ENCINITAS — The nonprofit SurfAid was established in 2000 by Dave Jenkins, M.D. and Andrew Griffiths to provide much needed humanitarian relief to the indigenous people of the Mentawai Islands, considered to be a mecca for surfers and the surf industry. Although the headquarters for SurfAid International USA has been in Encinitas since 2002, Executive Director Randal Schober is perplexed that there is more community support for the organization in Malibu than hometown Encinitas.
“We are so fortunate to live in area that is renowned for its weather and surf culture, and as a coastal community it is both important and rewarding to look beyond our shores and become involved in another surf paradise that is less fortunate,” he explained.
“SurfAid encourages everyone to become a global citizen. Malibu is a big supporter of ours, with the SurfAid Cup being held there. In November, the Malibu City Council designated us as an official ‘Sister Surf Paradise.’
“Encinitas is such a great city but we need to do more to empower locals and the surf community to get involved with the bigger picture,” he added.
Schober was encouraged last week after approaching Mayor Teresa Barth with a request that Encinitas join Malibu in adopting the Mentawai Islands as an official “Sister Surf Paradise.”
“I am looking forward to meeting with representatives from SurfAid,” Barth responded. “The Sister Surf Paradise program sounds like something our community would support.”
When Dr. Jenkins step foot on the island in 1999 he encountered almost an entire population, including a disproportionate amount of children, dead and dying of treatable diseases such as worms, anemia, malnutrition, pneumonia, tuberculosis and malaria. Matters were made worse after the 2004 tsunami, which decimated entire villages.
Since then mosquito nets have been distributed to more than 300 villages as well as health education relating to hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, pregnancy and birthing, immunization and clean water projects. Because Mentawai is located on the ring of fire, SurfAid has also taken a leadership role in emergency response preparedness by relocating villages and developing evacuation routes.
Although community support has been lacking, Schober says many local corporations have stepped up to the plate including Nixon Watches, Firewire Surfboards, BING Surfboards, Hansens, Sticky Bumps, SPY Sunglasses, SurfRide, Transworld, D Street Bar and Grille, Hapi Fish and Sun Diego.
Firewire CEO Mark Price serves on the advisory board where he develops marketing strategies to raise awareness of SurfAid.
“One of the reasons a lot of us are involved in SurfAid is that in the surf industry the top brands have taken a lot of photos in the Mentawai Islands,” he said. “We have million dollar boats with pro surfers and filmmakers onboard producing ads and 200 yards into the island there is no running water and no resources.
“A 6-month-old baby just died because there was no mosquito net to protect her while she slept. It would have cost very little.”
Price explains that SurfAid has been successful at the grassroots level, distributing mosquito nets and health-related information to individual villages.
“The mosquito net program alone has to be way up there in saving lives,” he said.
Price explained how Encinitas and other beach city residents can get involved.
“The most immediate way to help is to donate money,” he said. “We also need people to work in SurfAid tents at events to distribute information and talk to people and increase membership.
“If someone feels that it is a worthwhile organization, they should bring their friends into the fold so that the organization can grow exponentially.”
Finally, he says, social media has proven to be effective in generating support at little or no cost.
“SurfAid needs to develop a compelling story and get people to be ambassadors at grassroots level and spread the word,” he explained.
Even though most of Indonesia is Muslim, Schober adds that the people of the Mentawai Islands are Christian, but have not received church support from abroad.
To make a $10 donation to purchase a malaria net, text “Surfaid” to 85944. To donate online, visit surfaid.org. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Randal Schober, call SurfAid USA at (760) 753-1103 or visit their offices at 530 Second St.. Encinitas. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.