Brothers Santiago and Fernando Aguerre, founders and former owners of sandal giant Reef, have dedicated their creative energies to new enterprises in the two years since they sold their company. But foremost on their minds these days is the 4th Annual Liquid Nation Ball, scheduled for September 8th, during the surf industry’s biannual ASR tradeshow in nearby San Diego.
The brothers Aguerre (Santiago on left, Fernando on right) with Rob Machado: raising the bar for humanitarian aid.
Today, the brothers convened representatives of the surf media at Fernando’s seaside estancia (right around the corner from La Jolla’s famous Windansea surf spot) to explain the mission of Liquid Nation and its humanitarian spirit. Joining them was surfer Rob Machado, who lives in San Diego County and has been an honorary committee member of LNB from its inception.
Conceived by Santiago as a complement to the Surf Industry Manufacturers’ Association (SIMA) annual Waterman’s Ball, which benefits a broad spectrum of surf-related environmental organizations, Liquid Nation Ball benefits surf-related humanitarian causes.
“It started out as a fund-raiser for Surf Aid International,” Santiago explained. “I was reading an article by Steve Barilotti titled ‘The Jungle Is Watching’, and he wrote that in some areas of the Mentawai Islands half the kids were dying before the age of five. At that time my two younger kids were two and four, so I looked at them and I went, ‘Okay, which one of the two goes?’ And then I realized, ‘Shit! this can’t last!’”
Santiago enlisted his brother’s support to produce and host the inaugural event, which was held in 2004 and raised more than $80,000 for Surf Aid. After two years, the brothers took the event to SIMA, a gift to the surf industry, which now directs the promotion of the event and the distribution of donations to a growing number of nonprofits. After all costs, about 75 percent of donations go directly to these organizations. Last year the event raised over $200,000. This year’s (some small, some larger) beneficiaries are:
Boarding for Breast Cancer
Jimmy Miller Foundation
Keep a Breast
Surf Aid International
Get a Board Foundation
L.A. Surf Bus
Rabbit Kekai Foundation
Life Rolls On
“It’s actually more important to raise awareness than it is to raise money,” Santiago pointed out today. “Every day the surf industry makes impressions on young people through advertising and branding. We make changes for their lives, for the duration, by affecting their minds. This is a great chance to do that in a positive way – to let kids know this is truly important.”
Brother Fernando agreed: “We now know that government is really not interested in democracy. It’s a part of growing up, maturity, to realize that we need to do things for ourselves.”
Speaking to the influence of both the Waterman’s Ball and the Liquid Nation Ball, Fernando observed that surf businesses are being educated and changed by these efforts. “We believe that there is a social responsibility that comes with success, and more and more companies are realizing this. Quik, Billa, Reef and others are creating their own foundations. Today and in the future, giving will be a component of every successful surf business.”
Auctioneers Fernando and Santiago: Proceeds go to 13 surf-related humanitarian nonprofits.
One of the great things, Santiago pointed out, is that the people with the fire in their hearts are already out there. He cited Dr. Dave Jenkins, founder of Surf Aid, as a prototypical example. “They just need a little fuel to go far. You don’t need to sell your house and move to the Mentawais to help – we’ve already got people willing to do the work. They just need our support, the human resources are there.”
Its proximity to the ASR show helps the Liquid Nation Ball attract industry kingpins and luminaries, and great efforts are made to create exotic auction items that will get the interest of well-heeled attendees, leaving it to auctioneer Fernando to whip them into a charitable buying frenzy. But it is the personal relationship between the surfer and his or her world that is the emotional engine for the real success of this or any other surf-related charitable organization.
“When I was first approached [to be an honorary advisor],” said Rob, “I had been going to Indo for a while. It was weird, sitting on multimillion-dollar yachts with all the comforts, then going ashore to see all those kids suffering and with nothing. I’m honored to be associated with this effort and Liquid Nation.”
Realizing that elitist organizations can’t create the broad shift of consciousness needed to change the course of larger events, a website is being created that will allow surfers worldwide to participate in the sort of humanitarian citizenship inspired by the Liquid Nation concept and the brothers Aguerre. A website – www.liquidnationball.org – will be launched by the end of July. Meanwhile, for the developing scoop, go to www.sima.com and navigate to events.
Words by Drew Kampion