Malibu surf aid gala

The Gala. Photo: Jobi Manson


The Inertia

As we walked underneath an archway and into the elegantly decorated Malibu Market and Design on Friday evening, I came to a sudden realization.  “I should have worn the collared shirt,” I whispered to Mark, my long-time friend and surf companion.

SurfAid was hosting their Behind the Palms fundraiser, and my mission was to interview Dr. Dave Jenkins–the organization’s founder, front man, and one of my personal heroes.  I was nervous to meet him, but even more scared of how he would react to a mere pre-med like me pestering him for an interview.

At the sponsor booths we were greeted with smiles, gourmet food, delicious desserts, and enough free Patron to encourage some otherwise unlikely conversations and dancing. Donavon Frankenreiter drew a large crowd to the second level grass stage, playing his characteristic mellow surf rock. His set was followed by an auction that featured prizes like a standup paddleboard lesson from the legendary Laird Hamilton and a gigantic print of Kelly Slater from his last trip to Fiji. It was only when after the last song was played and people were beginning to stumble down the uneven wooden stairs that I was able to grab “Dr. Dave” for a quick sit down.

SurfAid was started in 2000 by a small group of surfers who witnessed the local people of the Mentawai Islands suffering from a high prevalence of diseases that were otherwise treatable and preventable. Seeing that they could really make a difference through community education and providing basic needs such as mosquito nets, they sought to improve the lives of these people living in remote areas.

SurfAid’s latest addition and the focus of this interview is the SurfAid Schools Program. The program’s focus is on connecting the privileged young surfers of First World nations to the sufferings of those women and children being treated in the South Pacific.

“We must go beyond helping in the islands,” Dr. Dave explained, “we must develop our youth into global citizens.” The words chosen were “culturally aware,” “socially responsible” and “active” (not what typically comes to mind when you think of a high school surf grom).

So what is the big difference in SurfAid’s approach to teaching that other organizations lack? “Surfing is cool!” Dr. Dave says to me; his words replay in my head as I work out what Dr. Dave is really getting on to. “It’s easy to get the kids listening and involved when they see their heroes like Donavon and Kelly coming out to support.”

Walking around contemplating what was said, I begin to realize what Dr. Dave had meant. Amongst the attendees were literally dozens of high school kids, all here on a Friday night, wearing SurfAid hats and selling raffle tickets. They were speaking to people their parents’ age in a manner that was educated, poignant, and mature enough even for the captain of the high school debate team, let alone the captain of the surf team. I listened in as they spoke about their surf and international schools program, about their belief in the mission, and how they have plans for educating the public.

“So are these the next Dr. Dave’s?” I asked, as we made our way back to the crowd. “Some of them,” he replied, with a seriousness that convinced me of his certitude. “There are always those that are willing to go that extra mile.”

More photos from the event can be seen at: JobiManson.com