In a history-making moment this past July, 19 surfers departed the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia to bring one of the most freeing experiences known to man – surfing – to the most closed nation on earth: The Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (a.k.a. North Korea). Each person returned with incredible stories about a country that very few foreigners have experienced.
The main purpose of the trip was to lead two surf camps, showing the North Koreans how to enjoy their coastline with the sport of wave riding. The students were 10 tour guides from the country’s official tour group, Korean International Travel Company (KITC). Along with the surf camps, the team spent a total of 10 days within the DPRK touring the capital, Pyongyang, visiting museums and experiencing various exhibitions of North Korean culture.
Julie Nelson, staff member at STN and one of the first women to surf the shores of North Korea, planned and led the surf camps along with co-worker Ryley Snyder. “It was surreal,” explained Julie, “I grew up watching films like The Endless Summer but it’s crazy to think that such isolated places like those in the film still exist today!” Even though the concept of surfing was completely new to the North Koreans, they met the new sport with a strong enthusiasm. “People were so excited to surf that they even tired us out!” Ryley said.
At the end of the surf camps the team held an awards ceremony, in which each instructor affirmed and acknowledged their KITC pupils and then gave them each a chance to speak about their experience. “I specifically remember three of the people who shared,” long-term staff member Robert McDaniel said. “The man I taught to surf was probably the best surfer of the group. He stood up the most and was the most active. I remember pushing him on a wave and thinking that if the one reason I came to North Korea was for this one wave, then it was enough. At the awards ceremony he stood up and told us, ‘Surfing is my best friend.’ Among the other participants, was a man who shared that he believes surfing is bringing peace between Korea and America. Another KITC surf pupil shared, ‘Surfing has made me brave. Before this I didn’t want to try things…I was afraid. Now I want to try new things.’”
Of course, everyone wants to know what the surf was like in North Korea! For two of the surf days the coast was like a lake, but on the third day an offshore typhoon generated a little swell, perfect for beginning surfers. The final day, consistent, glassy, overhead sets came in. The STN team had an amazing session all to themselves, and their students were treated to a show of the best surfing they’d ever seen. The locals of the Majon area named the surf spot “Pioneers”.
Robert, who has served on STN’s international department and been on most of STN’s international surf trips, said that in comparison to all his travels, nothing was quite like North Korea. “This was the first time seeing surfing enter a country. Being able to witness the first moments of a nation’s surf history was incredible. People know Hawaii as the first place that was surfed, and you just wonder, could North Korea be known as one of the last?’’
STN is hoping that this is not the last time they’ll be in North Korea, and with the stoke already spreading in the country, there is sure to be a demand for more boards besides the 13 they already left behind on this trip, knowledge and instruction in the future. STN is excited to see North Koreans gain a love for the water in their own country, and become, like the surf spot, ‘Pioneers’ for the surf culture of North Korea.
The Surf Camp
And when the surf picked up…
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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
Two brothers, Nainoa and Makana, capturing their exploration of their Hawaii Nei through the air, on land and in the sea.
Designer and adventurer. A Hawaii local capturing the beauty of his surroundings and friends.
The man who made the unique beauty of shore-breaking waves and the fantasy of Hawaii visually accessible to the ravenous masses.
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.
Hawaii’s Oahu-based, no-cost surf magazine connecting local surfers with local stories, local businesses and local events.
A young fashion designer and lifestyle trend-setter living on the North Shore of Oahu and living “a life that demands an explanation”.
Shark attack survivor, surfer, environmentalist and photographer.
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)
For the next ten days, Surfing The Nations is collaborating with SOL (Stoked On Life) to bring you some limited edition “Surfers Giving Back” apparel and promote the idea of using your talents and passions to make a positive impact!
100% of the sale proceeds go to Surfing The Nations along with all of the merchandise on SOL’s website (solsunglasses.com) for the next ten days. Visit teespring.com/surfersgivingback to check out the limited edition t-shirt, tank and hoodie!
Today’s blog is from our amazing Ulu Pono Kids Director, Katie Connor. This woman has an amazing (and patient!) heart for the kids on our street – and in my opinion, one of the toughest jobs at STN! She is constantly striving to make the program the best it can be and provide the children with every opportunity possible. However, there is one thing she cannot do – stop the kids from growing up! In today’s guest blog, she explains her plans and hopes for the Ulu Pono Kids program as its members become too old to be called “kids.”
“Ulu Pono Teens” – to this day, the name of this 4 month old program cracks me up. But let me set the stage before I explain why it makes me chuckle so much. The Ulu Pono Kids Program was created four years ago when the staff at Surﬁng The Nations saw a great need to hold an after-school program for the elementary age kids in the local area. The program was an immediate hit and quickly became a home away from home for them.
However, as many of those kids are now in middle school and high school, their interests have changed and most of their younger siblings attend the program. This age gap has caused many of them to drop out as it is hard to engage a 5 year old and 13 year old in the same lesson and social setting. We came to the realization that we needed to go back to the drawing board and create a program that would give the teens a safe place to learn and hang out while appealing to their age group.
Hence, Ulu Pono Teens was created. But at ﬁrst the program was nameless. As a staff, we tried to come up with a name that might appeal to teenagers – Wahiawa Gangstas, Ohai Ballers etc… We decided that at our ﬁrst meeting we would present the names to the kids, let them make their own suggestions, and then cast a vote!
Their favorite was “Ulu Pono Teens,” a name they created and they have shamelessly owned ever since (despite the fact that many are still 11 and 12 years old!). It is a simple name, but it describes perfectly where they have come from, who they are now and even who they are becoming. Although, it still makes me laugh that they didn’t like any of the elaborate names we had created!
To be in Ulu Pono Teens you must be in sixth grade or older, but our oldest kids are only 14 at the moment. Because of their age we have been able to do things that some of the younger kids may not yet be able to do, such as snorkeling, hiking and trips to the museum. Our heart is to show these kids that there is “life” and a future for them beyond their street and neighborhood; that they have the opportunity to follow their passions if they work hard. We also teach them basic leadership principles through simple things like neighborhood clean-ups to help them understand the importance of being upright citizens and members of their community.
We are so proud of these kids and are excited to see them continue to grow and develop into young adults over the next few years. We know that these kids have the power to inﬂuence the future of this community and we are honored to be a part of the continued change happening in Wahiawa, Hawaii.
To keep up with Katie’s personal adventures as the Ulu Pono Kids Director, follow her blog at adventurewahiawa.wordpress.com!
Indonesia, more recently known for its perfect waves, has been recognized since the 1500′s for its prized export goods among traders and tourists. Although traveling to Indonesia no longer requires jumping on a Dutch merchant vessel, the unique items found there are still highly desired by those living in the Western world.
On our trip to Indo, each team member is asked to bring 2 suitcases full of donations to give out while there, and use only a carry-on for all of his or her personal items. Given this space limitation, we want to know which treasures the individuals on the trip decided to bring back to Hawaii! Below are a few of our staffs’ favorite Indonesian finds.
1. Balinese Dancer Carving. The art you can find in Indonesia is unreal! This carving is of a Balinese dancer, a traditional form of dance in Indonesia. From carvings to paintings, there is so much artistic talent in Indonesia.
2. Batik Sarong (Pareo). Another traditional Indonesian art form, is the practice of batik fabric dying. This sarong (known here in Hawaii as a “pareo”) is just one of the hundreds of variations in color and pattern you can find Indonesia.
3.Sunnies. With all of the Aussie tourists in Bali, we started to adapt to the culture and began to call sunglasses “sunnies”! You can find knock-offs on every corner for about $2 a piece.
4. Bracelets on Bracelets on Bracelets… If you go to Indo and leave without buying a bracelet (male or female) our hat is off to you! Vendors all over Indo love to make these and often recruit their adorable children to help them in the selling process – gets us every time.
5. Shells. One of the only souvenirs in Indo you won’t have to bargain for.
6. Bali Girls’ Shorts. Attention women: These funky shorts are the most comfortable and useful pair of shorts you will ever own. You can wear them to shop/ surf / sleep /travel – almost anything! One size fits all and you can bargain them down to 30.000 rupiah ($3!)
7. Seaweed Flavored Lay’s Potato Chips! I know many of you may read this and think, “yuck!” However, if you love sushi (as most Hawaiians do!), you would love these! If you go to Indo, this is a must try!
8. Batik Backpack. Just another amazing item you can get made out of batik fabric.. Perfect for day trips in Indo.
9. Bow and Arrow. Katniss would be in heaven if she saw all the beautifully carved bows you can find in Indo. We can’t guarantee their straightness or proper weighting, but they are pretty cool to hang on your wall!
10. Bali Mens’ Shorts. Men, this one is for you! They may run a little short, but almost every male on our trip came home with a pair – and then some! We recommend them for swimming / surfing, but we’ve definitely caught a few wearing them around our office at STN!
11. Rupiah. Have you ever wanted to be a millionaire? Well, if you have more than $100 to your name you already are in Indonesia! The current rate is 10.000 to 1! Careful though – you’ll spend it faster than you would think!
12. Trucker Hats. Last, but not least, trucker hats! We decided we couldn’t leave Indo without a little something to shamelessly represent it once we got back to Hawaii.
*Not featured: Beng-Bengs!! If you’ve been to Indo, your mouth should be watering right now just at the thought of them! For those who haven’t, this is Indonesia’s version of a Kit-Kat bar .. None made it back because we ate them all!
On My Bookmarks Bar:
Charis Bauer Ifland, Business Director
This week, we are sharing Charis Ifland’s favorite bookmarked websites. As a wife, business director and world traveler, this girl knows which websites are the best for helping her keep the many moving parts of her life in order! Take note, the next few websites you may want to remember!
1. Mint.com is a great tool to organize and manage your finances! It brings your financial information to one place, you can create a budget, and set goals to plan for the future. It helps save and enjoy the important things in life!
Last Saturday, Surfing The Nations got to participate in the 11th annual Wahiawa Pineapple Parade and Festival! We had a fun day celebrating the little town of Wahiawa we proudly call home with the rest of our community. From delicious local food vendors to an entire row of colorful bounce-houses, nearly everyone resident of Wahiawa came out on the sunny summer afternoon to take part in the festivities. The change that is occurring in Wahiawa is amazing and we love getting to be a part of it! Enjoy the photo recap below and see yet another reason why we love Wahiawa.
To learn more about the Pineapple Festival click here.