Surfers Giving Back

Aside from just being plain fun, many surfers say that riding waves keeps them physically, mentally and spiritually balanced in life. They feel connected to the earth and come out of the water with bigger smiles than when they entered. Along with that comes a desire to take care of the ocean and of each other. Numerous volunteer organizations are using the sport of surfing to make a difference in their own communities and across the world. Check out these Oahu based non-profit organizations that are stoked about surfing and giving back.


Surfrider FoundationSurfrider Foundation Logo
Protecting our oceans, beaches and waves

Surfrider Foundation Beach Cleanup

The Oahu Chapter organizes monthly beach clean ups.

The Surfrider Foundation is an environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches through Conservation, Activism, Research and Education (C.A.R.E.). Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 90 chapters worldwide.

Surfrider Foundation John Kelly Awards Past Winners

John Kelly Award recipients joined by winners of years’ past. (back row left to right) Peter Cole, Larry McElheny, Colleen Kelly, Duane DeSoto, Laurie Carlson, Mark Cunningham, Katye Killebrew, Jack and Kim Johnson. (front row left to right) Bill Braden, Stuart Coleman, Marvin Heskett, Tim Tybuszewski.

Hawaii has chapters on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island that are actively working on issues concerning beach access, water quality, coastal preservation and plastic marine debris.  Regular beach cleanups are held across the islands as well as monthly chapter meetings that typically feature guest speakers. The fall of 2009 marked Surfrider’s inaugural Hawaii Chapters Conference, which included a fun weekend of meetings, discussions and strategic planning for the chapters across the state.

As part of its Rise Above Plastics campaign, Surfrider is working to raise awareness about the dangerous effects of plastic marine debris on sea birds, marine mammals and the environment. Surfrider’s goal is to substantially reduce the proliferation of single-use plastics and encourage the use of reusable bags and bottles.  In 2009, the Kauai Chapter launched a successful campaign to ban single-use plastic bags, and the Hawaii chapters are now working towards a statewide ban.

Surfrider Foundation John Kelly Awards Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson Jammin with Paula Fuga at the John Kelly Awards

In the spring of 2010, Surfrider Oahu celebrated the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of protecting the North Shore’s sensitive coastal environment from the Kuilima Resort’s massive development plans. For years, the Oahu Chapter has worked with other groups like the Defend Oahu Coalition and Keep the North Shore Country to stop Turtle Bay Resort’s unreasonable expansion plans.

Surfrider also hosts a variety of fundraisers, social functions and other events throughout the year, including Oahu’s John Kelly Environmental Achievement Awards, an evening to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to help Surfrider achieve its mission.


Surfrider Spirit SessionsSurfrider Spirit Sessions Logo
Catching waves and changing lives

Surfrider Spirit Sessions

Spirit Sessions believes our youth are “Champions in Training.”

Spirit Sessions is an eight week long program serving at-risk youth that uses surfing and other ocean related activities to help teens redirect their lives in a positive direction. Teens are paired with a volunteer surf mentor who provides guidance in and out of the water.

The program was inspired by a book written by the founder and Executive Director of Spirit Sessions, Cynthia Derosier, entitled, “The Surfer Spirit” which celebrates the soul and spirit of surfing as a metaphor for life. The life messages in the book became the basis for the program. With the help of the Surfrider Foundation Oahu Chapter, Hawaii Girls Court, and Star Beach Boys, Surfrider Spirit Sessions was born on Waikiki Beach in 2006. Teens are directed to the program through Judges and Probation Officers in the Hawaii Family Court System and other youth support organizations.

Each Saturday session begins with a talk circle where a theme is discussed, taken from “The Surfer Spirit” book. A yoga warm-up is followed by land instruction given by Program Manager “Uncle Sam” Rodrigues.  The teens then hit the water with their mentors for one-on-one surf time. The group enjoys lunch and a journaling session after surfing where the kids are encouraged to contemplate the day’s theme and apply it to their own lives. A cultural or marine biology lesson is also incorporated into the day, and the session ends with a malama aina, or beach cleanup.

Surfrider Spirit Sessions

They literally pull the ground out from under our youth, grab their interest, help them recognize their own inherent value, and transform their raw energy into character strengths.

The strongest element of the program is the relationship and bond between the teen and mentor but equally as important is the education and respect the kids gain for the ocean and their environment. Spirit Sessions creates a unique experience in a positive, fun community setting which enhances teens’ self esteem, and helps them develop new skills, improve their relationships and lead healthier lifestyles. To date, the program has served over 100 youth, over half of whom have graduated out of the court system and become outstanding youth leaders and productive community members.

For more information or to become a mentor for Surfrider Spirit Sessions, contact Program Manager Sam Rodrigues at 721-5662 or email him at You may also contact Cynthia Derosier directly at


AccesSurfAccesSurf Logo
Making ocean access possible for everyone

AccesSurf Beach Access

AccesSurf wants everyone to have access and enjoy the ocean.

Established in 2006, AccesSurf is a non-profit organization created to empower families with disabilities by providing access to the beach through adaptive equipment and therapeutic instruction in ocean activities including surfing, swimming, snorkeling, stand-up paddling and shoreline flotation.

Jake Shimabukuro at a Hard Rock fundraiser AccesSurf

Jake Shimabukuro at a Hard Rock fundraiser for AccesSurf.

AccesSurf is the only organization in Hawaii and one of less than ten in the nation to provide free ocean programs on a consistent basis for kids and adults with any type of physical or cognitive challenge.  Each month, the “Day at the Beach”™ program provides a safe ocean experience for approximately 80 participants with disabilities and their family members with the help from more than 80 volunteers including medical professionals, therapists, professional surfers and community members.  In 2010, a new Wounded Warrior program was launched to offer therapeutic ocean services to injured military personnel who have the desire to experience the ocean and learn a new skill.

To date, AccesSurf has helped more than 1,000 people with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities to discover their own level of abilities in the ocean.  To support AccesSurf or for more information on how you can get involved call 808-236-4200.


Surfing the NationsSurfing The Nations Logo
needs and changing lives

Surfing The Nations 1 (Mike Slagter Photo)

STN works with international communities in various countries in Asia and the Middle East

In 1997, Tom and Cindy Bauer were asked to take over a three acre lot of land in Kalihi, just outside of Honolulu and make something good out of it.  Tom used the opportunity to pursue a vision he had for an organization that integrated surfing and humanitarian work. Surfing the Nations was born and Tom committed his life to mobilizing surfers to be leaders of change in their communities, both locally and internationally through selfless service.

Surfing The Nations began reaching out to the youth in the Kalihi area with the hope that they could make a difference. This was accomplished through skate nights, surf camps and the “X-Factory,” which was a music studio for up and coming local bands.  Kids learned that they had place where they could express themselves and stay clean from drugs and alcohol; a place where they were always welcome.

Surfing The Nations 3 (Mike Slagter Photo)Some of the organization’s hallmark initiatives include Feeding The Hungry, one of the largest food distribution sites on the island of Oahu, which caters to Hawaii’s needy, disabled, homeless, and working poor populations. Volunteers also reach out to at-risk youth in high school and college outreaches, and make annual trips to the neighbor islands. Internationally, Surfing the Nations makes yearly trips to Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Israel and Egypt, bringing with them clothing, supplies and surf culture to communities in need. There is also a local and international internship program which provides volunteers with opportunities to learn the skills that will help them to impact their world.

After ten years in Kalihi, Surfing the Nations made a new home for its headquarters in Wahiawa, where 30-40 full time staff members and interns are actively involved in running the organization and bringing positive change to the tiny pockets of the world that need it most.


Mauli OlaMauli Ola Logo
Breath of life

Mauli Ola Foundation Kala Alexander

Rachel and Kala Alexander taking it easy on their board. Rachel has cystic fibrosis and is one of Waikiki’s day’s youngest participants and is already a veteran of Mauli Ola’s Surf Experience Day, having participated three times.

The Mauli Ola Foundation was organized to promote education, awareness of genetic disease and to increase research for genetic disorders. The foundation began as a group of surfers who banded together to introduce surfing as a natural treatment to people with cystic fibrosis. Since 2007, Mauli Ola has taken nearly 1,300 CF patients surfing at nearly 100 Surf Experience Days and has now expanded it’s reach with hospital visits and other activities that touch the lives of kids with cancer and a variety of other health challenges. In 2010, MOF was awarded The Agent of Change Award by SURFER Magazine for its positive contributions and example to the surfing community.  Surf Experience Days exist to get kids who have cystic fibrosis out into the ocean water (which is high in saline) and experience what natural ther apies can do for their lungs. Children’s Hospitals Visits were created for all hospitalized patients that can’t make it to the beach.

Surfing can be a natural treatment for cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic condition that impairs lung function.  Mauli Ola, which means “breath of life” in Hawaiian, gets young people with CF in the ocean, where hyper-tonic saline — an elevated-saline environment just above the water’s surface — breaks down persistent mucus in their lungs. Congestion plagues the lungs of a CF patient, resulting in recurrent infections and requiring frequent hospital stays, daily therapies, many medications, and taking enzymes to aid digestion. Such regular salt-water treatments can reduce hospital stays and lead to more a fulfilling life.

Mauli Ola Foundation

Mauli Ola’s Legends volunteers (From Left to Right) Sunny Garcia, Dr. Paskowitz, Mick O’Brien, Carlton Hanley, Michael Ho, Donald Takayama, Kala Alexander, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Ivan Harada and Ben Aipa.

In 2010 Mauli Ola Foundation received the Agent of Change Award for the 2010 Surfer Poll.  The award is selected by professional surfers and industry leaders who consider non-profit surfing organizations that benefit humanitarian or environmental causes, explained James Dunlop, Mauli Ola’s chairman and president. James and his co-founder brother, Charles Dunlop of Ambry Genetics, MOF’s largest financial supporter, accepted the award December 6 during the 40th annual ceremony on North Shore O’ahu’s Turtle Bay Resort.  The $20,000 award will be used to continue Mauli Ola’s program that helps children with genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, learn the benefits of natural a saline therapy that helps break life-threatening mucus in their lungs, allowing them to breath deeper, learn and love surfing, and improve their health.  Since it was founded in 2008, Mauli Ola Foundation has been honored by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association with a Humanitarian Grant, and by Disney, Variety, and Project Save Our Surf.

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