Project Serve, an alternative spring break program offered by Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, allows students to travel together on an adventure and experience a “vacation” where the focus is not on themselves, but on serving others.
Project Serve teams, which are composed of students and led by students, travel to many locations in the U.S. as well as internationally. The goal in doing so is to remove comfort zones and increase student awareness of issues being faced by others around the world.
For the past two years, Surfing the Nations has been selected by Pepperdine University as one of the opportunities offered within the program. While both Pepperdine and STN have similar goals regarding the service of others and fostering leaders, we find a significant point of connection through surfing. Rated one of the top ten surf colleges by SURFER Magazine, Pepperdine’s association with STN is a perfect fit.
Pepperdine students that have been involved with STN’s programs through Project Serve share the experiences they have had with our organization and the impact our interactions have had on their learning experiences.
Sarah Madsen, Senior at Pepperdine:
This past spring break, I had the honor of co-leading a group of 25 students on a service project in Wahiawa, Hawaii, where the organization Surfing the Nations is located. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. My team and I did a wide array of activities, from barbecuing at Waikiki and sharing meals with homeless and visitors alike, to helping hand out donations from the food bank, to surfing (of course!)…and I loved every minute of it.
All of the interns at STN were so welcoming and hardworking, and they really showed love in all they did. I am overjoyed that Pepperdine has strengthened their ties with such a wonderful organization, and I’m excited that more of my peers will have the opportunity to volunteer with STN!
It is amazing to see how STN is being used to do great things in Wahiawa, and I’m excited to see [future groups of] Pepperdine students be inspired to join in!
There are a several memories that stand out most prominently when I think back on my time with Surfing the Nations. One, among many, is watching a poor, single mother’s face light up when founder Tom Bauer sold her a computer for $4. Another is STN treating us like family from our first encounter and teaching us to surf during our first day there. Another is having lunch and conversations with homeless people on the beach.
Falon Opsahl, Junior at Pepperdine:
I was a member of the first Pepperdine team to work with STN for Project Serve in 2013. We were given the chance to explore the island and serve the people for a week. By the end, my body was sore and exhausted, but my heart was refilled, my mind was refocused, and my soul was rejuvenated.
Between surfing on the North Shore of Oahu, clearing a riverbank of debris, cleaning and reorganizing an ex-strip club that had been converted into a storage house for goods for the poor, hiking and jumping off waterfalls, feeding and hanging out with the homeless, and staying up late bonding with my Pepperdine team and the long-term STN team members, it was one of the most draining and inspiring experiences of my life.
I am grateful that I was able to pioneer the Project Serve partnership with STN. I am excited for my fellow Pepperdine students, present and future, who will be able to experience and spread the love, generosity, and selflessness of the STN organization and its team members.
Esther Kang, Sophomore at Pepperdine:
When I first found out that I was assigned to spend my Spring Break in Hawaii, I was “stoked” as the Hawaiians call it. Great waves, an opportunity to serve the people of Hawaii and an awesome group of friends….What more could I ask for? My experience at STN, however, was so much more than this. STN has left a mark on my character and now holds a very special place in my heart that I will treasure for the rest of my life. During my stay in Wahiawa I was consistently challenged, exhausted and pushed to my limits but this further ensued an increase in my faith, a deep sense of connection with the people around me, and the most fun and satisfaction that I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Our first day serving food at Waikiki beach especially opened my eyes and helped me to reflect on my own character; It not only prompted me to see how blessed I am to be able to afford shelter, education and basic necessities, but this experience and the people I’ve conversed with also forced me to see the selfishness and oblivion that I have been living in day to day. One of my jobs that day was to hand out grocery bags that contained different canned foods and other goods in them. I remember giving a bag to one woman who waited next to me until most of the bags were given away. She finally shyly approached me and said that she already received a bag but that she would like one more to bring to her neighbor who needs it more than she does. She had politely waited another hour to make sure that she could bring home another bag for her neighbor. As I handed her another bag she thanked me with all her heart and I couldn’t help but think that I should be thanking her more for showing me what true selflessness looked like. Throughout the week I was able to witness many more similar acts of genuine altruism and kindness by people who I would have simply passed by if I was in Hawaii as a tourist.
Furthermore, each and every STN crew member has taught me that a life of service and devotion is far more valuable than a life that is lived to serve myself. The enduring enthusiasm and determination of the STN staff has inspired me to take further steps to live a life for a greater purpose and adopt a heart of service even if this simply means taking baby steps within my community. The peace and satisfaction that I felt while serving at STN was like no other and if I had the opportunity to work with STN again, I would do it a hundred times over.
As Pepperdine students and the STN crew worked hand in hand, I truly felt surrounded by my family, or my “Ohana,” and I am thankful every day that we have been paired together for a greater cause. I personally feel that Pepperdine’s accreditation of the STN internship program would be a great way to lead Pepperdine students to an experience of a lifetime. There are very few experiences that significantly leave a mark on a person’s character, and I have no doubt that my experience at STN has done this to my life along with many others. It has impacted the way I see the world, and helped determine the path that I will ultimately choose to take in life.
To learn more about Pepperdine University visit: http://www.pepperdine.edu
To learn more about Project Serve visit: http://www.pepperdine.edu/volunteercenter/opportunities/projectserve/
Written By: Akela Newman
(Photos courtesy of Esther Kang, Pepperdine Project Serve 2014)
Besides hitting the waves on International Surfing Day, another great way to celebrate the stoke of the ocean is to check out Reef’s latest surf short, “De Passage” created by Director and Cinematographer Russell Brownley in conjunction with Reef’s Global Creative Director, Mark Tesi.
Brownley is known for surf films such as “Walking on Water,” “Fading West” and “Promised Land” but is particularly special to Surfing the Nations because of his short documentary on Bangladesh called “Gum for my Boat.” Known for his ability to connect surfing and culture in meaningful ways, the debut of Brownley’s latest work is perfectly timed for International Surfing Day.
Brownley’s portrayal of the natural beauty of the ocean as well as the raw stoke of the people who surf its swells emphasizes the magnified beauty of each when the two meet in highly charged interactions. Add on the element of travel and “De Passage” fulfills every surf film’s potential to be an addictive, adrenaline-packed adventure laid out before the viewers’ eyes. The surreal qualities of Brownley’s videography convey the stoke that every surfer can identify with and that so many non-surfers long to experience.
“De Passage,” French for “Just Passing Through,” follows the surf adventures of Reef representatives throughout five continents and some of the worlds best surf spots. One of the fiercest breeds of explorers in our modern age are surfers. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected throughout all arenas of life, it is important to take time to appreciate the elements of nature that make surfing such a beautiful adventure all around the world.
While this is only the 10 year anniversary of Surfrider Foundation’s International Surfing Day the ideals that it focuses on are a part of our daily goals here at STN. Surfrider Foundation and Surfing Magazine started International Surfing Day as an initiative to combine the fun of surfing with the responsibility of caring for the environment. We at STN focus on combining surfing with humanitarian work locally and internationally…making every day International Surfing Day.
Click here to watch the full length film:
(Written By: Akela Newman)
Although a free T-Shirt for someone in need may seem like a small act, we believe that it can lead to greater and bigger acts of kindness ,progression, and togetherness. We would also like to raise an awareness of selflessness and the spirit of giving. For who ever wears “BLSD” apparel, we want them not to just look good but to feel good as well.”
For every shirt that BLSD sells, they will give one to a child in the Ulu Pono Kids program. It is a very special and often rare thing for the kids to be able to get brand new clothing items. It will be an amazing way to invest in a child and show them they are worth it!
Today’s blog comes from Katie Connor, the director of STN’s Ulu Pono program. To see more photos and read more about her life working with the kids of Wahiawa, visit her blog.
Do you remember your first piano recital or football game? The weeks of practice and the butterflies in your stomach? Do you remember looking up into the bleachers or squinting from the bright stage into the dark crowd? And there they were: the people who had pushed (maybe slightly forced) you to be there. They looked at you with love and pride, trying to mask their own anxiety for you. They belonged to you; they were your parents.
I remember many moments like this growing up and I long for those moments now when I’m living thousands of miles away. But the kids I work with don’t ever get moments like that. Maybe mom and dad are too busy, or gone completely, or just uninterested. Many of the kids have never been to a soccer practice or a ballet class. The street is where they spend their afternoons. The street and the Ulu Pono Kids Program. They may never hear their parents tell them how proud they were or that it was okay that they dropped the final pass. Often times it just isn’t a part of their culture. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t tell them we are proud of them! So this weekend, that is exactly what we did!
The Ohai Family Festival was a dream that we had cultivated for over a year before it came to pass. Many hours of dreaming, hoping, wishing and planning came to life in a beautiful afternoon. For four hours last Saturda,y everything was about the kids. The games, the prizes, the music, the shave ice. All because we were proud of them and we loved them.
Half way through the afternoon, we awarded each child from the program a “Character Award” they were called up on stage in front of everyone and amazingly there were even some parents in the crowd. They got a hug, a certificate, encouragement and an affirmation by different staff members. Most of them got really shy about it, red cheeked and squirming they got on stage and while they acted like they wanted to run off the stage, I know them better than that. They love, love. Don’t we all?
It’s hard to gauge success when working with kids. How do you measure “getting into less trouble” or “headed on a better path”? Three days after the festival, I went to pick up a 5 year old boy from his home. I know his parents well and his mom had come to the festival. I walked through the living room that consists of several mattresses and barely enough room to walk and picked up his baby sister out of the crib. That’s when I spotted it. His purple certificate pinned amongst the mess up on the wall. My heart swelled with pride and I choked up as the reality that his parents had taken the time to make sure his award was hung really sunk in. That is the kind of “success” I want to see. The kind that transforms an entire family from the inside out. -KC
Iconic Hawaiian artist Clark Takashima tragically passed away last weekend and here at STN we are saddened by the loss of this friend and supporter. Clark was not only a famous surf artist on the island, but had a heart to give back through his passion. He was a returning headline artist in several of our art shows and generously donated a portion of the sales made to our kids’ program, Ulu Pono.
Mahalo for your contribution to art on the island and being part of inspiring the kids in this at-risk neighborhood to pursue art.
We are so grateful for the people that believe in transformation and hope, and our efforts would be fruitless without them. Below are the contents of a special note we received recently from such a person:
“Dear Mr. Bauer,
So much positive changes are occurring right in front of our eyes because of your determined efforts! We are all beginning to set claims and pride on our residency in what is becoming the beautiful Wahiawa we always hope for, despite numerous negative issues. Your efforts are too often overlooked by us. Many decent businesses are now willing to “chance” Wahiawa while earlier we were overlooked as a possible risk.
Aloha for Hawaii Charities (AHC) is a unique fundraising opportunity in which charities selected by the Friends Of Hawaii Charities can raise funds through the community’s involvement.
Through AHC, Friends Of Hawaii Charities plans to match a portion of individual donations in an amount to be determined by the Friends of Hawaii Charities.
The Friends Of Hawaii Charities has played a huge role in the transformation of lower Wahiawa and bringing hope to the neighborhood. Specifically, the grants received from FOHC have helped to start and sustain the Ulu Pono after school program. Through this support, dozens of at-risk youth have received tutoring, lessons in art, dance, and music, as well as mentorship and a safe place to enjoy childhood.
The funds received from this Aloha for Hawaii Charities fundraiser will go towards the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the STN headquarters.
The donation period is now through January 12, 2014, 4:00 PM HST.
To give, visit http://www.friendsofhawaii.org/aloha-hawaii-charities and select ‘ Surfing The Nations’ on their list of charities when prompted.
Thank you for making this holiday season one of Aloha!
Tomorrow, November 15th, and Saturday, November 16th, 63 S. Kamehameha Highway will be overrun by artists and musicians, vendors, surfers and surf enthusiasts from all over. STN’s ‘Surf Art And The Surfer’ art show serves to gather the island of Oahu to celebrate the sport of surfing and the people who make it great.
In the 30’s and 40’s surfers were viewed as the deadbeats of society who threw off responsibility in exchange for what was deeemed a wasted life. However, today you are just as likely to find a US Senator, a doctor, lawyer, pastor, or any type of businessman in the lineup with groms and surf bums. The sport is now widely enjoyed and appreciated for the simplicity, beauty and positivity that it promotes.
We have invited some of Hawaii’s best surf artists, photographers and collectors to feature their work and show the public how surfing is documented as an art form and as a lifestyle.
Join us as we kick off the winter season on the North Shore and celebrate the world’s greatest sport!
A portion of the art sales this weekend will go towards the humanitarian work of Surfing The Nations.
Yesterday, Surfing The Nations was honored to be named as an Outstanding Advocate For Children and Youth in the state of Hawaii. Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii State Representatives honored several other individuals and organizations as a part of Children and Youth Day, and Children and Youth Month.
We are humbled and stoked to be a part of bringing hope to the next generation of Hawaii!