I often describe Waves For Water, ultimately, as an empowerment project. Obviously, the people who receive the help are empowered when they have access to clean water, in some cases, for the first time in their life. But the other side to this is what happens to the person administering the help—through our model that we like to call “do it yourself” (DIY) humanitarianism or “guerrilla” humanitarianism, the person who has chosen to take it upon themselves and provide aid to communities in need is absolutely empowered as well.
It’s like the whole ‘pay it forward’ philosophy, but supercharged. To put it simply, when a young eager surf adventurer sets out on his/her path to find epic waves but decides to throw some of our clean water filters in their bag to offload along the way, they have just made a dynamic choice that will completely alter their experience all of those around them. Think of the filter as the missing link, a bridge of sorts that connects and engages people on a level that wouldn’t happen otherwise. There are the obvious and primary benefits this program provides from a health standpoint. But the real magic happens when a random traveler finds the local beneficiary that they’ve chosen to help and starts to engage with them in a way that could never be accessed as just another surfer passing through.
There is a real interaction that takes place when the traveler starts to educate and train their beneficiaries with this solution. In the end, the recipient has a new found knowledge of the water problems they face, but also in a solution to help them combat it every step of the way. And the traveler, has a completely new understanding of this community/culture, and a genuine personal relationship with the people in it.
Empowerment all around:
— The communities finally now have the tools to help them start building towards the progress they all long for.
— The traveler, most importantly, followed their heart and went surfing (or whatever else it was that drove them out on the road) and did their part along the way. They actually did the most natural thing we can do as human beings—help one another. It’s these types of simple actions that help to restore the natural balance of humanity.
So that said, it really becomes a very clear equation for anyone to participate in…
It really is that simple folks…
On that note, we were recently asked by Lance and Kristin Moss of Surfari Charters in Nicaragua to partner with them in launching our program for the villages around their camp. This type of mission obviously speaks directly to the core of what our organization was originally founded on—adventure surf travel. We accepted their offer and looked at it as the perfect case study to prove a model I’ve had in my head for a long time—one where surf/adventure tourism is infused (not bombarded) with a little more purpose.
The idea was that once we went down and helped Lance and Kristin set up some good trusty local networks to implement the program to, then all of their charters for the rest of the year could have the option of bringing filters down during their week to help reinforce those networks. It’s creating a very user-friendly sustainable supply chain that rides comfortable on the coattails of people’s love for surfing and fishing. It’s not a new concept. I believe Nihiwatu Resort in Sumba, Indonesia has a program where all their guests get to take one day out of their trip and help the nearby village through a number of projects they’ve set up. The philosophy is also being coined “Volunteerism” these days. I just like to call it doing our part!
So, we went down to Nicaragua, brought 30 filters (enough to provide 3000 people with access to clean water) and set up three local networks with them. Since our trip, every one of Lance & Kristin’s charters has personally bought, carried, and implemented more filters to those networks. It’s a model that is thriving and growing with each passing week. The last and probably most fun element of this mission was having some good ol’ froth-mouthed grommets along with us: young LA-based pro-surfer shredder, Dane Zaun, and his trusty filmmaker sidekick, Matt Grote. Their energy and stoke was a nice reminder of what W4W is all about…and a refreshing break from some of the heavier projects we’ve done recently in places such as Afghanistan and Haiti.
We surfed our brains out, threw back a hefty share of Toña’s (local Nicaraguan beer), helped a bunch of local people with the basic yet essential need for clean water, and had a shit-load of fun in the process.
Matt made a video of the trip that shares the experience thru Dane’s eyes. On behalf of W4W, I’m happy to share it with you all. I feel it’s a great snapshot into the innocence and purity that comes from doing what you love and helping along the way.
In addition to Hurley stepping up (as always!) I’d like to throw a shout-out to Lance, Kristen, and the entire crew at Surfari Charters for initiating this. Lastly, I need to throw out BIG props to W4W Executive Director, Christian Troy, for really running point on this project and making it come to life from our end. Well done crew!!
—Story and photos by Jon Rose