HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Surfing the Nations (STN) has come a long way since its birth in 1997. In its earlier days, STN was based in the Kalihi Valley just outside of Honolulu. Around this time, founder Tom Bauer became aware that he was to do more with his passions for the nations, travel and surfing. The concept of integrating surfing and humanitarian work began with Tom‘s vision as he founded Surfing the Nations. As a young boy who loved surfing, he found himself caught in the characterization of the surf culture as one marked by drugs, partying and self-centeredness. After fully grasping the concept that surfing and giving back can actually go hand-in-hand, Tom committed his life to mobilizing surfers to serve and to be leaders of positive change in communities both locally and internationally. Tom says, “I’ve always had this thing: ‘I’m gonna go to the darkest, gnarliest, nastiest places on the planet.’ That really makes people freak out. I take a world map and ask, ‘Where is a hardcore place that I know there are waves, and where basically no one has been?’ We started with China, Oman, Pakistan, India and then on to Bangladesh. I’m always teaching our STN guys that you can go anywhere in the world and all you have to do is jump on a plane and go! The doors will open. Basically I’m looking for people who will take surfing and “giving back” and go to these nations.” Thus began Tom’s heart for international outreach.
MORE THAN A VISION
Locally, STN began reaching out to the youth in the Kalihi area with the hope that they could make a difference. The word went out to surfers and non-surfers and these volunteers began arriving to be a part of the new work that was beginning. Many of them laid down their personal lives to see STN become a reality. The year 1998 brought two major components of STN into play with the start of the Feeding the Hungry program and the first international trip to Bali, Indonesia. Today both are still major parts of the humanitarian work of STN.
STN operated from the Kalihi property for ten years. It was during this time that STN took surfing to over 30 nations. Anywhere with coastline and was “surf-able,” they went. Also during this time was when the internship program began. X-Factory concerts for youth and a music studio became the hallmark of the STN and gave young people in the community a venue to share their music and talents. This was the start of the counter-culture lifestyle STN is known for today.
At the end of 2006 the Kalihi Valley property was sold and STN had to find a new home. There were some doubts about the survival of the organization. Grateful for all that had been accomplished and with the remaining 20 full time workers believing to keep the organization alive, STN moved to a new location in Foster Village. Feeding the Hungry food distribution then begin in lower Kalihi, Waikiki, Barber’s Point (Kalaeloa) and under the H-1 viaduct at Lagoon Drive. Distribution of food to 500-600 people was occurring prior to the move. Today the distribution has grown to more than 2,000 people a week.
THE MOVE OUT OF FOSTER VILLAGE
In September 2008 notice was given to Surfing The Nations that one of the houses STN rented was in foreclosure. At this time there was nothing else to rent in the area and everything seemed quite hopeless. But against all odds, as the search continued, Jimmy Yamada, Chairman of the Board for Surfing The Nations at that time, was presented with a property in Wahiawa. The property included an old neighborhood bar and a 15-unit apartment building that was not up for sale at that time. Thus began the acquisition of the Wahiawa property, the new headquarter of Surfing The Nations. STN staff and interns have moved into the apartments and the “Bar” has now become the Surfer’s Coffee Bar. Since 2008, through a series of events, STN has acquired three additional properties. These include an ex-porn shop, an old convenience and liquor store, and a an ex-exotic dancers strip club.
WAHIAWA IS AWESOME
Surfing The Nations is committed to making a difference in Wahiawa and excited to work with the youth and families of the neighborhood. Many said we were crazy to move to Ohai Street (the address of the apartment building) as the area is known for drugs, alcohol, violence and sex; but to bring about change you must be willing to live where change is needed. At any given time Surfing The Nations has 30-40 full time staff involved with in the outreach. Hundreds of interns have completed the internship, and international teams have been established in more than ten nations. Neighboring outreach trips have also been made to five of the main Hawaiian Islands. Seeds have been planted on each of these islands. Surf and skate contests are run internationally and locally in Hawaii. The poor, hungry and homeless are fed and the at-risk youths lives are being touched and situations are being positively changed daily.