Photo by: Dave "Nelly" Nelson
Dr. Dave recently sat down with the SurfAid team to talk about the success of the SurfAid Cup global event series, and how it's grown from a small morning paddle out to SurfAid's signature fundraiser.
SA: We’re hearing a lot about the SurfAid Cup events around the globe. How is SurfAid using the stoke of surfing to save lives?
DJ: It started as a breakfast paddle out with corporate surfers where we’d give an update on SurfAid’s work then head out for a surf. We invited people like Occy and Tom Carroll to join us and the concept evolved into our first SurfAid Cup in Manly in 2011. It was such a hit that we now run 8 SurfAid Cups globally.
Since our first event in Manly, the SurfAid Cup Series has raised just under $2.5 million globally. To put that into perspective, it costs SurfAid approximately $25,000 to run our full-scale Mother and Child Health program. This equates to over 100 villages gaining access to clean water & sanitation, improved nutrition, and basic healthcare. All accomplished through a day of surfing!
SA: What makes the SurfAid Cup unique?
DJ: There is a special energy that comes with working together as a team to save lives. Adding in your favorite surfing legends and the camaraderie that stems from people coming together for the welfare of others makes this a rare and meaningful opportunity that you’ll never forget.
SA: How are you getting some of surfing’s biggest names behind your event?
DJ: They’ve heard about or seen our exceptional results in reducing maternal and child mortality rates in places they all love to surf. Surfing in a SurfAid Cup is their way of giving back. They get caught up in the energy of the event and that explains why so many of them come back year after year. Nat Young surfed with us for the first time in Santa Cruz and was amazing. He stoked out our competitors by hanging out all day and thanked us at the end for the opportunity.
We are also really lucky to have the support of long term friends like Tom Carroll, Shane Dorian, and Kelly Slater who are simply stoked to help out and leverage their hard work and success on behalf of our families. Shane and Kelly took their support for SurfAid to a new level by partnering with us on their 2015 Omaze project that raised $75,000 for our Mother and Child Health Programs. Shane surfed with us in last year’s SurfAid Cup Malibu and is a great ambassador of our work.
SA: Is the SurfAid Cup only open to pro level surfers?
DJ: Definitely NOT! The surf is secondary to the stoke on the beach and the impact it makes to our program in the field. This event is for surfers who give a damn no matter what level they are. We have a grom team in Malibu that started when some of the kids were only 8 years old! There is no doubt that part of the fun is being in a competition and the adrenaline that goes with it, but at the end of the day no one cares how well you surf – the focus is on giving back. I wiped out on both of my waves in the SurfAid Cup Santa Cruz – earning me the Wild Card trophy for my custom “Founder Flounder.” It’s all part of the fun and we’re here to surf and save lives.
SA: Since the comp is open to all levels of surfers, is there a restriction on the type of board you ride?
DJ: No—it varies by location, but most are open to long and short boards. The judges are well versed in scoring all styles and judge accordingly. Part of the fun is seeing the various styles compete. Our last event in Santa Cruz came down to an epic battle between long and short boarders. The winning team, the Pleasure Point Life Savers, all rode longboards and had World Longboard Champ Joel Tudor as their Pro. They battled a team made up of some of the areas hottest shortboarders, the Santa Cruz Syndicate. Big Wave charger, Tyler Fox was their pro and both styles were incredible to watch.
SA: What if you can’t surf, are there other ways to support the event?
DJ: There are lots of ways to help both in and out of the water. We’re always in need of volunteers to help on the beach, run our merch tent, and help with silent auctions and securing raffle prizes. This is a great way to involve your business and we are always looking for event sponsors.
If you can’t surf, you can join us virtually as a Soul Surfer in the US or AUS. Same as all our competitors, you’ll be given a personal fundraising page and you can skip the surf and join us for the party on the beach.
These events are also a great way to donate your services. We’ve been lucky to have a variety of photographers, videographers and other talented people donate their services. You can contact our team in the US or Australia to find out more.
SA: Where can we expect to see the SurfAid Cup Series in 2017/18?
DJ: This year we are holding our first cup in Queensland and we’re also adding a new event in the US this coming spring as part of Shaper Studios Self Shape Surf Festival in Cardiff, CA. Our US Headquarters are just down the road in Encinitas, so it will be great to have a SurfAid Cup for our local supporters.
SA: How do you register for a SurfAid Cup?
DJ: Again, you can contact Erin in the US or Jessie in AU. The events typically fill up so it’s good to get your name on an early interest list.
SA: SurfAid has hosted this event since 2011 – you’ve got to have some great stories, can you share a few of your favorite SurfAid Cup memories?
DJ: There’s a few times I recall in Margaret River and Newcastle where the surf was big - much bigger than some of the surfers usually surfed in. They pushed themselves and paddled out for their team and they were so stoked they had done it. A few told me they were going to start training again and start surfing bigger waves.
A recent memory was in Santa Cruz. Occasional 6 foot sets were coming in so I decided to wait. I was surfing alongside Nat Young and he was creating quite the buzz. A Bomb came and I just blew the take off and did a rather spectacular tumble down the falls. Bad enough to win the wildcard award for my spectacular wipeout.
SA: Dream big – if you could add another SurfAid Cup anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would make your team roster?
DJ: My dream would be to have an event as part of the triple crown at the home of surfing Hawaii. I’d love to see an event with many of the long time legends who no longer compete professionally but we miss seeing in action. Pair them with some of our big-time fundraisers in the US and AU for a global competition. I would also love to see my hometown Auckland have an event and then we could hold our own triple country crown. In all honesty, our events are our way of bringing our villages to our supporters. We try to share some of the impact that’s being made in the field and it’s a great way to show our thanks for your support. SurfAid is happy to bring a SurfAid Cup wherever our supporters want us to be. That’s what is most important – giving back and sharing the stoke for our programs.
SA: What’s the best way to learn more about the SurfAid Cup?
DJ: Contact our team in the US or AU or check out our SurfAid Cup Events Blog – even better, come surf with us.