The popularity of surfing and surfers has been in flux since the first wave riders experienced the thrill of rushing towards shore, powered by the liquid crashing force of waves. The ancient Polynesians and Hawaiians are heralded as the forefathers of our sport. Early European explorers and discoverers were astonished to see "savage" natives riding broken waves in their canoes or on rough hewn log planks, for no other purpose than recreation. Unfortunately, many of these early white folks were also vehement Christians spreading their versions of the word of God. They saw these smiling happy natives frolicking naked in the surf, enjoying themselves and decided this definitely had to be a pagan activity and eventually banned all surfing and naked bathing. Ever since then surfing has gone through periods of grace and disgrace in the eyes of the general populace and popular culture. Jack Johnson, Kelly Slater, Blue Crush, and Hollywood have all combined to see surfing and surfers riding an unprecedented wave of popularity these days.
Why not ? Surfing is one of those nature-based activities which requires the participants become attuned and aware of natures cycles. It is not played on a concrete court, a dirt field, in an enclosed box of a room, or any other manufactured landscape. The ever changing moods of the ocean ensure the participants to move within the natural rhythms of natures' movements. Surfers are required to become almost obsessively aware of the changing of tides, seasons, dominant wind patterns and the cyclical nature of global weather phenomenon. In order to perform at even a basic level, participants are required to keep in a constant high level of fitness. You breathe fresh air, you are immersed in clean ocean water (we hope) and when you are done, and you walk away from the beach, waves will continue to break uninterrupted and there will be no sign left from your recreation other than a line of wet footprints on the sand and rocks.
As part of the OceanGybe Expedition, we have been extremely fortunate to be able to pass along this love, passion, healthy addiction to many others as part of the Sitka Surfing Outreach Initiative. Sitka Surfboards kindly provided us with 9 surfboards to distribute along our voyage to persons who have not been fortunate enough to have a surfboard available to them so they too can enjoy the stoke of surfing. An incredible step on their behalf to give something back to the sport that has given all of us so much.
So where to distribute 9 surfboards ? And how to make sure that they do end up getting used and cared for ? How to maximize their impact on the local youth and population?
We decided to break the boards up into two donation packages; one for the Indian Ocean and one for the Atlantic Ocean.
In the Indian Ocean, there are a multitude of small barely inhabited tropical atolls with some basic surf. On one such island we found the perfect location to donate the first set of boards. The local elementary (primary) school on the island is the main focal point for all the youth on the island, they organize events and try to keep the kids up with goings on in the rest of the world. As this school, they had been trying to run a small surf school at the local mushy beach break but the problem of getting enough boards was presenting a huge obstacle. The perfect opportunity for us to donate the first 4 Sitka surfboards. After giving a brief presentation about our trip, oceanic garbage and it's destructive forces; we handed these four boards over to the principal of the school to use for there surfing program. To say the kids were ecstatic would be a gross under-statement, these boards would allow them to become like Jack or Kelly or another of their heroes.
So now, these 4 Sitka surfboards are carefully stored in an open air shack right on the beach front, available for any kid to come and use at any time (as long as they have cleared it by the school). The school sees to basic surfing training and passes along a message of ocean conservation to all the kids through their PE/PT classes. Such is the nature of this island, that the kids can leave their boardshorts, bikini's, wax, sunscreen, leashes and all other paraphernalia at the shack with no locks, and just ride their bikes down there after school each day and have everything ready for them. What better place for these Sitka boards to be able to pass along the stoke of riding waves and playing in our incredible oceans?
Thanks to Sitka Surfboards for providing these boards to donate, and all the private individuals who replied to our facebook and website posting asking for fins to put in the boards. Your donations have gone along way to spread the stoke of surfing all over the world. We will be posting pictures and a short movie clip about this donation on www.oceangybe.com, www.sitkasurfboards.com and The Surfer's Path website in the near future.