HUCK Magazine (UK) features Waves for Water


Former pro surfer Jon Rose is sidestepping the bureaucracy of aid  organisations and providing clean water for the people who need it most.

Text Giuliano Cedroni & photography Vavá Ribeiro

Jon Rose looks like a regular surf dude: tan skin, pale blue  eyes, and a friendly smile on his face. But for over a decade  this former WCT top surfer mingled with the ”˜Irons’ and  ”˜Slaters’ of the professional surf circus in search of great waves,  trophies, girls and cash. Even though he never made it to the  very top, young Jon travelled the world looking for action in  the remotest places. His passport is a collection of exotic stamps:  Indonesia, Hawaii, South Africa, Brazil, Peru, Tahiti. But knowing  he would never make the big-time, Jon retired at the age
of thirty-one.
A bit lost after the dreamy lifestyle of the surf circuit, Jon  took inspiration from his father, Jack Rose — who had worked in  Africa helping people catch and filter rainwater — and travelled  to Sumatra Island, Indonesia, with some simple filters in his  backpack. It was during this surf trip, in 2009, that Jon felt a slight  shake on his boat — an echo of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that  caused a tsunami killing over 1,000 people, and leaving 100,000  homeless. Surviving without a scratch, Jon decided to go inland  to deliver the filters where they were needed. He didn’t know it  yet, but this was the birth of Waves 4 Water.
“After helping people in Sumatra, delivering filters and  teaching people how to use them, I knew that this is what I  wanted to do with my life,” says Jon, comfortably seated in  the open garden of Loducca, a fancy advertising agency in  São Paulo, Brazil. “We’re the black sheep of NGOs, because we  don’t operate like them, buying cars and trucks, spending a lot  on infrastructure and personnel, hiring foreigners to do the job.  That’s an old model, a ridiculous model, if you ask me. They  hire a guy from Ireland to do the transportation in Haiti, and an  Australian to do the security in Uganda. Why not the locals?”
Waves 4 Water is an NGO that delivers water filters to people  who need them. Whenever there’s a natural disaster, such as  the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, Jon and his two employees  go to action. Getting funds from brands like Hurley, a Nike surf  subsidiary, or humanitarian organisations such as Red Cross,  Jon and his staff buy the filters in the US and fly to the ground-zero  areas where they hire local people to help distribute them.  “I’ve learned everything from surf,” Jon acknowledges. “Like,  how to be able to adapt; to be out of your comfort zone and yet  manage to deal with it.”
After dropping a couple dozen filters to people during  the flood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last January, Jon and  photographer Vavá Ribeiro joined forces with a few other  surfers such as Guga Ketzer, a creative director from Loducca  ad agency, and set up an expedition this summer to the Amazon
River. Their mission? To check the quality of drinking water for  the people living around the largest water reserve on the globe.
“What the Amazon people don’t realise is that the water from  the river is not clean,” says Jon. “At least not clean enough to
drink it. So we got there, filtered a few glasses and showed  them the results. They were astonished.”  Jon and his small team have delivered over 100,000 filters  so far to places like Kenya, Uganda, Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan,  Brazil and Haiti. “The idea is to get in, act, and get out as soon
as we can, so the local authorities don’t even have the time to  tell us what we can and what we cannot do,” says Jon about  their guerrilla approach. “Sometimes we have sixty people  working with us and it blows me away!”  Each filter delivered by Waves 4 Water costs fifty US dollars
and provides clean water to 100 people per day for up to five  years. The device can be used with any plastic bucket by making  a whole in the bottom and the filters are easy to transport. Jon  may have already worked side by side with the Red Cross and  the UN this year, but he plans to grow his outreach significantly  in the future. “One in six people still don’t have access to clean  water,” says Jon, “and that’s ridiculous.”

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