Waylaid Dialectic

January 7, 2011

Lock Up Your Donors, Here Come the Surfers!

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 7:11 pm
Tags: ,

The latest issue of the Surfer’s Journal has an article on DIY aid – surfer style. With one particular quote being just too godawful gnarly not to be on the internet:

“Well traveled surfers are the best relief workers in the world, no question,” he [Matt George] says. “we’ve spent our lives immersed in a thousand cultures. We drink the world in, feed on the energy, and love it. The big aid groups don’t”

Eat your heart out Nicholas Kristof. Dude!

To be fair to the surfing world, Matt George is a particularly irritating specimen, famous mostly for having made the sport’s worst ever movie. He’s not, in other words, a representative sample. Indeed, the surfing world has produced at least one development NGO, SurfAid, that is by most accounts pretty good. (And, which, to be clear Matt George doesn’t work for).

Owing to the fact that we partake of a sport that really is pretty special it’s not unusual for us surfers to extrapolate from this that we’re pretty special too. Which, mercifully, isn’t the case. Outside of surfing we’re neither specially good, nor particularly bad, on average.

The one interesting thing about surfing NGOs is they way they obtain funding. In this, I suspect they’re not unlike some church based groups, drawing on a collective community which is much more likely to donate to one of their own. Either because they trust them (think they’re special), or because they feel affinity with the areas they work (unsurprisingly surfing aid NGOs tend to focus on coastal areas), or because seeing one of your own peers doing good prods your conscience more effectively than the standard do-gooder.

Also, handily, I suspect for NGOs like SurfAid most of today’s multi-million dollar surf companies started out as back-yard short sewing enterprises, with their founders having risen from ‘bum with the sewing machine’ to CEO. Types like this, I guess are more likely philanthropists than most. Especially when the money’s going to something run by a fellow surfer. In that sense, I guess, the myth of surfer specialness is kind-of useful.


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