News / USA

Surfers' Helping Hands Impact Beach Communities

Travelers matched with vital Central American projects

When members of Surf for Life weren't riding the waves in El Cuco, El Salvador, they worked on a school improvement project.
When members of Surf for Life weren't riding the waves in El Cuco, El Salvador, they worked on a school improvement project.

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

It's not uncommon for surfers to travel the world chasing the best waves. But what is out of the ordinary is how members of Surf for Life pass the time when they're not out on the water. Instead of kicking back and relaxing, they spend their downtime helping build infrastructure for coastal communities.

California native Lissette Perez runs a hotel for surfers near El Cuco beach in El Salvador. She found out about Surf for Life - a grassroots organization which pairs travelers with vital projects in Central America - when a group of surfers from San Francisco stayed at her hotel.  

Perez, who also runs a non-profit organization which helps improve educational opportunities in El Salvador, talked with them about her plans to build a high school. They volunteered to help.

A Surf for Life volunteer crafts a desk out of local guanacaste wood in El Cuco, El Salvador.
A Surf for Life volunteer crafts a desk out of local guanacaste wood in El Cuco, El Salvador.

“They came down and spent almost two weeks," she says, "About 20 surfers came and worked, hands-on, and helped us finish the foundation and begin the walls on the project.”  

The volunteers were members of Surf for Life, which is based in San Francisco. Financial planner and surfer Alex Fang co-founded it four years ago.

“My friend and I wanted to create an organization that would allow people to travel, but also focus energy towards creating something positive," Fang says.

Surf for Life organizes trips to surfing destinations, where surfers also work on infrastructure projects which promote education in the local communities.

“For us, that includes bridges, things that allow people to access schools, schools themselves, renovating schools so they’re usable or completing unfinished schools.”

Students in El Cuco, El Salvador, try out a bench and desk made by Surf for Life members Danny Hess and Jay Nelson.
Students in El Cuco, El Salvador, try out a bench and desk made by Surf for Life members Danny Hess and Jay Nelson.

Sierra Brasher, 32, joined the group three months ago. “We’re saying, 'Thank you so much for providing us with your waves and your beaches and as a treat for you, we’re going to build a school in your community because your community needs it.'”

Brasher just returned from a Surf for Life trip to Costa Rica.

“It was the most memorable week of my entire life," she says. "I got to co-lead a trip of 14 volunteers. We went to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. It’s in a jungle. It’s on this beautiful beach.”

Brasher and her group helped build a two-room elementary school.

“We had a total of 40 volunteers that traveled down there and the first group was laying the foundation," Brasher says. "Then the second group laid the tiles down and they finished the dry wall. Then our group grouted the tiles, cleaned up all the grout, and then we painted the entire interior and exterior of the two rooms.”

And that wasn't their only project. The group also helped build a soup kitchen which serves the BriBri, a local indigenous tribe there.

Computer security expert Ian Sharpe was one of the people on Brasher's team.

“I don’t think I ever sweat as much as I had when I was down there in Costa Rica," he says. "I think it was a combination of all of the manual work and then also the climate.”

Still, says Sharpe, it was a rewarding experience.

“You see the smile on the kids’ faces and you know you’re making a lasting impact in the community. At the last day the students all created some thank you cards and thanked us for all the hard work, for helping them build up the school.”

So far, Surf for Life has focused on Central American communities, but co-founder Fang plans to expand.

“We’re looking at potential projects and partnerships with a few other organizations in Japan, Africa and in South Asia," Fang says. "We’re looking at Bangladesh and trying to create a women’s center in one of the surfing villages out there.”

While Surf for Life members are building what local communities need, they are also changing perceptions about surfers. They are not interested only in riding the waves and having fun, they also care about the people who live near the beautiful beaches they love.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid