22/07/2010 - 00:00

Surfing the philanthropic swell

22/07/2010 - 00:00


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FOR some not-for-profit organisations, choosing a demographic for fundraising is not difficult – they’ll search as far and wide as possible to collect money for the cause.

Surfing the philanthropic swell

FOR some not-for-profit organisations, choosing a demographic for fundraising is not difficult – they’ll search as far and wide as possible to collect money for the cause.

However, when Dave Jenkins founded SurfAid International, he went against the grain.

Working as a doctor in Singapore in a high-level corporate job, Dr Jenkins travelled to a nearby surfing spot for a break from his ‘quest’, which was to make as enough money to buy a sail boat and tour the world.

“I had a corporate job in Singapore. I went surfing to take a break from the 24th floor I was working on. I went on shore after the surf and saw a graveyard with all these very small graves. I started asking what was going on,” Dr Jenkins said.

“I was the first doctor to ever go into the village. It basically slapped me out of the cocoon I was living in. After a little internal wrestle with my other dream of buying a boat, I decided I would try and do something to turn that around.

“This was in tropical paradise, where lots of millionaire surfers were coming. I thought, ‘if I am prepared to give up my job and not earn any money and try and get something started, perhaps other surfers might help me’.”

That vision has come to fruition and while some of SurfAid’s largest donors – including AusAid and New York hedge fund fellowship program Rainer Arnhold Fellows – are not surfers, the organisation has recently started an initiative to drum up support from Australia’s corporate surfers.

Surfing Suits is SurfAid’s national fundraising campaign, aiming to drum up support from individuals and their companies.

One of law firm Freehills’ partners, Tony van Merwyk, a surfer his whole life, has been involved in bringing the Surfing Suits initiative to Perth.

Mr van Merwyk had been exposed to the needs of remote communities through his surfing trips to Indonesia, and to SurfAid through the surf media, but it was meeting Dr Jenkins at a Freehills launch of the Yallingup Surf Film Festival that sparked his passion for the organisation.

“I had this increasing awareness of the issues that these remote villages face and they are really problematic. There are significant health and educational issues, disease and malaria is all over the Indonesian archipelago ... the infant mortality is high,” Mr van Merwyk said.

“I really liked Dave’s philosophy, I liked how SurfAid focuses on these villages at a grass-roots level. After that launch I became a contributor to SurfAid and then earlier this year SurfAid created the first Surfing Suits event in Sydney ... then Dave and I talked about doing an event in Perth.”

Surfing Suits aims to bring like-minded surfing business people together at three or four events across the year.

“The whole idea is to appeal to the surfers in WA who use Bali and the rest of Indonesia as their playground ... to give something back to the community up there,” Mr van Merwyk said.

Dr Jenkins said the level of camaraderie among surfers provided an opportunity for organisations.

“It’s a tribe; surfers understand the thrill of paddling out and riding a wave, there is a link between us all. So I think we have a great opportunity with people like Tony who are successful business people but do want to make some kind of contribution to make this world a better place,” Dr Jenkins said.



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