Surfing the Amazon with Purpose

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Image from previous trip 4 years ago

Waves For Water has always been rooted in adventure… It was basically founded on the lifestyle that I lived for 15+ years prior. The initial idea was simple – continue to exercise my passion for travel and adventure and do some good in the process…

I never much related with the Peace Corps model – drop everything you’re doing, join a group, and go live somewhere for 2+ years. I have nothing against those who do it this way… but for me, this type of rigid structure just doesn’t resonate… I like to be more nimble and independent. I love the thrill of discovery and the mysteries along with it. I didn’t know it at the time, but all the years I spent as a globetrotting surfer before starting W4W directly served as crucial stepping stones for the life I lead today. I’m sure this is true with most people on some level… it’s a form of evolution – taking the things you learned in the past and applying them in the future. But in my case I know there was a distinct lineage transferred, not only from one chapter to the next, but also through generations of family members before me.

Now I find myself here – 30k feet in the air flying over central Brazil, headed for a city in the Amazon region called Macapa. It is the last big city along the Amazon river before it converges with the Atlantic. We will catch a boat in Macapa and motor 20 hours down river to the mouth. We will spend three days on that portion of the river – surfing the infamous Pororoca (tidal bore wave created by extreme tides during a full moon) and delivering water filters to all of the riverside villagers along the way. There is an incredible need for clean water in these areas since the majority of the people live in what are called “Stilt Villages” – clusters of wooden structures that are built on stilts with walkways connecting them.


Their entire life happens with water beneath them… in many cases these people hardly ever put their feet on solid ground. They just paddle in little dugout canoes from one village to the next. They’re probably the closest thing to amphibious people on our planet. These conditions make it incredibly hard to access potable water. Everything is mixed together by the water below – like a giant petri dish.

I have been to this area once before, about 4 years ago, to film a commercial for Japanese auto manufacturer, Nissan. The commercial was based around following a few surfers on an adventurous mission through the Amazon to surf the Pororoca (of course doing a large portion of traveling – via jungle roads – in the newest Nissan SUV). I have to give them serious props for actually filming a real mission rather than just staging something to resemble an adventure like so many of the cheesy commercials out there. Nope, it was real as it gets… the Amazon was no joke! Raw and exposed… it felt like someone had thrown us right into the middle of a National Geographic magazine. We had an unparalleled adventure and amazing time surfing the wave that some call the longest in the world. It travels from the Atlantic, continuously upstream, for 80 miles – truly one of the worlds great phenomenon’s.

I always knew I’d be back… and once I started W4W it was even more on my radar. I had been there an seen the needs with my own eyes and now I have a tangible way to help. Over the last few months W4W has been doing a lot of work in Brazil. It started with a disaster response mission to the catastrophic floods that happened near Rio earlier this year. Ever since, with the help of the honorary Brazilian chapter of W4W (made up of Vava Ribiero and Guga Ketzer), we have been developing new projects to get more people clean water. Now, our Amazon project is soon to be checked off the list – thanks to the sponsors that made it possible: Ambev, Nextel, Hurley, and Loducca. I must say, it’s really great to see Brazilian based corporations (along with California based Hurley International), stepping up and taking the initiative to help their country. It’s a model that we hope will perpetuate and grow to a scale that eventually provides water to every single person that needs it. When it’s all said and done, this mission down the Amazon will provide clean water for 10,000 people in some of the most remote regions along the river. It also further authenticates the W4W design – follow your passion first, then plug a cause based element into it. Doing it this way allows us to thrive in who we are and makes our ability to help, that much more effective. As I said before things like travel, adventure, and discovery are some of the main things that drive me so this project was directly created from those elements. Besides, with all the disasters we’ve responded to lately it’ll just feel nice to set out on a more normal pace, do our part, and have a massive amount of fun in the process!

Every journey we do with W4W is an adventure and through the many experiences we’ve had there’s one thing that always shines brighter than the rest – going to sleep knowing that you did everything in your power to in some way help another human being, is truly what life is all about – everything else along the way is a bonus.

Wish us luck!

Jon

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