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!