Surfing Charities That Deserve Your Support

With the holidays and the end of the year approaching, many of us take the opportunty to write checks to our favorite charities. With the emergence of new surf-related non-profits dedicated coastal protection, humanitarian and community development and recreation, there is no reason that every surfer shouldn’t give back this year.

Here is a list of surf-related charities worthy of a check or online donation.


WiLDCOAST The conservation team that I run has preserved over 3.2 million acres of bays, beaches, lagoons, and islands since 2000. A 4-star Charity Navigator ranked charity, WiLDCOAST this year mobilized more than 3,000 volunteers to clean up 150,000 lbs of trash and helped to preserve miles of beautiful coastline in Mexico.


Wildcoast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surfrider Foundation: The granddaddy of surfing charities, Surfrider is a well-managed and effective coastal protection organization that mobilizes its thousands of members to strategically save surf spots and beaches in the U.S. and around the world.

The Surfrider Foundation Logo

The Surfrider Foundation Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Outdoor Outreach in action.

SurfAid: This humanitarian organization carries out health related work in Indonesia. If you’ve surfed Indo and/or care about the fate of people who suffer from diseases present in tropical paradises than donate to SurfAid.

Outdoor Outreach: This San Diego non-profit is one of the nation’s most effective organizations at getting low-income and at-risk kids into the outdoors. Founder and Director Chris Rutgers, a local surfer, involves kids in surfing, rock climbing, camping and even snowboarding as a way of building self-esteem and providing recreational opportunities for kids who have very few.

Save the Waves: This Davenport-based organization focuses on preserving surf spots around the world and promoting and developing World Surfing Reserves.

Waves for Development: This New York-based charity creates life-enriching experiences in coastal communities in Peru through educational surf programs. Waves for Development is working in some of the most marginalized coastal communities to bring in surfing and get volunteers involved to assist in community development programs.

Crawford at Del Mar 6-29-09

Outdoor Outreach in action.

Center for Surf Research-SDSU: Researcher and surfer Dr. Jess Ponting has created this new academic and action-oriented research center in order to promote more sustainable surfing tourism and manufacturing and to promote great involvement by the surf industry in environmental and humanitarian issues where surfing tourism occurs. Off to a great start with groundbreaking conferences on surfing philanthropy, this is a truly innovative university research division.

YMCA Camp Surf: This wonderful beachfront youth camp located in San Diego County is an ocean oasis that provides recreational and educational opportunities for thousands of kids each year. For many campers their day and overnight camping experience here are their first real contact with the ocean.

Sustainable Surf: This San Clemente-based organization works with surfers and the surf industry to foster and promote recycling and re-use of surfboard materials, and promote better and more sustainable practices in the surfing industry.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

I’m also a big fan of the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Diego and the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. In these challenging times, all of these organizations provide critical and much-needed recreational opportunities for kids and families, including teaching kids to swim – which is key to enjoying the ocean and learning to surf.

Surfing’s New Aloha: The 2012 Groundswell Conference

The conference took place at SDSU.

It used to be that surfers didn’t worry about anything except catching the next wave.

For Glen Hening, founder of the Groundswell Society, the 10th Annual Surfing, Arts, Sciences and Issues Conference, was all about surfers moving beyond sefishness and embracing a new spirit of aloha.

Co-hosted and organized by SDSU’s new Center for Surf Research, the event brought together more than 120 surf industry stalwarts, social entrepreneurs and everyday surfers to examine the myriad of ways in which surfers can give back.

“The conference confirmed a whole new trend in surfing that’s not about commerce or competition, but about community,” Hening said. “A university setting, great presentations, honest answers, and a real surf-stoke vibe made SASIC 10 a bit of a milestone.”

For Jess Ponting, director of the Center for Surf Research, the conference marked the beginning of a new era in surfer philanthropy and giving back.

Originally from Australia, Ponting has carried out research on the economic, ecological, and cultural impacts of surfing tourism in the surfing “nirvanas” such as Indonesia.

During his research, he found that the multi-million dollar surf tour industry was a complete contrast to the abject poverty and environmental degradation of the rural communities that populate many third-world surfing destinations.

But in some places that situation is changing. Over the past decade, with the development of organizations such as SurfAid, and the emergence of a more strategic form of surf industry philanthropy, a new culture of giving back has emerged among surfers and the surf industry.

Dave Aabo is the founder of Waves for Development, an organization that works to link surfing and community development in the wave-rich coastal desert of northern Peru.

At the conference, he provided an overview on how to make a strategic request from a surf company to carry out community work.

Aabo, an ex-Peace Corps volunteer who departed for Peru the day after the conference, is slowly bringing a more business-like approach to the complex field of community development.

Other presentations were given by staff from Surfing the Nations, SurfAid, Surfing Magazine, and Surfers for Cetaceans. Pierce Kavanaugh screened his film, Manufacturing Stoke.

In the panel on corporate philanthropy, Jeff Wilson of Quiksilver, PJ Connell of Reef and Derek Sabori of Volcom, all provided an overview of how these companies make an impact in their giving (in full disclosure, WiLDCOAST, the organization that I am Executive Director of, receives support from Quiksilver, Reef and SIMA).

For all three companies it is critical for their staff and surfers to get more involved in the projects they are funding and support.

Giving back has now become another important element for professional surfers as well. Kelly Slater for example launched the Kelly Stater Foundation to facilitate his philanthropy.

Rob Machado, who was interviewed by Ponting in a video presentation, carries out his philanthropic work in San Diego County through the Rob Machado Foundation.

The iconic Cardiff surfer also worked with Reef to create a more sustainable sandal made from recycled tires.

One of the more well-received presentations of the day came from Kevin Whilden, co-founder of Sustainable Surf, who identifies and implements environmental solutions for the surf industry.

In one of its key programs, the start-up organization has helped to collect thousands of pounds of used styrofoam that is then collected, compressed and reused in recycled EPS surfboard blanks.

These blanks produced by Marko foam only cost $5 more than those that are non-recycled, and according to Whelden, “are 10 percent stronger.”

Additionally, Sustainable Surf partnered with the Rip Curl and Waste Busters at the San Francisco Rip Curl Pro to reduce waste by 90%.

It is solutions like these and green and social entrepreneurs such as Whilden, Aabo and the new plethora of the members of surfing’s new “aloha” generation who are changing what has typically been a group of inward-looking athletes, into a community that understands the need to give back.

Jake Stutz, a High Tech High sophomore, who attended the SDSU event, exemplifies this new generation.

Recently returned from a school trip to Nicaragua, Jake and his classmates volunteered for community development projects and caught some great waves.

“It was cool,” he said.

Israel Dedina at the WiLDCOAST table. Thanks to Daniel and Jake Stutz for helping out!

Jeff Knox, Megan from San Diego Coastkeeper and Marco Gonzalez from Coast Law Group.

Zach Plopper and AJ Schneller of WiLDCOAST

Jess Ponting, Director of SDSU's Center for Surf Research and Dave Aabo of Waves for Development.

Panel on Corporate Philanthropy with PJ Connel of Reef, Derek Sabori of Volcom, Jeff Wilson of Quiksilver, and Michael Steward of Sustainable Surf.

Panel on Surfer Driven Non-Profits: Andrea Yoder Clarke of SurfAid, Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST, Tom Bauer of Surfing the Nations, and Kevin Whilden of Sustainable Surf

Pierce Kavanaugh Director of Manufacturing Stoke.

Surfing Magazine editor and SDSU alum, Taylor Paul talking about engaging pro surfers in giving back.

SDSU Center for Surf Research “Rising Tide” Symposium

On Saturday I participated in the new SDSU Center for Surf Research’s “Rising Tide” Conference. My talk was titled: “Sex, El Santo, and Saving Trestles: How Surfers Can Make a Difference.”

The conference was described as “an intellectual jam session on surf philanthropy and those who dare to care about surf destinations and their communities.” The conference included talks by Rusty Miller, Dave Jenkins of SurfAid, Steve Barrilotti and Fernando Aguerre. The theme of the conference was “The Audacity of Stoke.”

The center’s founder Jess Ponting is an Australian who has studied the impact of surf tourism in Fiji and Indonesia.

Jon Roseman of the Tavarua Resort, Gary Sirota of Coast Law Group, George Le Baron of Reef and Jeff Wilson of Quiksilver discuss surf industry philanthropy with legendary Ironman Champion Scott Tinley as moderator.

An additional panel on surfing non-profits included participation by Nick Muca of Project Wave of Optimism, Zach Parker of Walu International, Sean Brody of the Surf Resource Network and Dave Aabo of WAVES for Development.

These are all young guys attempting to work in Nicaragua, New Guinea, Africa and Peru on community development projects. All were very thoughtful and committed and to be commended for attempting to link surfing and community health and improvement.

Most people think of surfers and surfing as some sort of cosmic joke. But Jess and SDSU are to be congratulated for demonstrating that surfing is a issue worthy of academic study and that San Diego really is the center of the surfing world.

Thanks to Mariangel Garcia from Ripeando Magazine from Venezuela for sharing the photos.

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