For many, surfing is an unattainable dream. Whether it's a fear of the sea (Shark Week!?!), a matter of fitness or simple geography, the idea of paddling for a wave and dropping in just isn't in the stars for some. But for others, it boils down to a simple matter of cost. Surfboards are expensive, starting at $400 and upwards of a grand or more for a new stick and an average of $200 for a use, for a kid, these costs seem astronomical. And for parents on a budget, these are costs that are simply out of reach, especially for a hobby their child may or may not stick with (remember the guitar and karate lessons, baseball, ballet and the scouts?).
But surfing can be incredibly liberating, a workout, a time of meditation and a practice of patience; there are lessons in the sea. While surfing can be a humbling experience, especially when first starting out, when that fight to make it past the inside can seem downright impossible. But the struggle is part of the mystique, and that the feeling of dropping in on that first wave is like none other; it's a memory that sticks. Sharing in this stoke, helping burgeoning surfers along the path is Lake Worth-based Share the Stoke Foundation.
What started as a failed attempt to sell a surfboard on Craigslist in 2010 has turned into a nonprofit with a simple mission: Change the World One Board at a Time. To do this, STSF has enacted two programs dedicated to bringing boards to disadvantaged youth around the world: The Recycled Program and the 100 Board Project. “This organization is all about spreading the love and hope in the form of a surfboard,” says Kelly Kingston, founder of STSF.
A little grom tearing it up in Chicama, Peru, a stop on the 100 Board Project.
The Recycled Board Program targets kids locally and nationally through a simple concept: Collect donated boards from surfers who are ready to let'em go, then give them away. To get a board, someone writes into the organization on why they or someone they know is deserving of a surfboard. The goal is to give the boards to kids who otherwise could not afford one. “We get a lot of sad emails, quite a few out-of-work stories.” Once a child is selected, they can come and get their board.
As a little incentive for surfers to give up their old ride, STSF and Firewire have partnered for the Enviroflex program: Simply take the board your considering for donation—7' in length or less, no open dings and a full set of fins—to a participating Firewire dealer and you'll get a $150 store credit toward a new Firewire Enviroflex board. Its a pretty sweet deal, not only because of the discount, but the board that would otherwise sit in the garage gathering dust or destined for the trash heap, ends up in the hands of a kid who is really deserving.
On the international side, the 100 Board Project is targeting 10 different coastal communities around the world, including Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Peru, as well as Florida, California and New York, giving 10 brand new Firewire boards, FCS fins and leash to kids at each. In order to qualify, the kids must promise to “attend school, learn to read and write, maintain a positive attitude, respect the environment and participate in community enrichment programs (when possible).”
The 100 Board Project in action: 100 new Firewire Surfboards to 100 deserving groms around the world.
It's a pretty sweet gig, traveling the world like a surfboard wielding Robin Hood, handing out new and used boards to deserving kids. “Share the Stoke doesn’t feel like a real job,” says Kingston with a grin. “Getting to go surfing, chilling with these kids out on the water, that is not really work,” But as modest as she may be, the organization has made real strides in seaside communities. To date (August 1, 2013), STSF has given away 154 boards since its 2010 inception, and Kingston and crew are not done yet.
Through grassroots events and fund-raising, dedicated partners and a close-knit group of volunteers—including professional free-surfer Pete Mendia—STSF is imparting the joys and lessons the ocean can open up. “Surfing has really given me so much, it is my passion,” says Kingston. “I really want to share that with these kids. It should be open for all kids, not just a select few.”
Makai Project Handplane and Skateboard to be raffled-off at Share the Stoke’s party at Mulligan’s
On August 1, Share the Stoke Foundation will be partying down stateside at Mulligan's at the Lake Worth Pier. From 5 to 8 p.m., salty boys and girls can join in with STSF, help raise awareness and some funds, while joining in on the cause. There will also be some pretty stellar raffle prizes on the line, including a full skateboard with hardware and a handplane from Makai Project. Join in the fun folks, its for the kids!