Surfing The Nations bids farewell to its long-term staff member, Chris Rehrer. After eight years, three cities and over 15 countries with STN, he has left his mark on the character of this organization and impacted many lives around the world. Read to end to see where he’s off to next (ok, it’s Australia!) and all the fun bits in between to get the insider’s look at what it means to be a long-term staffer with STN. -GP
GP: What was your very first full day at STN like?
CR: I arrived on June 15, 2005 at Honolulu airport. I borrowed a cell phone to call the office (I’m old enough to not have owned a cell phone by the age of 21!). I was told to look for two girls driving a white van: Kristin Flynn – who would later be my co-worker for years – was one of the girls to pick me up. She put an orchid lei around my neck and threw me in the car, telling me how much I was going to love Surfing The Nations. We got on the highway to go to Kalihi valley, where STN was then located, when our car sputtered and ran out of gas. We sat in the middle of the intersection, so my first official STN duty was to push a 15-passenger van out of the middle of the road with the other girl in the car, my new little Brazilian friend Sophia. About 25 minutes later, the oldest man in the world to me at that time, Bobby Baggett (who is still with STN!), came down with a gas can to help us out. This was the start of my amazing adventure with STN.
Once we arrived at the property, I was greeted by a team packing for their trip to Indonesia. I met Hanna who was from Switzerland, David (Davo) Strigl who was from Florida, Sam Culver, Shane and Brad from Florida and some others. As I was unpacking, I got this crazy feeling. “What the heck am I doing?” I thought. “I just moved on a one-way ticket to an island in the middle of the ocean!” I soon realized that this was going to either be a terrible decision or a great one but I needed to simply embrace it for what it was and fight the urge to immediately buy a ticket back home.
In the afternoon my friend Petey Helenius, who had convinced me to go to Surfing The Nations with him, arrived and we talked about the adventure ahead. Pretty soon someone invited us to go to the beach to surf. We headed out to Kewalos and had a blast! I remember being surprised by the power of the waves even on the South Shore compared to what I had been used to in California. Later that night, we arrived back at STN where we were having an orientation for the Indonesia trip. I met some people who became my first local friends in Hawaii. They took us around over the next couple of days and taught us about what it was to be a Haole and if someone calls me a kook it’s probably not a good thing. I learned what a moke and titta were as well as how not to speak pidgin!
That was my first full day. The adventure started out amazing and has continued to be an incredible journey. I wouldn’t trade the past eight years of my life with Surfing The Nations, for anything. They are the best years of my life hands down! I will be forever changed from that first day.
GP: What’s the most exciting country you’ve been to with STN?
CR: It would probably be Iran. As soon as Tom and Kristin Flynn and I decided that we were going, people decided to tell us why it was impossible. We were told that we couldn’t get visas as Americans. We were told that if we did get in, we would be harassed by customs officials and put in prison. We were told that it was foolish and that we should look for a better time when it was safer to enter the country. After all of these warnings, we decided to go for it anyway. It was an amazing journey. We had no problems. Kristin and Nikki Beck went one way around the world from the US and Tom and I went through the Middle East. We stopped in Bahrain and Quatar and arrived in Tehran where our official guides met us. We drove through the night and woke up the next morning to fresh snow on the mountains. Throughout the next nine days we made amazing relationships with our guides, their wives, their families and friends. We were welcomed back and we met some of the friendliest people in the world. Everyone was blessed and curious as to why Americans would be coming to Iran when Iran and the USA were obviously so at odds politically.
I think that the risk we took to go there during a time when people said it was stupid, showed the Iranian people that we were just people too, that we didn’t hate Iran, that we loved people. We wanted to be genuine and kind and share life with people all around the world, no matter their religion, ethnic background or nationality. It was one of the greatest trips of my life. The cool thing about going where people aren’t willing to go is that they want to hear about what happened when you went. Tom and Kristin and I had so many opportunities to come and share what our experience was with people when we came back. People always want to be on the cutting edge of things but often times lack the ability to push themselves over. We had pushed the envelope and returned unscathed and now have the stories to tell personally. We lived the adventure on that trip and that’s why I love STN because it’s all about living the life that others want to live but often need an example to follow.
GP: At Surfing The Nations, you get to meet a lot of people and live with a lot of people. Over the past eight years, who has been your best and/or worst and/or weirdest roommate?
CR: My best roommate was Andrew Carrier. He and I spent a couple of years together after my friend Peter Helenius left STN. I liked that we could both be either clean or dirty, which meant that often our room would look super clean and we would both be stoked and often it would look trashed and we would both be stoked!
I think the weirdest roommate I had was Niklas Eriksson because he had a whole closet full of strange moisturizers and lotions. I always told him he should open up a salon or something. He might be the prettiest man I’ve ever met. If I ever have skincare questions there’s no way I’m going to the doctor, I’m just calling up Nik!
GP: What are the things you’ll miss most about STN?
CR: I’m going to miss the friendships and the culture of people who want to live radically. People here are striving to do really great things for the world. I know that this is not unique to STN, but I’ve found it in this family that I have been a part of for eight years. STN is a family; it’s not just a job, so, in a sense, I’m leaving my family and going into the unknown. I will miss traveling the world and meeting 150 new roommates every year. I’ll miss the late night conversations and early morning surf sessions. I’ll miss the adventurous personalities who come through. I’ll miss Swedes arguing about whether spanking is right or wrong, why it’s illegal to fish with live worms. I’ll miss the melting pot of nations who come through Hawaii and STN. I’ll miss the weather! I grew up at STN. I became the person who I am today because of the trials and the joys that happen in that place. I’m 100% positive I would not be the man that I am today with out the experiences of traveling the world with Tom Bauer and having him show me the kind of life that I want to lead. If we’re really all going to just die and take nothing with us when we’re gone then we might as well spend all of our time giving to others while we are here. That is what I’m going to miss about STN but hopefully I’ll take it with me wherever I go and instead of a subtraction it will become a multiplication of what Tom and Cindy Bauer started 16 years ago.
GP: What’s next for you?!
CR: I am going to work with an organization called XXX Church. My first assignment with them is in Australia, so I’m headed there June 1st to start the next adventure!
To keep up with Chris Rehrer, check out his website www.chrisrehrer.com
It’s one of those days when you wish you were in New York city.
Ten people at a time are allowed into the dark room of pouring rain and, with the help of highly sensitive 3D camera motion sensors, will not get wet. What an experience it must be to walk through a downpour and watch the water part for you!
It’s almost a paradox, that such advanced technology would clash with something so natural, and ‘everyday’ as rain.
This exhibit has the power to awaken wonder by the way that one can manipulate the rain, while also giving us the opportunity to see the extraordinary in what we may have wrongfully tagged as ‘normal’.
Sometimes people look for their ‘calling’ in life, and find it after much seeking. For others, their calling finds them. Yosef, real name Hunter Duncan, is a musician whose road seems to have found him. Hunter was captivated by music as a middle schooler in Lexington, South Carolina and since then has poured himself into developing his natural talent as musician, singer and songwriter. From bands in basements, to solo on big city stages, Yosef has come a long way, and is just now gaining more momentum than ever. In the midst of working the release of his first solo album in July, he took some time to answer some questions for us for this week’s Weekend Jam:
EJ: Can you give me a brief background of how you got started playing music?
HD: This whole journey of mine started when I was about 11-12 years old. I came home from summer camp and noticed a guitar on my bed, but back then I had no interest in music whatsoever. My sister wanted to take lessons and she didn’t want to go alone, so I went with her. I’ll never forget sitting there with that tiny three-quarter size guitar and learning those first chords. It felt right, and I wasn’t going to look back. I played more and more everyday and started to play with my friends in middle school. I began writing songs and tried to sound like Nirvana. I played in a few bands throughout the years, the most recent was The Lion In Winter, but then I decided to go solo.
EJ: Being from the middle of a small state like South Carolina, what was the music scene like, and what would you change about it if you could?
HD: The music scene in Columbia is a love-hate situation for me. There are so many talented musicians here and I hate that the city doesn’t recognize them. I feel like the scene is shaping up though. People are trying harder, going on tour, and putting out solid records. But that’s the city, I’m originally from Lexington right outside of Columbia and there was not a music scene at all.
EJ: How would you describe the experience of transitioning from playing with bands into doing solo projects?
HD: I loved playing in bands growing up and playing music with my friends, but it became more difficult for me to deal with 3-4 other people trying to schedule our lives to make shows and practice work. I miss being loud, though. I will have people play with me later this year when I release my record since the record is a full-band record.
EJ: Who are your influences, both musical and non-musical?
HD: My influences are Jeff Buckley, Nirvana, Radiohead, and recently Sleeping at Last. My non-musical influence would the relationships I have had in the past and present.
EJ: What type of lifestyle would you say represents your music?
HD: The lifestyle that would be best fit for my music would be couch surfing. Floating around from place to place sleeping on floors and couches.
EJ: What is your dream gig?
HD: My dream gig is to play at a stadium or something of that size and sell it out. To know that all those people are filling the place out just to see you, I couldn’t imagine the feeling.
EJ: What are your goals for the future?
HD: My goals are to keep my head up, stop getting discouraged so often, put out my new record and start working on the next. I’m working on releasing my first solo record under the name of Yosef, titled “Run Wild”. It should be out this July. I’ll be getting physical copies of it and I’ll work on getting T-shirts to sell at shows. As far as shows go right now I don’t have any booked for this month.
Follow Yosef music here:
Check out the video of his single ‘Run Wild’ below:
And here’s a song he did with fellow South Carolina artist, Mel Washington (to be featured in the future here soon!)
Photo cred: Alexis Schwallier Photography
*This link is no longer active, as it was a limited time offer*
Americans were required to read it as high school students. A story both exciting and troubling at the same time, it’s possible many of us only remember it as an assignment on our calendar. But from May 10th on, thanks to the vision of Baz Luhrmann and the work of countless others, The Great Gatsby will be remembered as explosive and arresting. The film hits theaters next week, and from the looks of the trailers, is sure to enchant.
This week, while we’re waiting for the roaring 20′s extravaganza, we get to sample the musical morsels from the grand party with NPR’s first listen of The Great Gatsby Soundtrack.
Director Baz Luhrmann and hip-hop great Jay-Z teamed up to produce an album that appeals to a variety of tastes, with remixes of soulful songs, upbeat jazz age tunes and some original tracks from some of today’s most talked about artists including: Lana Del Rey, Florence + The Machine, The XX, and Jack White.
Creating a soundtrack for the Great Gatsby is no easy task. It is a packed grenade of emotional fuel: the story itself a raw layer peeled from author F.Scott Fitzgerald’s own life and heartbreak. Add onto that the turmoil of several characters, each facing their own demons, their own longings, regrets and joys. Then,try to incorporate the weight of an excessive, and often elusive American dream, displayed in the glamour and shine of the jazz age.
We’re not sure a single album can ever capture a timeless book, and we’re not putting that on this album itself; Yet we can appreciate that it is a well thought-out and innovative album. What else would we expect from the creator of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrmann? NPR music states “‘He is cinema’s boldest remixer, infusing familiar works with new rhythms that refresh their relevance.’”
At Surfing The Nations, we love things that are out of the box, and it seems that this film and soundtrack is busting out of the borders to bring something new to the table.
Give it a listen this week and get ready for the main event, May 10th at theaters nationwide!
Have a great weekend!
*Disclaimer: Some of the tracks on this album contain explicit lyrics.*
When it comes to adventure, Surfers Leadership School does not mess around. Surfers Leadership School (SLS) takes place during a staff member’s first three months of being on staff. Among reading books, writing papers on leadership, leading group lessons and apprenticing in a department, the ‘crown’ of the three month training is the Big Adventure.
For eight days, SLS students strap on 50-70 pound packs and hike into the Waimanu Valley of Big Island. There in the wilderness, they set up camp right next to a black sand beach and forage for food from the earth and sea. Hiking to waterfalls for water and keeping track of your water purification tablets becomes a number one priority.
The hike is strenuous, but for every painful step, the valley compensates with beauty, eclipsing the present discomforts. The time in the valley is filled with pristine star gazing, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, exploring untamed wilderness, and of course, taking everything learned about leadership and putting it into practice.
Here are are some of the photos captured on the trip:
A few months ago, I blogged about the Black Cab Sessions: where well known musical artists pile in a black cab and record live while driving through the city. It was so fun to watch these musicians get into these cramped spaces and belt their hearts out as they moved through the streets.There’s something about the unexpected environment that made the music seem that much more special.
Now, we bring you a new out-of-the-box recording experience, one with much more space, but just as much randomness!
NPR Music has a series called ‘Field Recordings‘, where musical artists do a live recording in a variety of spaces; sometimes literally in a field, other times on bridges, on top of picnic tables, or in the middle of the forest, to name a few.
Not unlike the Black Cab Sessions, you feel like you’re there with them. You see them goofing off, taking in the scenery, trudging through nature to get to their destination. Some of the videos are slightly humorous as you watch them awkwardly adjust to their surroundings, some of them highly unfavorable for recording.
The one thing I love most about this series is that I imagine these silent and unexpected settings could be where many of these musicians discovered their art: Inspired by nature and their surroundings, inspired by the moments when they were alone. Those are the moments when nothing’s expected, and everything is gain with only the wild for an audience.
See for yourself from our picks below! And next time you go on a hike, bring a guitar, a harmonica or just some pen and paper and your voice and have your own field recording session.
Have a great weekend!
Photo credit: NPR
It’s always fun to work in a place with creative and talented people. Today’s post is from native Floridian and musical artist, Sheree Pantuso (artist name, Sheree Michele). Sheree is currently on staff here at Surfing The Nations, but she first experienced Surfing the Nations when she came to our one-month summer program, Summer Challenge. The Summer Challenge program is packed with opportunities to give back to the community every week, and go exploring the island the other half of the time! Here she gives us her perspective on her month in Summer Challenge (and while you’re at it, give a listen to Sheree’s amazing rapping ability on her new EP here !)
“Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you have felt refreshed on the deepest possible level? Have you experienced a much-needed time of rejuvenating your soul and washing away all of the burdens that life can soil us with?
I experienced this deep refreshing during my experience of serving at Surfing the Nations in the Summer Challenge program. Before I arrived, I felt weary from the place life had me at. I was nervous to move to an unfamiliar place for a month and experience something totally new and different. This leap of faith to go serve and experience the Summer Challenge program turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made!
Participating in Summer Challenge gave me so many incredible experiences and growth opportunities, ranging from acts of serving like Feeding The Hungry to teaching kids how to surf and swim. My eyes were truly opened to the world’s needs around me. I got to experience giving back to the community that I was in and I learned that I really come alive when I put the needs of others before myself. It was a beautiful thing to see the hope and transformation that Surfing the Nations has brought to Wahiawa. To personally be a part of that transformation and witness it first hand was a great honor and joy.
Another aspect of the Summer Challenge program that brought me refreshment was the constant adventure that we pursued : Diving into the beautiful waters of Hawaii and witnessing the beauty of the land is something that will stay with me forever. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to go on different hikes around the island, spear fish for the first time, camp on the beach while falling asleep to the sound of the tossing waves, and of course, surf! I felt like a little child in complete awe of the beauty of everything around me.
I would highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and pursuing an experience like Summer Challenge.Not only does it refine you as a person, but it also refreshes your spirit, soul, and body with new adventures, new friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime. ” -SP
As I was reviewing music, I found myself getting a bit disheartened after hearing a lot of the same laid-back, ethereal sounds. I liked it, but there was a part of me that wasn’t satisfied; something about it that was making me bored (and this is coming from someone who can listen to Debussy all day long). I knew it wasn’t the slow pace of the music, it was that somehow the chill music that sounded so great, at some point started to sound apathetic.
No, I didn’t think everyone should be raging screamo or dubstep re-mixing everything, but I did search for songs with passion and feeling. I was looking for emotional momentum; a good sound paired with a real power.
Enter, The Restoration.
The Restoration is a concept band from Lexington, South Carolina, headed up by native southerner Daniel Machado. The band seems to be very well-named, as its vision goes beyond just making new music, to incorporating genres that have been under-appreciated in this generation and introducing them as prominent players in their sound.
Like musical antique dealers, they have the ability to see the value in different types of music and know exactly where it can fit into the present. The strong vocals and the use of a wide variety of instruments creates a sensational musical experience.
Yet, perhaps the most compelling thing about this band is the story that propels their songs.
The Restoration’s album, Constance, comes paired with a 47 page book, a historically based fiction that tells the story of a family in Lexington, South Carolina between the 1800s and 1930s. This band is not just about restoring overlooked music genres, but also about restoring an understanding of the history of the American South. A story is nothing without a conflict, and there are many to be found in the history of the South that The Restoration does not avoid or sugarcoat. In fact, their material has been deemed so historically relevant that it has been included in the curriculum of literature and history courses at a local South Carolina college.
The Restoration has musical variety,creative songwriting and powerful vocals. However, I am most excited about this band because of how their project is birthed out of a deep-rooted love for its subject, the American South. Through facing the facts of history, there is opportunity of a type of redemption and reclaiming of it. These are not musicians simply writing from the inspiration of an ever-changing mood. They are committed to start a new discussion on the land that they love, and I don’t think there’s danger of that ever sounding apathetic.
Hundreds of people all over the globe have gone through the Surfing The Nations Internship program. Most of them are surprised upon arrival to see they’re living on an urban street notorious for its high crime activity. The internship is full of experiences in the ocean and nature of Hawaii, but the heart of the internship is to grow in character, learn to live beyond yourself, and bring positive change to people and communities in need; whether that’s through teaching surfing, skating, or simply handing out food.
Surfing The Nations had the privilege of welcoming Leah Jefferson (far right in photo) from Birmingham, England to the internship this past September. While here, she brought her own fun, artistic flavor to our community. She is currently back in England running her vintage shop Bellows Vintage. Leah took a few moments to write about her experience in the internship.
‘I come from a small town in the middle of England. Prior to coming to Surfing The Nations, I had dropped out of university and spent a few years years drifting through different jobs. I had a difficult time trying to find my way and decided to do something I’d always dreamt of: set up my own vintage company. Alongside this, I started working as a sales associate for a high fashion label. Whilst working there, I didn’t have as much time to focus on my company. I saw myself losing the vision of an exciting future and starting to worry about getting stuck in, as my friend put it ,‘the graduate graveyard/silver bubble of doom’(if you’ve been to or seen the Bullring in Birmingham, you will understand)! I’ve always loved traveling and started to talk to my friend who was planning on doing a round-the-world trip. I couldn’t save the money in time and thought I’d missed out on an opportunity of a lifetime, but then I heard about Surfing The Nations. I did some research into the organization and found that they had a three month long internship. As I read about it, I started mentally ticking off boxes:. Hawaii? Yes. Surfing? Please. I also found out that my friend from the Netherlands who was studying in England at the time knew someone who had just finished the internship. Through a series of different events I could never have foreseen, I found myself sitting on a plane bound for Hawaii.
Expectations of the internship being a chilled out surf holiday were immediately blown out of the water: We worked hard, serving the community, while still finding ways to play hard. The internship and Surfing The Nations itself is made up of people from all over the world. I love culture and learning about different countries, so I enjoyed living in an apartment full of different nationalities. I definitely had to learn patience every day, as we lived in such close quarters, but I’ve found that the chaos of community living is one of the things I’ve missed the most since I’ve left-that unique community/friendship/OHANA(family)
Aside from the friends I made and the fun living situations, having a tropical island for a playground was not half bad!
Hawaii is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Hiking adventures, surfing (of course), snorkeling, swimming with turtles, idyllic waterfalls, insane sunsets and rainbows. But there is also a side of Hawaii that I was completely unaware of: Poverty, drugs, homelessness, abuse, and prostitution, just to name a few. It was so cool to be part of an organization like Surfing The Nations that is pushing the boundaries, giving back to the local community and keeping things relevant within the surf/skate culture. My experience of being an intern has changed my life. It showed me the importance of being a part of community, loving and helping others in need, accepting who I am and my future dreams and making those happen. I’ve realized life isn’t to be selfishly lived but to be selflessly lived. That is where REAL life is found, and I’m ready to live it.’ -LJ
On the first week of February, 2013, deaf surfers from all over the world met at Ma’ili Point for the HSA Deaf Surfers World Championship. It was amazing to see this global community unite in the water, but we were there to see one man in particular: Ido Dar-El.
When I first met Ido two years ago, it was a cold evening in Tel Aviv. We were standing across the street from the Mediterranean and he was offering us sahlab, a warm, creamy drink found in the Middle East. Surfing The Nations had found a kindred spirit in Ido Dar-El: Here was a man who shared our heart to use surfing to “give back” to the communities of the world! When I met him again, the scene was very different: in the bright sunshine on a warm beach in Hawaii. Though many things were different, two things that hadn’t changed over those years and that distance were friendship and surf, the very things that led us to Tel Aviv, and to Ido.
It is impressive enough that Ido surfs professionally without the ability to hear, but Ido stands out even amongst the deaf community. Ido’s story is one of ambition, giving back and leadership. As a deaf surfer in Israel, he often felt alone, so when he first came to Hawaii in 2009, he was shocked with the amount of deaf surfers he met from all over the world.
That first trip to Hawaii ended up being a key part of his future, and inspired him to start something in Israel. “When I came back home, I realized that I had a gift to give to other deaf people in my country. I started a non-profit organization to teach surfing to the deaf in Israel. Up to date, we have about 200 members. I give them the happiness of the ocean, and not only teach them surfing but teach them knowledge of the waves, and the currents.”
Ido understands the love for surfing as a sport, as well as the unique struggles that the deaf community face in everyday life. He uses this insight and experience in the water, to make surfing a way of building character and confidence out of the water.
“I give them the tools to be sure of themselves, because most of the deaf are afraid to get in the water; they have no communication with people in the water, and cannot take the hearing aids in the water. When they learn to surf, they are confident and it’s easier for them to deal with the hearing world. It’s a challenge, but in a good way.”
The journey to get over to Hawaii for this competition was a joint effort that Ido describes as a “moving experience” for him. Ido was eager to raise the banner for Israel and the deaf community but could not make it happen on his own. “I asked for help in Israel and all of the hearing surfers joined together and helped me get here.” $1,895 was raised to cover Ido’s costs for the trip and contest! This display of surfers giving back is just a small example of what Ido is hoping to do in Israel.
“I want to win (the contest), but the main target is to make deaf surfing more known to hearing people.I will teach the hearing surfers sign language, so they can communicate better with the deaf, and the deaf can communicate in the water with other hearing surfers. Then, they can bridge both of the worlds and not make it different.”
Ido also shared with us how he thinks surfing can promote a better future for Israel. “I think once you begin to surf you understand the way the ocean is giving: it’s so big and so open and freeing. If you have a hard life, it gives you relief, and you begin to understand that you can also give back… I believe if more and more people surf and give back, Israel will be a better place.”
There could not be a more suited man to promote giving back than Ido. When asked about his desire to win, his simple reply was: “If I win, I want to give it back to Israel. It’s not my win.”
And win he did. Ido took away the first place in the Masters Shortboard Division and proudly brought home a trophy to give to his country, Israel, as he had hoped.
Ido’s work is not done; there is still much to be done and much help needed. If you would like to get involved and support Ido’s efforts, check out his organization’s facebook page, Deaf Surfers Israel.
Photos courtesy of Ido Dar-El