What could possibly bring hundreds of young people, from across the globe, to the small Hawaiian city, known for its low-income housing complexes and drug and alcohol abuse, a city that many locals themselves avoid? Three words: Surfing the Nations and one synonym: Love.
Surfing The Nations, a non-profit humanitarian organization, based in Wahiawa, Hawaii and who sports the motto,”Surfers giving back,” is a catalyst for positive change in the small Hawaiian community, Wahiawa.
During my spring break in February, I was fortunate to travel and spend a week in Wahiawa, getting to know Surfing the Nations and the community it serves. It was a beautiful experience that I will always treasure.
According to the Surfing the Nations Website, the organization “aim[s] to transform surfing from a self-seeking sport to a common ground on which friendships all over the world can be built.”
The organization, that is primarily run by Christians, works with at-risk youth in low-income areas, like Wahiawa, and running various food re-distribution projects through STN’s Feeding The Hungry, which includes the largest food re-distribution in all of Hawaii. I was fortunate to get to participate and help with their massive food re-distribution project which was incredible.
As the non-profit has grown, the organization organizes international trips to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Morocco and even in 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 be blessed by a surfing community that provides a fun outlet for street kids and other diverse people groups, but has also helped with the development of lifeguarding programs and water safety education. For more information on Surfing the Nation’s positive impact on Bangladesh through surfing, one can watch 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 founder’s Tom and Cindy Bauer, recognized Surfing the Nation’s need for a home base.
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 little to their knowledge at the time, 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 completely volunteer-run, fun, hip Surfer’s Coffee Bar. Where the porn shop once brought in clients, now stands the offices of various STN team members, who are all volunteers, planning Feeding The Hungry programs, and children and teen outreach programs.
Where a strip club once drew in crowds, now occupies an all-purpose building that hosts a wealth of events including the Ulu Pono children’s outreach, staff meetings and events and on Saturday nights hosts the Surfer’s Church, a sister organization to Surfing the Nations, that brings in crowds of Christians from across the island every week.
What makes Surfing the Nations so alluring and successful is not necessarily its focus on the art of surfing, but instead its focus on the art of loving. If the world adopted that mentality of service that Surfing the Nations boldly embodies, this world would change. And, since the founding of the organization, it has.
From its community development work in Hawaii to its international outreach trips, Surfing the Nations brings waves of love and hope into the hearts and minds of individuals worldwide. Some day I may travel back to Wahiawa and work with surfing the nations, but regardless of my future with the organization, this non-profit will remain in my heart and my prayers.
I challenge each of you to serve those in front of you and to pursue kindness and humility, like this non-profit does so well. At the end of the day, it is the small, seemingly unnoticed actions that really have the capacity to change the world as they build upon one another.
As Mother Teresa, my lifelong hero and mentor, once said, “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Who are you feeding today? How are your words and actions impacting the lives of those around you? Let’s be mindful of the impact of our actions and the power of our words.
Stay true, live justly and always travel on.
Peace and love.