Today’s blog post comes from Ulu Pono director Brittany Southwick. The Ulu Pono program has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, and with the continued support of local charities and volunteers, so have the kids! Brittany writes about the amazing summer that the Ulu Pono kids an teens had and tells us what’s happening this school year
“The summer of 2014 brought deeper relationships, more fun and education to the Ulu Pono Department at Surfing the Nations. Over the months of June and July, we traveled all around the island every Wednesday and Thursday giving the youth experiences outside of Wahiawa, that, realistically, they would usually not be able to have. Using funding from grants received from Friends of Hawaii Charities, we took them to the Honolulu Zoo, Bishop Museum, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, to volunteer at our Feeding the Hungry outreach and even took some of the teens camping for a weekend on the North Shore! The Summer Program is designed to keep the kids out of trouble that they get into during the summer when they are bored, and stuck in Wahaiwa with nothing to do. It rewards them for being consistent with their attendance during the school year, and helps us to get to know the kids on an even deeper level as we spend more time with them.
Now that summer is over, the school year has been in full swing with our Genius Factory program on Wednesdays as well as a brand-new community outreach on Saturday afternoons! Genius Factory focuses on the younger demographic, Pre-school to 5th grade, providing free after school homework help, virtue lessons and healthy outlets such as dance, community clean-ups and art lessons. Our newest outreach, the Ohai Community BBQ is just taking off here in September as a way to reach out to the teenage demographic of Wahiawa. This presents an opportunity for us to connect with not only the kids of Wahiawa, but their families as well. Students from our internship program are involved in our Ulu Pono outreaches each week, fostering an even more community-minded lifestyle within Surfing the Nations. Ulu Pono means “To thrive on a Righteous Path” which is our heart behind the program- and none of it would be possible without the support and grant money from Friends of Hawaii Charities each year. We are so thankful and honored to receive their support and know that none of this is possible without them. We are looking forward to the 2014-2015 school year and all the growth that is going to happen in each one of our kids! ” – BS
To find out how you can volunteer or if you’d like more information on the Ulu Pono program, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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…
The 17th Annual Indonesia trip has come to a close. I had the amazing opportunity to lead this adventure trip full of amazing people. Our diverse team of 21 included surfers, photographers, musicians, college students, and a family of four!
We started in Kuta, Bali and over the course of three and a half weeks, went to Bingin, Uluwatu, and Desert Point on Lombok. After that, we jumped on a boat for 7 days to Gili, Sumbawa and Nusa Lembongan. The Indo trip being a surf tour, the team got great surf at world class breaks: Impossibles, Scar Reef, Desert Point, and Shipwrecks, just to name a few. At one point, we sailed through such rough waters that our boat nearly capsized, beating any roller coaster ride money could buy, and causing us all to laugh uncontrollably as we slipped across the boat.
When trying to describe the overall experience of Indonesia, I find myself coming back to the same word:
The surf was both perfect and threatening, the culture was colorful and bold, and the wildlife is up close and personal, a lesson quickly learned from repeat monkey invasions! The nature around us was captivating: the cliffs of Uluwatu, the views of Bingin Beach, the long jaw-dropping barrels at Desert Point, and the breathtaking views of rugged Sumbawa.
On top of getting amazing surf and a ton of laughs, we were consistently reaching out to the communities around us. One of the most amazing experiences was when we were in Desert Point on Lombok.We met a man who had his house halfway built and needed the funds and work to finish it. We had a contractor and a carpenter on the team with us, so they went to his house to check it out.After assessing the need and figuring out what we could do, the team pooled together and provided enough funds for him to get 20 days worth of labor and all the supplies he needed to have his house completed. This man was just one of the people we were able to help on the trip. We passed out clothing and school supplies everywhere we went, helped meet practical needs whenever we could, hung out with the locals, and made lifelong friends.
We also had Cameron Taylor with us, a Hawaii bodyboarder sponsored by Empire bodyboards.Empire generously stocked Cameron up with some brand new bodyboards to give to the kids in one of the most remote locations, Desert Point village on the island of Lombok. When you saw the kids get the chance to play on a board in the waters that they live right in front of their entire lives, you know it’s a gift that will keep on giving.People ask me if Indonesia was good, and I tell them Indonesia was everything: It was good, it was fun, it was hard, it was tiring, it was crazy, it was totally different from anything I’ve done, it was adventure at its essence, and it was worth every second!
For more info on the Indo trip, or to apply for next year, visit www.surfingthenations.com or email email@example.com
To see photos from our trips on instagram search #stngo
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit surfingthenations.com/donate.
Photo Credit: http://www.arcticsurfblog.com/2012/07/surf-guide-to-north-korea/
Written By: Akela Newman
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)
Meet Mitchell Guapo. A fresh-faced, 18 year old native of the High Desert of California. After graduating high school, Mitchell came to Oahu and interned with Surfing The Nations. Seeing that Surfing The Nations was a great place from which to impact the world around him, he joined STN’s full time staff as the coordinator of Ulu Pono Teens program for at-risk youth. A life in Hawaii was already far beyond his wildest dreams, but little did he know the ride was about to get that much crazier!
A few months ago, the founders of Zhou Enlai Peace Institute from China came by to check out STN’s vintage shop, The Vintage. After receiving a tour of STN, they were inspired and asked if a representative from STN could come and speak at a conference they were putting on for Chinese youth. They were looking specifically for a teenager from STN to represent the youth of America. Mitchell’s young age made him the perfect candidate for this opportunity!
It was my first time leaving the country so I was stoked!’ explains Mitchell. He was given the task of preparing a 20 minute speech about how to achieve world peace, and deliver it to a large audience. ‘That was definitely one of the biggest challenges: getting mentally prepared to talk to over 1,000 people!’ Few of us can feel prepared to talk about achieving world peace at any age, much less at 18! Mitchell’s main points boiled down to this message: We can only achieve peace in our homes, communities and the world after we have found peace within ourselves.
He arrived in Shanghai after flying for over 11 hours. Mildly jet-lagged and extremely excited, Mitchell made his way to speak at the event in Tong Li. In the ballroom of a hotel, he looked at the place where he would be speaking from. “It was a massive stage, with a large LED screen behind me, a runway before me, and an audience made up of people from all over the world.” The whole set up was mind blowing. Nerves aside, Mitchell delivered his talk with the help of a translator, and received roaring applause.
Mitchell ended up staying in China for a total of ten days, spoke a few more times and made plenty of new friendships. When asked for his favorite memory of the trip, he was at a loss for words. “The entire experience was great; from the people to the city to the food, it’s hard to choose just one highlight. One the coolest things was hearing from the both the youth and adults about how inspired they were to see a counter-cultural lifestyle. They were surprised to find out that I was a full time volunteer, and moved by the fact that people believe in what I’m doing at STN enough to sponsor me to be on staff there. I’m glad I got to inspire them to live selflessly and out of the box in their own communities.”
Mitchell is back in action here at Surfing the Nations, continuing to mentor the youth in Wahiawa. At only eighteen years old, Mitchell has already been able to express just a few of his “out-of-the-box” passions and dreams at Surfing the Nations.
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
This Spring, Surfing The Nations embarks on their 10th annual Bangladesh Surfing Adventure, from April 9th until May 3rd. The team will be venturing to the outer island of St. Martin, as well as surfing Cox’s Bazar, and holding the annual Freedom Surf Contest, the only surf contest in the country.
In keeping with their mission of giving back, the team is collecting surf gear and clothing for the surf club in Cox’s Bazar, and also bringing clothing and supplies to the Burmese refugee population.
It is incredible to see how the sport has grown since STN first started to go to Bangladesh in 2004, and even more fascinating to see how surfing has impacted Bengali girls. Nasima is one of those girls whom STN has had the privilege to introduce surfing to.
Filmmaker Heather Kessinger was inspired to capture the story of Nasima and give a glimpse into the life of the young women in Bangladesh. The final leg of the film entitled ‘The Most Fearless’ will include footage from the Freedom Surf Contest.
Check out the trailer for ‘The Most Fearless’ below and watch this space for more updates on the trip!
(Don’t forget to follow us on instagram @surfingthenations and watch the hashtag #stngo for photo updates!)
In the end of 2013, STN went on their first ‘pioneer’ trip to Turkey. Today, staff member Gisele Pitot shares a little about the trip:
“When I think of a pioneer I picture a David Livingstone-esque character: grizzly and sweaty, hacking through the jungle with a machete while mosquitos feast on him. I picture safari hats and lot of khaki. But on an STN pioneer trip, things look a little different (although we still had some grizzly men!). Skateboards, stickers, cameras, GPS signals and the odd map were our tools in our very first trip to the Eurasian country of Turkey.
We left the American turkeys behind us as we flew out of Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day last year, setting off on a 25-day adventure to this foreign land. Our crew of 11 came from as far as Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Hawaii, North Carolina and Canada but we all had the same question in common – is Turkey a place where the message of “Surfers Giving Back” can thrive? And besides the lack of waves (this is where the skating came in) the answer was a resounding ‘yes’!
There are only 25 surfers in the entire country of Turkey. The surf community is slowly growing and their enthusiasm for surfing cannot be matched. In places where the surf industry is already booming, there are also negative habits and lifestyles that often follow. Yet, Turkey remians untouched by the dark sides of surf culture. The surfing lifestyle there is healthy and positive. When the waves weren’t good, we grabbed skateboards and spent time hanging out with locals, skating any ramp or street we could. The friends we made were not only passionate about board riding but also about using their passion of surfing to bring unity and positive change in their communities.
From the epic history of Istanbul and Ephesus, the beautiful relationships built with the surfers of the Black Sea and the Danube Surf Academy, all the way down to the sunny southern Mediterranean city of Alanya, this was a trip to remember. We are stoked to return to Turkey and give back through surfing in 2014!” -GP
Here are a few photos from the trip. View the entire set on our Flickr!