I would go as far as to say that it is our duty to research these opportunities before we depart.
In a world full of passionate people, pursuing their own unique visions of travel and sport, it’s hard to say which athletes have it the best, knowing that each person taking part in their respective activities, do so out of pure intensity and ardor. Although my opinion is most definitely biased, I am certain that surfers have it completely made. Not only can we surf to our hearts content for relatively low costs (no $100 a day charge for that beach break), but this sport will also take us to the farthest, most beautiful corners of our planet, connect us to mother nature in ways we didn’t think possible, and keep our bodies active and healthy at the same time. While reaping all the benefits that encompass “surf”, it’s only natural that surfers, receiving so much for so little, should naturally find ways to give back. Whether it be to Mother Nature herself, or the local communities in which we visit during our search for waves, being charitable and giving back is a core foundation that, to me, makes surfing the greatest sport in the world. In the months leading to my departure date, hours of research have been conducted, and while I don’t necessarily feel more prepared for my daunting journey ahead, I do feel more educated on the areas I will be visiting, and with this education, have placed charity as a forefront for my upcoming trips. Through this article, I hope to share with you, my fellow travelers/surfers, some opportunities to consider before your next big trip and how small acts of charity and consideration can be of great benefit, both to you, and the communities you’ll visit.
- DONATE! Well this is an obvious one isn’t it? Not quite. While locations a surfer would normally travel may have some of the best waves in the world, are frequently visited by everyone and their mothers, and have “thriving” surf cultures, doesn’t mean that locals reap the same benefits. It also does not mean that every surfer is thinking about charity when he or she heads to these places. With that said, everyday surf products that we often take for granted, such as board leashes and wax are a precious commodity for local children in less fortunate countries. These products, which are so easily accessible to us, can mean the world to people who’s only option to catch surf may be on old broken boards or even wooden planks. Go to your garage and gather up that old surf gear you no longer use and take it with you on your next trip. Hit up amazon and buy a $20 bundle of wax to give out to the surfers you’ll meet. Or maybe you have an old surfboard that’s collecting dust…throw that in your board bag and leave it with the local surf school, charity, or some lucky kid. A little will go a long way and you will probably end up making friendships that will last a lifetime. In less than a month I will be heading to Cuba and will be bringing 2 boards to put to good use. While researching the surf scene in Cuba, I came across a local organization, which works to empower kids through action sports, music, and art. Find out more how you can lend a hand by visiting their page at http://royal70.net/. They aren’t the only ones either. A quick google search can open up a world of options.
- REACH OUT. So what happens when you have travels planned and would like to make some sort of contribution but don’t have anything to give? Reach out! If you haven’t noticed by now, the surf community is a great one. If you have nothing to give away, tap into your local community/surf shops/friends. More often than not, they will have some gear they wouldn’t mind giving to you to pass along. Remember, a little goes a long way and while most people are eager and willing to give, they may not have the means of getting it there at the moment. Good thing they have you!
- BE A BOARD COURIER: So you bit the bullet. You booked a flight to some far away land and hopefully have made peace with the fact that you’ll have to pay an arm and leg to lug your favorite board around with you. Boohoo man. Might as well make that fee worthwhile and become a board courier. There are many existing charities around the world that work hard to improve the lives of communities through the sport of surfing. Many of these charities work on donating surfboards to either support their own programs abroad or to aid those already in existence. Either way, they are constantly looking for methods to transport equipment and you can be of great help. Most high-end board bags (which you probably already have) can carry multiple boards. Unless you’re John John Florence heading to Fiji, you’ll most likely have some slots left open. Be warned though, flying with boards will take some planning on your part. Some airlines will charge “per board” fees, which can cripple you if you are not careful. Take this into consideration before reaching out to a charity asking for boards. However, with the proper use of “surfer friendly” airlines, this shouldn’t really be an issue. (Check out this super helpful article on board bag fees. http://wavetribecompany.com/2014-airline-surfboard-boardbag-fee-guide-for-surfers/ I use it every time.)One example, which I am working on collaborating with in the near future, is an organization called Returning Wave. Based in San Francisco, Returning Wave fixes worn out surfboards in the states and sends them to support their surf school for kids in the Philippines. Their mission of promoting education through surf is a great cause and something I can definitely get behind! Check out what they are all about at https://returningwave.org/about/
- VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME: Last but definitely not least, my final suggestion to the traveling surfer, or anyone really, would be to volunteer your time when you are over seas. What better way to immerse yourself in a foreign surf community than by getting involved and becoming a part of it? From surf instruction to beach cleanup, there are many opportunities out there for you to lend a hand. In many cases, this may be more beneficial to you as a traveler than it is for the locals, as you will form bonds that would not normally be acquired if you were simply passing through. The rewards there are endless. Lend a hand.
When I first started planning this trip, I was only thinking about myself. Where will I go? How will I get around? What’s the next step? Fortunately, my eyes were quickly opened to the fact that I am extremely lucky to be in the position I’m in, preparing to travel the world in search of self-progression, opportunities, and most importantly SURF! I then realized I was missing out on the bigger picture. Not only am I in a position to benefit myself, but more importantly have created the opportunity to help others in the process. Through this realization, my path slowly began to form on its own and I have chosen to embrace the fact that my entire journey will not be set in stone from day one, but rather dictated by the people I meet and the opportunities that arise. Although my journey is primarily based around surf, there are many ways in which anyone traveling can give back, no matter their reason or passion accompanying them to do so. For your next trip, I hope you give this some consideration. If you are fortunate enough to be traveling the world, no matter how far or how long you plan to go, there will always be someone in need of assistance waiting at your destination. I would go as far as to say that it is our duty to research these opportunities before we depart. Keep an open mind and an open heart, then just wait and see where doing so will take you. If there are any charities you have come to know and would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments! If you have a board and want me to deliver it for you, let’s make it work! Safe Travels My Friends!