Waterspot: Waves of change

Waterspot: Waves of change
Boys to Men co-founder Joe Sigrudson at the 100 Wave Challenge last month in Mission Beach. Photo by Chris Ahrens

“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass

The ultimate hope of most surfers is either to ride great waves with a few friends, or to ride great waves with a few opponents and win cash in a surfing competition. So, why would anyone drive to Mission Beach at dawn in order to catch 100 2-to- 3-foot, wind-chopped, mostly closed out waves amid a big crowd on a Saturday? The unlikely answer is to help fatherless boys.

And that’s exactly what they did, riding toward shore on everything from longboards, shortboards, ‘70s classics and department store soft boards on Sept. 23 in support of the eighth annual Boys to Men 100 Wave Challenge.

While most everyone in the water were beginners or of average ability, at least three of the participants — former World Champion Shaun Tomson, former world top contender Damian Hobgood and big-wave legend Jojo Roper — have achieved great notoriety in the surfing world. But, they, like all honest surfers, will tell you that most of the waves they’ve ever ridden were for them alone, while these 100 waves were for someone else.

The idea of the 100 Wave Challenge is similar to a walk-a-thon, but instead of being rewarded by patrons for distance miles walked, each participant earns money for the organization for the numbers of waves they catch. While it’s all on the honor system, catching 100 waves is not easy by any stretch.

So how and why did this unusual anti contest come about in the first place? It was in response to some shocking statistics concerning fatherless boys. For instance, there stands the alarming truth that there are an estimated 24.7 million children in the U.S. living without their biological father. That group will make up a large percentage of the 85 percent of youths in prison who grew up in a fatherless home. The problem of boys or men not having a male figure to mentor them was first driven home to me when prison outreach pioneer and former NFL defensive end Bill Glass revealed the results of his survey, finding that of the 57 death row inmates he had personally interviewed every one of them hated their father.

Realizing the problem before most anyone was speaking about it, Herb Sigrudson (1927-1997) Herb’s son Joe Sigrudson, and Craig McClain founded Boys to Men in 1996.

Needing money to operate and being surfers, Joe and Craig hit upon the idea riding waves to raise money for the organization in 2009. While the first few years of the event attracted little attention or much needed cash, this year alone brought in well over $300,000.

Not bad for an afternoon riding waves with friends and legends. That money will send a lot of kids through the Boys to Men program and help steady those boys for life.

Rarely have surfers as young as 10 and nearly as old as 70 linked arms and faced off not against one another, but against the ocean and themselves, digging deep in order to aid the fatherless. 

It is obvious that there are many problems in our society, but a close look quickly reveals one of the root causes — that men without fathers or father figures are apt to go astray. After only one year in the Boys to Men program, students’ GPAs increase an average of 27 percent, while disciplinary incidents decline an average of 85 percent. Dad may be gone, but the need for him is not.

To learn more about Boys to Men Mentoring Network, or to donate to the cause, visit http://boystomen.org/

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