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