Surf Activism: The Surfing Community Gives Back

Surfing, while an individual sport, is part of a larger, close nit community. And though your reason for ripping up a wave may be for personal reasons, a number of organizations are helping the broader community by sharing the power of the waves. Here are two locally based, and one chapter-driven organization that uses surfing as a means to give back.


Share the Stoke Foundation

It all started with a busted, broken surfboard. Kelly Kingston was having trouble unloading an old used surfboard on Craigslist, so, instead of tossing it into the trash heap, she decided to give it away to a kid in need. After listing it as free, the requests came flying in—plenty of people want to surf, but for some, the cost is just too much. Thus began the surfing do-gooder organization, Share the Stoke Foundation.

Jamica Project - Share the Stoke Foundation

Jamaica Project:  One of the boards donated by Share the Stoke Foundation is in good hands down in Jamaica with this cat shredding up Bull Bay.

   The Lake Worth-based 501c3’s mission to donate surfboards to kids and teenagers in order to keep them out of trouble and on the water has taken STSF across the globe. Share the Stoke does this by engaging coastal communities and kids here and abroad through a number of projects, including the Recycled Board Project and the Global Project.

   The Recycled Board Project has a twofold agenda: 1) giving a deserving kid a gently used surfboard from a local who has moved on to another in the quiver; 2) it keeps used boards out of the landfills. Surfers donate their boards to Share the Stoke, who will then give the board to a kid looking to shred in the U.S. But in order to qualify for a board, the kid must be a positive influence in his/her community by attending school, being an active volunteer to help others, in all, be leader for good.

Domincan Republic Project - Share the Stoke FOundation

Sharing the love in the Dominican Republic.

   Share the Stoke’s global initiatives target coastal communities around the world that have active youth organizations dedicated to getting kids off the streets and into school and on the water. To date, Share the Stoke has given away hundreds of boards in more than 15 different countries, all in order to bring a little joy and positive vibes that realizing a dream can foster.


Surfers for Autism

The sea is indiscriminate. It has the uncanny ability to strip anyone who steps in down to his or her core. The tidal flow, seemingly arbitrary, is guided by a steady and assured purpose, drawing people to its briny shores for time immemorial, each on a journey of self-discovery. The power of the sea, the potential it brings out of each person who takes the plunge, is what Surfers for Autism looks to harness and bring to children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Surfers for Autism - taking to the surf   What began as a single event in Deerfield in April 2008 event, Surfers for Autism has grown from a loosely banded group of surfers looking to pass on the stoke, to an army of volunteers on a mission to brighten a child’s day as well as spread awareness of ASD. Geared for surfers, ages 4 and up, identified with ASD, each surfer is accompanied by trained surf instructors who carefully guide them into waves. From there the riders and the ocean’s energy takes over.

   Surfers for Autism is not just as simple as enjoying a day at the beach, as anyone touched by autism knows. The water activities touch on many of the practices attributed to Aquatic Therapy. The time in the water can be a great physical activity, not only in terms of exercise, but helps with cases of hyperactivity, and in some cases translating to a better ability to concentrate on tasks following their session in the water. A Surfers of Autism event is filled with people, making for a very social environment where children and parents/caregivers are given the opportunity to interact with one another in a fun atmosphere. The act of surfing can also be used as a form of therapy in terms of time and task completion. But most importantly, the events are fun. It is a chance for families to bond and simply enjoy one another’s company.

Surfers for Autism - enjoying the day   Like many small nonprofit organizations, Surfers for Autism relies on volunteers to staff and run events, donations from the community and small businesses to help feed and produce the events, and word of mouth to promote the events within the community. And though this quiver of tactics may seem quaint, especially when stacked against the bevvy of nonprofits out there vying for the same dollars and volunteers, Surfers for Autism is making a difference. Public awareness and education is a cornerstone of its mission. By putting on these events, staffed with local volunteers, Surfers reaches thousands within the seaside communities the events take place in.

   To get a sense of the work Surfers for Autism is doing, one simply has to read a single testimonial on their website. The stories are touching, the motivation is genuine, and the memories are life lasting. A day with Surfers for Autism is a day that puts the child and family first; it is incredibly heartwarming and changes all who are involved, from volunteers to the beach goer that just happens upon the event. These events have the opportunity to change lives, and they do. There are few things left in this world that are totally selfless, but an afternoon pushing a child into a wave, just to see them smile, that is where humanity finds its soul.

Here’s a look at some of Surfers for Autism’s upcoming events:

  • April 1-3, the ninth annual South Florida Surfers for Autism Beach Festival will take over Deerfield Beach. Home to the original SFA event, the party has expanded to a three-day affair, complete with surfing, a weekend of concerts, food trucks, beer garden, paddleboarding, and more. For more information, click here.
  • On April 30, Juno Beach’s Ocean Cay Park will welcome the SFA crew back for the seventh annual Surfers for Autism Festival of the Palm Beaches. The party will include a full array of beach activities, including surfing paddleboarding, and children’s activities. For more information, click here.


Head to page 2 for a look at Surfrider Foundation.

Surfrider Foundation | Palm Beach County Chapter

Surfrider Foundation may not be on the forefront of many non-surfers’ minds, but chances are its mission of “protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network,” has had a positive effect to one of your favorite beaches. The 26-year-old organization grew out of concern for one specific break, First Point in Malibu, but has since gone on to help sway and guide political and public opinion, protecting beaches from destruction and pollution, not just in order to keep the surf up, but to save the entirety of the ecosystem—think of waves as a flagship species, the umbrella effect saves all around, above and beneath the surface.

Surf Activism - Surfrider Foundation Palm Beach County Chapter

   Through grassroots efforts, local meet-ups and events, Surfrider chapters have been a powerful and effective international force, helping improve water quality, lobbying politicians to back conservation and preservation efforts, encouraging the use of reusable and recycled material—namely weaning off of plastic grocery bags and bottles, fight for public beach access, promote and educate the public on “ocean friendly gardens” to help stem urban runoff, as well as enact outreach and educational programs proselytizing the plight of the world’s oceans as they currently stand. And this is just a brief, very brief, overview of what Surfrider’s mission and goals; each chapter is fighting for protection on local and regional levels, creating a web interconnected conservation efforts.

International Surfing Day - Surfrider Foundation

   The Palm Beach County chapter has taken on the task of spreading eco-awareness through wave riding since 1997. One of just 11 Florida chapters, the Florida region has become a hotbed of activity in recent years, namely due to the continuing pressure to open up off shore drilling off the coast of the Sunshine State, as well as ongoing beach renourishment projects that threaten the natural flow and balance of the shore. Current initiatives include battling coastal armoring (from breakwater structures to seawalls, these projects are designed to prevent erosion—a natural and necessary occurrence on beaches—which in turn destroys the natural cycle and health of the beach habitat); the expansion of the Port of Palm Beach and the Lake Worth Inlet, which could have a devastating effect on the unique underwater habitat in and around the Lake Worth Lagoon; raising awareness about the affect single-use plastics has on the ocean ecosystem; promoting Ocean Friendly Gardens; as well as fighting to ensure that the county’s beaches remain open to the public for recreational use with adequate beach access.

  • Active within the community, Surfrider PBC hosts and partners with like-minded organizations throughout the county for events promoting a greener way of living. For a look at what’s to come, visit Surfrider PBC’s Facebook page for upcoming events, coastal and environmental concerns, and ways to get involved.


  Click here to head back to A South Florida Guide to Surfing.

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