Surfing the Nations


photo courtesy of Surfing the Nations

STN aided Jafar Alam who is now helping the sport of surfing grow in Bangladesh

By Beau Akers

Through surfing, a love for others and acts of service, the humanitarian organization Surfing the Nations is creating a wave of difference in its community and around the world.

Local surfer and Moorpark College student, 21-year-old Tyler Bitner, has been a part of STN and shares its goals.

“To give back, to change the world’s perception of surfers and what their culture consists of by giving back to surf communities around the world and in Oahu where their home base is with food, clothes and friendship,” said Bitner.

The goal of STN is for surfers to give back to their community in Hawaii and to the world around them. According to Bitner, they feed about 3,000 families equaling around 10,000 people a week on the island of Oahu. STN’s main locations are in Hawaii, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. From these locations members give back to the communities and countries around them.

The organization began with Tom and Cindy Bauer and their desire “to do more with the sport of surfing,” as explained on STN’s website. They obtained three acres of land and founded Surfing The Nations in 1997 near Honolulu. The Bauers’ goals were to use surfing to give back and help change the youth in their community.

STN has established two programs in 1998 that set it apart. The first is the Feeding the Hungry program, which feeds about 3,500 homeless a week. The second is its international trips to Bali, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Israel. The funding for these programs comes from private donors, and occasionally a grant from the state.

Leading the international trips is STN’s Trip Director 26-year-old Chris Rehrer.

“A lot of kids out there, myself included, want to do things. So we give them a platform to do it. To get people out there and provide an experience serving, and getting great waves, it’s a multicultural experience,” said Rehrer.

Rehrer explained that the trips are typically a month long. The trips help expose westerners to new cultures, teaching them how to surf and serve the communities they visit.

“We want people to know what love is, and what value is, through surfing,” said Rehrer.

Serving the less fortunate with STN was one of Bitner’s favorite experiences.

“Giving clothes to a fishing village in Indonesia and seeing how people reacted, how stoked they were, and talking to people we hung out with and gave food to was an experience I will never forget,” said Bitner.

“We have a lot of goals. We want to meet people where they’re at, and bless them where they’re at,” added Rehrer.

There is currently a man from Bangladesh whom STN has radically helped.

“A guy right now, here [in] [Hawaii] from Bangladesh, Jafar Alam,” said Rehrer. “When we met this guy there was no surfing in Bangladesh.”

The 28-year-old surfer from Bangladesh recalled his start in surfing and how STN has assisted him and his community.

“In ‘95 an Australian guy gave me his surfboard. I saw him, then his surfboard. I tried to get his board. He told me $200, I didn’t know $200. I had 2,000 taka which equaled $20. He needed money, so he sold it to me,” said Alam.

In 2001 the founder of STN, Tom Bauer, discovered Alam while taking pictures at Bangladesh’s longest beach.

“He saw me, and he saw that my surfboard had no leash and no wax. It’s hard with no wax,” said Alam. “I was surfing by myself for seven years. Then he sponsored me in 2003, he fed me, everything, a place to stay. Yeah, he changed my life.”

“We don’t have surf shops, wax, or leashes. STN brings that stuff when they go to (Bangladesh) every year,” said Alam.

“We’ve equipped him to entirely change the place where he lives. He’s trying super hard to impact the kids and people around him in his community,” said Rehrer.

“Surfing was new to Bangladesh. Right now my surf club is about 70 over; a lot,” said Alam.

“He’s using the principles that we are teaching him to help his community. It’s not because of us, but because our consistency,” said Rehrer.

With a light and excited tone, Rehrer talked about the time when he asked Alam how recognized from a scale of 1 to 10 Alam is in Bangladesh.

“Ah… maybe an eight,” said Alam.

“This is a guy whose life has been radically changed by STN,” said Rehrer.

Local surfer and Moorpark College student 20-year-old Chris Homokay wants summed up the goal of STN by stating their motto.

“It’s about surfers giving back,” said Homokay.