Photos by Amelia Dal Pra
What could possibly bring hundreds of young people from across the globe to Wahiawa, a small Hawaiian city, known for its low-income housing complexes and drug and alcohol abuse, a city that many locals themselves avoid? Many volunteers that work with Surfing the Nations, a nonprofit humanitarian organization based in Wahiawa, would say the answer is simple: love.
Surfing the Nations sports the motto,”Surfers giving back,” and seeks to be a catalyst for positive change in the small Hawaiian community of Wahiawa and in the world.
Surfing the Nations “aim[s] to transform surfing from a self-seeking sport to a common ground on which friendships all over the world can be built” according to the organization’s website.
The organization, primarily run by Christians, works on various community development projects. The volunteers work with at-risk youth in low-income areas, like Wahiawa, run various after-school programs and host surf camps. Its “Feeding the Hungry” outreach organizes projects that focus on hunger and homelessness, including various food redistribution projects. and is the largest food redistribution effort in all of Hawaii.
As the nonprofit has grown, the organization runs various international trips to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Morocco and even North Korea. On these trips, the STN team members have helped develop international surfing communities.
Surfing the Nations essentially brought surfing to Bangladesh, which not only allows locals to have access to a surfing community that provides an outlet for street kids and other diverse groups of people, but has also helped with the development of lifeguarding programs and water safety education. More information on Surfing the Nation’s impact on Bangladesh through surfing is available in the short documentary, “Gum for My Boat,” which outlines STN’s impact in the country.
Despite the organization’s national and international successes, Surfing the Nations had humble beginnings in Kalihi Valley, Honolulu, with few members involved. By 2008, the organization’s founders Tom and Cindy Bauer, recognized Surfing the Nation’s need for a home base as the organization began to grow.
The story of STN in Wahiawa is one of redemption. The organization was able to acquire a 15-unit apartment building and an old bar on Ohai Street in Wahiawa, which would eventually lead to the purchase of other buildings in the area, including an ex-porn shop, former liquor store and a building that was once a strip club.
People now travel to the city and pass into its quarters not in fear, but in curiosity. Where a dark, dirty bar once stood, now stands the hip and completely volunteer-run Surfer’s Coffee Bar. Where the porn shop once brought in clients, now stands the offices of various STN team members planning “Feeding The Hungry” along with children’s and teen’s outreach programs.
Where a strip club once drew crowds, now in its place stands an all-purpose building that hosts many events, including the Ulu Pono children’s outreach and staff meetings. On Saturday nights, the former strip club also hosts the Surfer’s Church, a sister organization to Surfing the Nations that puts on worship services and attracts young surfers from across the island every week.
Pepperdine Students can get involved with Surfing the Nations by volunteering with the organization during Spring Break, through Project Serve. Students can also visit the Surfing the Nations website to learn more, apply for an internship or volunteer on an international trip with the nonprofit.
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