Surfing is infamous for being chosen by kids over school since anyone can remember (probably since its existence!) And who can blame them? Of course, surfing is more fun than sitting in a classroom hour after hour. But the freedom that is felt when skipping class to surf, crashes down as the kids go into the ocean of adulthood; when their lack of education hinders their ability to live productive and debt-free lives.
One non-profit organization, Balikbayod (Returning Wave) is revolutionizing the way kids approach education and surfing by creating a program that incorporates both. When you break down Balikbayod, bayod is Suriganon (language of the island of Siargao) for ‘wave’ and balik means ‘to return. Balik both reflects the Filipiono-American founders who return to their island, and the culture of giving back that they are committed to bring with them.
The concept of bringing opportunities for surfing to the kids of the Philippines came when Balikbayod founder, Lynn, was visiting her native country. She noticed that nearly everyone enjoying the Philippine’s waves were not local Filipinos, but tourists. Lynn wanted to see the kids enjoy the wealth of their country’s waves. One of the kids asked her to bring them a board when she came back. Knowing that she could not bring a board for just one child, she started to think of ways to make surfing possible for the kids in Siargao.
Through a team of hardworking volunteers, an after-school board borrowing program was put together at the surf break known as ‘Cloud 9’. The dream of seeing the kids of Siargao have access to boards was realized, but there was the age-old problem of the kids choosing to surf over their studies!
The teachers on Siargao island sought out a partnership with Balikbayod, and together they came up with a plan to keep the kids in the water and the classroom.
The kids are not allowed to attend the program unless they are confirmed by the teachers to be attending school and maintaining good grades. If they’ve already dropped out of school, they have the opportunity to use the boards if they continue their schooling through the alternative learning system. The after-school program instills a culture of sharing and mentorship, as the kids learn to share all of the boards, make repairs when needed, and the older kids teach the younger ones how to surf. Surfing The Nations has had the chance to see the local groms stoked and thriving through this powerful combination of ambition in and out of the water that Balikbayod promotes.
Balikbayod has found a way to not only integrate education into a surf lifestyle, but make it a primary part of it: They have made education the currency of surfing for the kids on Siargao. This system is changing the mindsets of kids and teaching them how to value their education and take care of each other. It’s teaching them to honor, care for and take ownership of the opportunities given them, whether it’s a homework assignment or a surfboard. Balikbayod’s motto is, “Supporting education first, through the love of surfing.” One can only imagine how much of a positive impact this is going to have on future generations of Filipinos.
While there are team members running the board borrowing program at Cloud 9, there is a whole team facilitating the acquiring and sending of the boards in the Bay Area of California. The community in San Francisco comes alongside Balikbayod, from donating boards, to participating in board repairing parties and fundraising events. If you’re in the San Fran area, make sure to check out their art fundraiser at the I-Hotel, July 28th and August 25th! Check out their website for more ways to get involved!
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!”
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!”
Jeremy Seick, Zack Williams, and Renee Arnold from Surfing The Nations are here in Mexico City recruiting. We are being hosted by the amazing Maria “Nana” and Paola in one of the craziest cities we’ve ever been in. Here are some highlights from our first couple days. One of our first stops was Maria and her brother Rodrigo’s school Beraca, in Saint Jeronimo. We chatted it up with passionate young people, one of our favorite being Emilio who gave Zack a tech deck to “remember him” by.
Then it was off to Transformacion Urbana located in Chimalhuacan, 2 hours away from our home base but amazingly still within Mexico City (this place is massive). After being led through at least an hour of shanty homes and towns we reached the organization, and were given a tour of their programs. Transformation Urbana is an organization that equips and educates people in low-income communities. This education spans from local government to healthy eating and living through Zumba and soy supplement cooking classes. Oh and for lunch Zack and I got the pleasure of eating breaded pigs feet.
More of our adventures have included 2 AM taco runs with the whole family, mariachi sessions, dogs with dreadlocks, eating ram, cactus, pigs womb, horchata, and socially acceptable pork rinds. Probably the highlight spontaneous moment of the trip happened during a quick lunch stop at Arroyo. While looking for the mens room Jeremy stumbled upon a bull fighting arena. While watching for just a moment he saw what was a young boy no older than 10 fighting a massive bull. During a maneuver the bull’s horn lifted him up and threw him to the ground Hulk Hogan style, leaving the boy frozen on the ground bleeding. Jeremy ran back to find us and we returned to witness this young boy return to the ring after being bandaged, and having lost the use of one arm, to dominate this beast. He returned with dignity, passion, and confidence like none I’ve seen. He commanded the mariachi’s “Musica!” and defeated the massive bull to the applause of hundreds of onlookers.
It has been a quick yet fabulous month in Bangladesh and the team has been making their way back home to Hawaii. 12 hours on a bus from Coxs Bazar to Dhaka, an airplane through Thailand, and a couple more flights over the Pacific and I’m sure they will be sleeping for the next day just recovering from an exhausting travel.
Rickshaws rides and elephants, surfboards and street-kids, three-pieces and board shorts. You can begin to realize the world of a difference the sport of surfing might pose in a country like Bangladesh. But after only 30 days, the 2012 Bangladesh team hosted a nation-wide surfing competition in Cox’s Bazar, an all-girls surf camp and outreaches to the neighboring country of Myanmar. Continue Reading
The founder of Surfing the Nations, Tom Bauer, loves to collect old surf photographs. There is a great sense of mystery in old photographs that draws in its observers; it beckons us to hear the secrets it may have to tell, to be part of a memory that no one is around to remember anymore. You don’t have to be an antique collector or avid garage saler to enjoy this stuff when a fascinating, addicting website like Retronaut is around. Retronaut is full of literally centuries of images from the the 1800s to the 2000s. It is packed with variety from moving photos, humorous old advertisements to pop culture and much more.In this day and age, where we are always looking for the newest thing, why not give the past a chance to let its richness inspire and enlighten you.
With our annual trip to the Middle East coming up in November, we are particularly stoked on these photos from Egypt in the 1920s.
Enjoy your trip through the past!
Photo: Opening the Mona Lisa at the end of WWII, 1945 from retronaut.co
As promised, the Bangladesh team update! Get a glimpse of what it’s like to be there through the eyes of team member Kirsten Jackson, as she shares her perspective on the country, the people, the experience.
After 3 days of flying and a 14 hour bus ride, we finally made it to beautiful Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
We’ve got an awesome team out here! So much has happened in such a short time. Our days are filled with early morning dawn patrols, promptly followed by breakfast at the local hotspot “Poushee” (Our absolute favorite)! Next, we cruise around Bahatchurat, the town the surf club boys live in. There’s so much to see and experience during the ten minute walk down the main drive : constant honking from the rickshaws and tomtoms, people everywhere, kids on their way to school, market craziness, cows walking in the middle of the road, selling, buying, bartering. You’re hot and sweaty (and, mind you, it’s only 9am). Finally, half way through the town we meet all the families we’ve come to love. This is what life’s about. We are so blessed to be a part of this community and to live life with these beautiful people.
In Bangladesh, life and relationships grow over meals. On average we get fed about 6 meals a day!
The rest of our days are filled with cruising with the surf club guys, visiting with their families, taking the kids surfing, meeting new people, sharing life, market shenanigans, dancing and singing.
Coming up soon we’ve got a pool tournament, birthday parties and of course, STN’s annual Bangladesh Freedom Surf Contest on Friday, September 28! We’re amping and ready to share the stoke of surfing!
Keep checking back for more updates from our Bangladesh team!
Freerunner Ryan Doyle traveled to the Middle East to explore the beauties of Jordan. While there, Ryan was moved by the rich culture and history. Hear what he has to say, and see what he can do in the middle of the desert, on top of ancient monuments and in the caverns of Petra. Continue Reading
On July 16th -August 18, founder of Surfing the Nations Cindy Bauer and two STN staff members, Renee Arnold and Julie Nelson, took off on a trip to Sweden and Ireland. STN Sweden is in its early days of forming and developing so Cindy, Renee and Julie went over to meet with the Swedish staff, help cast the vision and equip the leaders. Renee and Julie jetted off to Ireland for a week to get to know the people there and scout out a place where STN Sweden could send teams to for humanitarian and surf outreaches. Here is an excerpt from Julie that she wrote as the trip was coming to an end: Continue Reading
On September 1st, people all over the US and beyond gathered to participate in ‘Paddle for Daisy’. Surfers from all over came to show their support and help raise the funds needed by the Merrick family to continue Daisy’s treatment as she fights cancer for the third time in her young life.
We believe this act fully embodies ‘surfers giving back.’ Continue Reading