit organization that helps provide communities around the world with clean water via portable filters. The idea is to make clean water available to those in need through an exponential community effort rather than a one-time mass donation.  With this mindset, W4W has partnered with Hurley International to create a DIY volunteer program called Clean Water Couriers (CWC).

CWC provides a platform for globetrotters from different backgrounds and interests to give back to the various communities they encounter by distributing water filters. This opportunity was one that STN could not pass up, and has now become an official Clean Water Courier through W4W.

Adding to their ingenuity, filters are very simple to manufacture and transport. All that is required are paint buckets, a knife or any tool to make holes, and the spigots and ceramic-drip filters that W4W produce. STN had a first-hand experience with the filters on its last outreach trip to Bangladesh. “We set up the filter in a school from a poor area,” said Zach Trein, International Outreach staff member. “Taking the water filters to Bangladesh for a trial run went amazing, so we’d love to bring them on all our international trips.” 

Next up for STN’s international outreach trips is North Korea (Check out our recent post about the trip: http://surfingthenations.com/from-north-shore-to-north-korea-2/, and the video of when W4W went to North Korea: http://www.wavesforwater.org/project/north-korea). W4W introduced the filters to North Korea in October 2012 and will partner with STN this month to bring even more filters. A single filter costs $25-50 and can provide approximately 100 people with clean water for up to five years. At STN, our long-term goal is to raise $5,000 for 100 filters in order to bring several on each of our trips. That could mean clean water for over 10,000 people around the world. 

Part of what connects humanity despite differences in interests, backgrounds, communication styles, etc, are our basic human needs. Not everyone surfs, but everyone needs clean water to drink. Help us reach across barriers and show love, in North Korea and around the world, through alleviating the need for the most basic element of life.

If you are interested in helping to create clean water waves through our International Outreaches, donate here through the W4W website: http://www.wavesforwater.org/courier/surfing-the-nations-impacts-local-and-international-communities-through-the-sport-of-surfing-selfless-service-by-meeting-needs-and-changing-lives

Learn more at: http://www.wavesforwater.org

Written By: Akela Newman

From North Shore to North Korea

There are very few unexplored frontiers remaining in the world of surfing! These territories remain un-surfed primarily because of their remote and geographically hazardous locations such as Antarctica, West Africa and Eastern Russia. However, there is one country with a much more accessible location, having approximately 1,550 miles of coastline that have yet to be explored via surfboard – North Korea.

In 2003, STN was the forerunner of surfing and surf culture in Bangladesh. This year, we have a similar opportunity to pioneer the sport in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (a.k.a. North Korea) through an invitation to host two surf camps…which we, of course, could not pass up.

At the end of July, our team of 19 STN members from around the world (including countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia and the USA) will be working in conjunction with Pyongyang Ocean Sports Club and other non-profit humanitarian organizations who foster community development and relief work. The surf camps will be held on the east coast of North Korea in the East China Sea, a region of water surrounding North Korea previously inaccessible. Now, however, we have been given the opportunity to enjoy the waves at STN’s surf camps: one at Shijung beach and the other at either Wonsan Bay or Majung.

Google satellite images show potential for epic (and completely empty) surf spots, revealing sneak-peeks at sandy-bottomed beach breaks and point breaks striped with an endlessly rolling lineup. In addition to taking a traditional tour of the capital city, Pyongyang, the team will spend the majority of the two week trip ‘giving back’ by sharing their passion for the sport of surfing. STN will also be bringing surfboards, wetsuits, and other surf gear to give to the “new” North Korean surfers to keep up their stoke for surfing after our team departs. Along with establishing a long-term surf community, we are hoping this trip will build a bridge between STN and the people of North Korea and allow us to return annually in the future.



Be part of this trip! Send your support of surf gear or finances, email go@surfingthenations.com or visit surfingthenations.com/donate.

Photo Credit: http://www.arcticsurfblog.com/2012/07/surf-guide-to-north-korea/ 

Written By: Akela Newman

Bye Bye, Brothel!

The month of May was history-in-the-making for Surfing The Nations as we took another big step towards Transformation Wahiawa! The much-anticipated demolition of an old brothel in the back of our property has finally come to pass. After years of being used as a house for illegal drug dealing and sex-trafficking, the plot of land has been flattened in order to rebuild a community center in its place.  The “Outreach Training Center” (OTC), as it will be called, will include a food pantry, art & music rooms for our Ulu Pono Kids program as well as permanent offices for our staff.


As exciting as this is, we still need your help! As grants trickle in and needs continue to grow, we ask that you consider partnering with us as we continue to take steps towards making this block a better place for the youth of Wahiawa to grow up.




INDO 2014

It’s hard to believe that 2014 marks Surfing The Nations’ SEVENTEENTH trip to Indonesia!

In 1997, STN founder Tom Bauer pioneered the organization’s first surfing adventure tour to this country of over 10,000 islands. On the brink of a new era of surfing about to flood Indonesia, he committed to go back every summer for the next ten years. Little did he know, that ‘ten’ would later turn into a ‘twenty.’

Now, 17 years later, he is back once again with a fresh team of 21, ready to introduce them to all of the reasons why he is full of stoke for Indo. The team landed in Denpasar, Bali on the 30th of June and have already made their way through the beautiful chaos of Kuta, the picture-perfect bungalows of Bingin and the remote fishing villages of Lombok. Stopping at world-class surf breaks along the way, including Impossibles, Padang-Padang, Uluwatu, Desert Point (ranked 3rd best wave in the world) and Scar Reef, the team is now making their way through the Indian Ocean via a large outrigger boat and continuing on to Gili Island and Nusa Lembongan.

All the amazing once-in-a-lifetime sites aside, why do we continue to return to Indo? The answer is simple – relationships. Each member of every Indonesia team is encouraged to live out the trip’s catchphrase, “make a friend for life.” The friendships we make are founded on long-term mindsets and built with short-term goals. Our heart is to show the people we meet that we care and are committed to seeing them thrive not only during the few short weeks we are in Indonesia, but for life!


Check out these Instagram posts from the trip so far!


Photo Credit:





Surfers Coffee Bar Is Going Big!

Surfers Coffee Bar Is Going Big!


Surfers Coffee Bar is now in its 4th year running and is thriving due to it’s recent makeover. Thank you to everyone who helped in the renovation of SCB and thank you to all our loyal customers for your patience and for supporting SCB through the transition. Since the renovations, SCB has had their most successful quarter ever and attribute it in large part to their increasingly famous Acai Bowls.

We are thrilled at how SCB is thriving. We are becoming better and better known for the quality of our caffeine as well as the humanitarian heartbeat behind it. In May, SCB crew participated in the First Annual Hawaii Coffee Festival where barista, Katie, won second place in the Brewer’s Competition. SCB was also given a booth at Turtle Bay Resort’s Independence Day celebration where they served coffee and promoted STN to participants in the festivities.


SCB is stepping it up in their retail department and working on some new t-shirt designs. We hope to increase SCB’s coolness factor (literally and figuratively) by installing a few air conditioning units sometime in the following months. The traditional Wednesday night Open Mic events are also getting kickstarted back into action.



Keep up with Surfers Coffee Bar at:



Instagram @surferscoffeebar

Written by: Akela Newman

8 Instagrams Accounts That Will Persuade You to Visit Hawaii [Or explore it further]

While it is no longer a secret that Instagram may be one of the biggest blessings (and curses) of this generation, we thought we would take a moment and help channel the daily flood of photos to just eight of our favorite Instagram accounts.  Here’s to hoping that these photos may inspire you to get off your phone (or computer in this case) and go on an adventure - specifically in our beloved backyard, Hawaii!

 P.s. Follow us on Instagram @surfingthenations 


1. @ThreeIfBySea

Two brothers, Nainoa and Makana, capturing their exploration of their Hawaii Nei through the air, on land and in the sea.

2. @MattBruening

Designer and adventurer. A Hawaii local capturing the beauty of his surroundings and friends.


3. @ClarkLittle

The man who made the unique beauty of shore-breaking waves and the fantasy of Hawaii visually accessible to the ravenous masses.



4. @hawaiistagram

An account that boasts “the best photos of Hawaii”. They repost, give shout-outs and promote the beauty of the Islands through the camera lenses of its people.


5. @FreeSurfMag

Hawaii’s Oahu-based, no-cost surf magazine connecting local surfers with local stories, local businesses and local events.

6. @BrooklynHawaii

A young fashion designer and lifestyle trend-setter living on the North Shore of Oahu and living “a life that demands an explanation”.

7. @MikeCoots

Shark attack survivor, surfer, environmentalist and photographer.

8. @EricSterman

Aerial photographer based on the North Shore of Oahu. Check out the amazing videos on his vimeo account as well https://vimeo.com/94588380


(Written by: Akela Newman)