Today’s blog comes from Katie Redmond, our incredible, world-traveling humanitarian barista at Surfers Coffee Bar! Katie just recently returned from an STN surf trip to Sri Lanka! Here she shares about the land of the Jungle Book and all she experienced there.
In 1998, Sri Lanka breached the radar of Surfing the Nations. STN found the world-class point break wave known as Main Point on the tip of Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka. Sixteen years later, I had the privilege of seeing this masterpiece with my very own eyes on the 12th annual Surfing The Nations outreach trip.
Myself and five others trekked across the width of Sri Lanka from Colombo to Arugam Bay where we spent the entirety of our 24 day trip. Our team consisted of five who came with Surfing The Nations, and we were also joined by a couple from Italy, a team from Bali, a team from Southern California, and a local family.
In an environment with a widespread mix of locals and tourists, it was refreshing to stay in a village where we could really get to know the people. I could take a walk through the village and see faces that have names I knew at every turn. We held a number of activities during our stay: women’s tea, surf school, movie night, and, my favorite, Family Night.
On Family Night, we would hop in a tuk tuk to the next city and bought multitudes of chickens, coconuts, vegetables, spices and rice. The smells were overwhelming. Surrounded by mothers, daughters, and sisters, we sat crowded on a single mat on the floor, cutting kilos of vegetables and the largest amount of garlic I have ever seen. We then started serving families the creation we made. We started with 70 paper plates and soon found ourselves scrounging for more. Ninety people ate dinner with us in one night. These evenings were filled with laughter, family, dancing, spicy food, and warmth. The families adopted us into theirs so quickly; I marvel at their acceptance and long to be back in it.
Whether the waves were pumping way overhead or barely a ripple, we surfed and swam the East coast of Sri Lanka. Joining us were children and women who once were terrified of the ocean as they watched it rip their village apart in the 2004 tsunami. I watched a woman who once would not leave her home alone catch her first wave, and I understood her reality in a new way. In a highly Muslim community, infused with Buddhism and Hinduism, it is not a culture that is comfortable with women surfers. This woman was also mother of a Sri Lankan surfer and she has seen the opportunities her son had been given through surfing. He competed in the Red Bull Ride My Wave competition, and she began to encourage the girls in her family to surf.
In a culture so founded on family, it is surprising to see the absence a father figure plays in the children’s lives. As we surfed or swam with the local boys daily, we found they were longing to be involved in everything we did. They even volunteered to help us rebuild the STN Sri Lankan property fence. A group of eight 16 year old boys, one father, and the 5 of us partially clueless team members worked side by side for days and hours. These boys with pasts I can barely put into words simply want to be wanted and to do something significant.
Finally, the day to leave the country I had come to love arrived. We walked the village, stopping house to house to say our goodbyes. One of the 16 year old boys we spent a lot of time with hugged us all and simply said, “No goodbye. See you later”.
Until next time Sri Lanka, until next time
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…
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 email@example.com 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)
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)
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!
The Indo team is back and still getting over jet-lag, but they had an amazing trip this year! Approximately 40 team members from Sweden, Canada and the United States spent three weeks traveling through the islands of Bali, Lombok, Nusa Lembogan, Gili, and Sumbawa. We’ll be bringing you more stories and updates soon! Here’s some of their instagram highlights. Enjoy!
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 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!”
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