For 27-Time Hopi High Cross-Country Champs, Running Is Tradition

Rick Baker runs the cross-country program at Arizona’s Hopi High School, and he is one of the most successful coaches in sports—period. His runners have won 27 consecutive state cross-country titles in a row. Winning is great, of course—it’s a source of pride for Baker, his runners and the Hopi community. But he has a bigger mission: keeping running alive and making sure every generation is aware of its significance to the Hopi tribe. Running isn’t simply a sport for the Hopi people. It’s a tradition with deep spiritual purpose. For centuries, Hopi runners carried messages to distant villages, and they ran to springs to deliver prayers to bring rain. The young athletes Baker coaches run on the very same dusty trails their ancestors blazed in northeastern Arizona. Baker ensures his runners are aware of their history, and he encourages them to embrace their brotherhood. That’s the kind of leadership every team needs.

The Trail To Kazbegi

What happens when four like-minded adventurers head into one of the world’s wildest mountain ranges with nothing but their mountain bikes and enough food to survive for 10 days?

The answer? What doesn’t happen? Terrifying lightning storms. Raging-river crossings. Snow-covered glacial pass traverses. Mind-melting descents. Constant fights with vicious dogs. Tense encounters with over-zealous border-patrol guards.

All of the above were just another day following “The Trail to Kazbegi,” a self-supported mountain-bike mission through the highest reaches of the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Our four-man team—adventure filmmaker Joey Schusler, Bike magazine editor Brice Minnigh, photographer Ross Measures and mountain man Sam Seward—spent half of June 2015 exploring the crown jewels of the Georgian High Caucasus on a feature assignment for Bike.

A World Cup for the Overlooked

CONIFA Offers a Humanitarian Alternative to FIFA.

Conifa World Cup, Group C, Padania v Székely Land, Bedfont Sports Centre, London/England. By Ungry Young Man from Vienna, Austria. 3 June 2018. Photo Credit: Confifa

Conifa World Cup, Group C, Padania v Székely Land, Bedfont Sports Centre, London/England. By Ungry Young Man from Vienna, Austria. 3 June 2018. Photo Credit: Confifa

Soon, the eyes of the world will be on the FIFA World Cup. There will be all the usual pomp and spectacle, feats of athleticism, and celebration of unity. And yet, FIFA’s large-scale corruption is no secret to fans and players alike. Recurring scandals have tainted the name of soccer’s governing international organization, culminating in the arrest of seven top officials for claims of corruption in 2015. But FIFA also has a somewhat less known history of excluding the many teams that do not meet its participation requirements. To play in FIFA, the team’s nation must be recognized by the international community, and only one football team from each country is allowed to participate.

In 2013, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, otherwise known as CONIFA, was formed with the intention of providing a world stage for these unrecognized teams to compete on. In a poetic opposition to FIFA, CONIFA was founded as a non-profit and represents teams comprised of people without a state, unrecognized nations, minorities, people who prefer representing their cultural identity over country of birth, and anyone else who cannot, or prefers not to meet FIFA’s requirements. CONIFA now includes 47 member teams and represents 334 million people worldwide. “We have nothing against FIFA,” CONIFA General Secretary Sascha Düerkop told the press shortly before the opening of the CONIFA World Football Cup, “They are very great to learn how not to do things.”

The 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup opened on May 31 in South London, and was hosted by the London-based Barawa team of Somali refugees. Among those represented at the cup was the Pandania team, comprised of players from eight different regions of northern Italy, and winners of the past two CONIFA European Football Cups as well as ending fourth in the 2016 World Football Cup. Another notable team is Abkhazia, the former title holders representing their semi-recognized Eastern European state. Representing Matabeleland, a war-torn area in western Zimbabwe, are the Warrior Birds, who successfully raised the 25,000 dollars necessary to make the trip to England entirely through crowd funding and selling jerseys. “No one ever believed we would make it to London but we made it,” said captain Praise Ndlovu, “I'd like to say thank you to everyone.”

The final match of game was between Northern Cyprus, a state recognized only by Turkey, and Karpatalya, representing the Hungarian minority in Ukraine. While in the end, Karpatalya won the match 3-2, CONIFA is about more than just winning, it’s about inclusivity, about allowing everyone to participate on the world stage.

“As long as FIFA has existed, there has always been a non-FIFA world of teams who want to play on a global stage but can’t for a variety of reasons,” Per-Anders Blind, the president of CONIFA, told The New Yorker. “What we have done is fill a gap, a white spot on the map that nobody cared about.” CONIFA represents a more honest, somewhat purer version of football, which has returned to FIFA’s original intention of supporting the world-wide football community and organizing truly international competitions.

 

EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. She has worked as a volunteer in Guatemala City and is passionate about travel and social justice. She plans to continue traveling wherever life may take her.

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INDIA: Riding on Thin Air

Best known for his breath-taking downhill footage escalating in a flip over a 72-foot-long canyon gap at Red Bull Rampage 2013, Kelly McGarry does not shy away from extremes. So we took him and fellow rider Jeremy Lyttle to the highest and most remote place he’s ever been: Khardung La – the supposedly highest vehicle-accessible mountain pass in the world at 18,380 feet (5,602 m) and let them have the downhill ride of their lives.

Read the full story here: mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/lifestyle/adventure/riding-on-thin-air-kelly-mcgarry-and-jeremy-lyttle-take-on-khardung-la/

 

HONG KONG: In the Kong

Hong Kong is one of the hardest cities to film skateboarding in. It's dense, hilly and crusty, but within several short trips to HK we pieced together this short cinematic clip featuring some of Hong Kong's finest.

The video features HK locals Chris Bradley (Vans/Victoria), Piet Guilfoyle (Vans/Victoria), Jay Meador (Vans, Vagabond) and Ho Yeung.

Shot by Charles Lanceplaine, Jay Meador & Kristian Kvam Hansen
Edited by Charles Lanceplaine & Kristian Kvam Hansen

Music by Yuki Ame - KNW THT

Irish Surfer Easkey Britton Discovers Iran

Iran is a place where the stereotypical and the surprising, the ancient and the new co-exist. At every turn a complex, millennia-old Iranian culture, different to the culture of its Arabian neighbours for which it is often mistaken.

 It is a land of contradictions and a land not known for its surf-exposed coastline. In fact it wasn’t until I got asked to go on the trip that I even realised that Iran had a coast exposed to any swell at all. A very short strip of coast lies in a narrow swell window between Pakistan and the Gulf of Oman, exposed for a few months of the year during Indian monsoon season. This is a part of Iran that doesn’t feature highly in any travel guides, let alone the surf mags. It was a guaranteed adventure in a little understood country. However, the possibility of finding waves there was in fact quite good. Olivier Servaire did a trip there a few years before and scored it pretty good. Although there were no women on that trip and no obstacle of having to surf with your entire body and head covered in a 30-40°C desert climate!

During the European summer when our swell is quite fickle or even flat for weeks the waves can be incredibly consistent in the Arabian Sea thanks to the Indian monsoon which causes gale force southwest winds to blow non-stop out in the ocean between May and late September. The area we were going to was very remote and much of the time we would be completely alone which might make it a little less challenging having to wear a hijab in the surf. It would be a challenge for any woman but would no doubt make the experience much more interesting. As Marie Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood”. And I understood so little of this conflicted, misunderstood, former ancient empire and now Islamic Republic of Iran.

TEHRAN

My first day in Iran stripped me of all my assumptions.

The first surprise was the ease of my arrival. I pulled my headscarf tightly around my head, underwear buried at the bottom of my bag, no reading material or books with any depiction of the female body in any form, my passport photo with my uncovered, long blonde locks, my surfboard packed in a camo-print boardbag, a female without a male family companion or husband arriving into Iran, alone. I had imagined all my belongings searched, my tinted lip-balm confiscated. I had expected to cross the threshold into a different frontier.

All my fears were for nothing it seemed. I was waved through immigration with only a cursory glance at my passport, my baggage arrived on time and I walked out of the customs hall with nothing more than some curious glances at my surfboard and into the waiting courtesy bus from the hotel, along with a tourist from America. At the hotel I met my fellow companions, French film-maker Marion, and Ben, a body boarder from Cornwall. Missing from our group was our trip organizer and photographer Stuart Butler. It appeared he’d missed his flight and we would be left to our own devices in a land we knew little about. The adventure had begun.

I felt safe walking down the main streets of Tehran, even the famously dangerous and chaotic traffic of the capital seemed subdued by Ramadan. The one opportunity we had to travel before we lost our swell window happened to land during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting where Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. Travellers are exempt from fasting but it does make finding restaurants open and willing to serve food challenging. To escape the heat we went for a walk in one of the many local parks where we met an old shoe-maker, Mohammed, who wanted to practice his fluent English and French with Marion and I. Unbelieving when we tried to explain what it was we hoped to do, find surf in Iran, he showed us a picture in a magazine of a woman surfing asking is that what we do? The surfing world had even filtered into the land-locked capital of the Islamic Republic!

We ate kababs and drank tea sitting on Persian carpets surrounded by young cosmopolitan Tehranis, women in glamorous headscarves perched on beehive hair-dos, wearing tight-fitting belted coats over skinny jeans (a dress code that stays just within the law), and families picnicking in the park after sundown with girls playing volleyball with their fathers and brothers. This place was full of surprise where nothing was quite what it seemed. It’s been a little over 30 years since the revolution, and post-revolution Iran is first and foremost, a theocracy, with Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed for life, overriding all other authorities. He is regarded by his supporters as being incapable of error, and only answerable to God. For the ordinary people of Iran, family life is supremely important and education (for girls and boys) is highly regarded. Ironically the level of attendance of girls at third-level education has rocketed post-revolution. Women are allowed to vote, drive, buy property, sit in parliament, and to work. In reality though, post-revolutionary Iran also saw women’s right decline in many positions; banned from the judiciary (too emotional) with the imposition of a strict dress code and being treated as second-class citizens under many of the fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law. But still Iranian women continue to assert their rights and chip away at the oppressive regime—wearing a defiant splash of red lipstick, making visionary movies, becoming experts at interpreting the law, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

CHABAHAR, GATEWAY TO IRAN'S SOUTHEASTERN COAST

The next day we took a two-hour flight to the south-eastern coastline, which borders Pakistan, to Iran’s largest ocean port and free-trade zone, Chabahar.

It’s a surprisingly big and developed town on the fringes of Iran in the middle of a desert landscape which is straight out of the Dune series, with a crumbling range of ‘Mars mountains’ and cliffs pock-marked with cave and pinnacles. I pointed in excitement at camel- crossing signs and a herd I saw cruising by the roadside but, as the coming days revealed, they’re the Iranian equivalent of sheep in New Zealand. There used to be camel caravans between all the cities with rest stops every 30 miles for the camels. Women of the house always rode on top of the camel in a special, decorated palanquin while the men had to walk or ride a donkey.

Arriving at Chabahar and we thought we might be camping out in the wilderness, but we pulled up to a three star hotel with sea views. The Iranian tour company were clearly keen to impress their first surf tourists. Arman, our guide, found a ‘Ramadan-free’ restaurant for the less devout as it made communicating with the women very challenging through a male interpreter. Abdullah said most women would not be allowed to speak directly and freely with another man they didn’t know and especially not without a chaperone.

THROUGH THE VEIL

The nature of the coast around southeast Iran means that the local winds are generally light but it catches a good part of the swell breaking primarily on powerful beach breaks with a few potential point-break set-ups.

The boss of the tour company showed us some photos from his recon missions along the coast before our arrival. He explained we had come a little too late, having missed the big swell season at the height of summer when he insists the waves get up to 15 feet. Now it was in the three-foot range and we were going to scour the coast. In the early morning we found a little beach outside Chabahar, not far past a military checkpoint. The wind stayed light and glassy until after 10am, the waves still broke close to shore and were difficult to catch—with very short rides and strong undercurrents—but I felt more comfortable in my custom hijab surfwear today without a crowd watching. I wore a long- sleeved black rashvest, with t-shirt over it. Black boardies with leggings underneath and a lycra hijab made by a Dutch company who design sportswear for Muslim women—I didn’t have to worry about sunburn!

We drove through a strange, alien-like desert wilderness; it was like crossing into Mordor. We found some promising set-ups further east of Chabahar, and further away from the swell shadow of Oman. Here there was a vast stretch of beach backed by sand dunes and the Mars Mountains where the waves seemed to peel along a sandbar. We drove to the most south-eastern point of Iran and stood looking across into Pakistan, with a huge fleet of pretty coloured wooden trawlers lining the harbour below. Fishing is the mainstay along this sparsely populated coastline. Marion stopped to take some footage when our guide and driver started shouting and waving wildly at us, I could see a tail of dust rise up out of the desert and a 4x4 pick-up approaching. We jumped back in the van and the truck passed by without stopping. Arman told us the area is rife with smugglers, you can never be too safe.

We stopped for a picnic in a barren ‘truck-stop’ in a desolate little village. Bob, our driver, and Arman cooked a Persian-style BBQ and we all took shelter from the searing heat under a tree to picnic. I still couldn’t get used to wearing a headscarf in the stifling heat. We sipped pomegranate Iranian beer (non-alcoholic of course) and tried Iran’s famous ‘doogh’ the most refreshing yogurt drink flavoured with mint and salt.

Back in Chabahar, after sundown, we decided to check out the local ‘bazaar’. I was expecting what you usually see in those action-movie chase scenes through middle-eastern markets but this was a western-style shopping mall dominated by cheap Chinese electrical goods and lingerie stores, followed by toy and shoe shops. Families came out in force once the sun was down and people were allowed to eat again. It was definitely more traditional here than the capital. People were still very friendly but there were more stares and a lot more women covered in chadors (full-length black coverings) and some even wearing burqas (full face coverings).

TOO BIG TO FISH... 

Only a few days had passed but already it felt like we’d been here much longer, absorbing so many new experiences every day.

 Our dawn patrol paid off and we scored the most fun surf of the trip at our now regular spot, a surprisingly good sandbar along an empty stretch of beach backed by those stunning Mars Mountains, with fun peaks and some head-high waves. Apart from fishermen passing by on their boats, waving, there was not a soul to be seen. I wondered if we were the first to surf this spot? Later in the afternoon we decided to explore west of Chabahar where there are a series of headlands that show potential for some point-break set-ups. In reality there wasn’t enough swell, but who knows when the Roaring Forties line up briefly in the middle of summer— when the fishermen say the sea is too big to go fish...

We continued to surf ‘our’ beach for the remaining couple of days. The swell stayed a consistent three-to-four feet with light winds, although it felt like the swell was dropping on the last day. During breakfast on the beach, in between surfs, we discussed religion with Arman, whose name means ‘hope’ in Farsi, and is typical of a lot of young, well-educated Iranians from the cities. He says he is not religious and doesn’t actively practice his faith. Unlike Bob, who was kneeling down in prayer facing towards Mecca before he stripped down to his leopard print boxers and decided to go for a dip in the heavy shore-break laughing until the under-tow caught him and pulled him out to sea. Ben paddled out and gave him a lift back to safety on his bodyboard. Despite the language barrier it was clear Bob had loved the experience and we could make a keen waterman out of him yet! Arman says it’s a problem when religion is used as a tool for oppression by those in power, especially to suppress women and blame them for the evils of the world. Despite Iran being a place that celebrates art, creativity and knowledge with a welcoming, warm-hearted people it is still a place where people suffer under an oppressive regime; Arman tells us that you can be sentenced to 75 lashes for being drunk, and be stoned to death for having sex outside of marriage (including rape in many cases). Yet the people are not victims. They are proud, resilient, and hopeful.

Surrounded by the emptiness of the beach and desert it was easy to feel tranquil but we were still out in ‘bandit country’, a place ignored by guidebooks and tourists, very near the Pakistani border where smuggling flourishes.

WATCHFUL EYE

On our way back to Chabahar after our last surf a camo-truck overtook us with a man in a white shirt and rifle slung across his lap and a stern look on his face, waving us to stop.

 They pulled over in front of us, Marion and I could hardly breathe. A military soldier stepped out with him, both fully armed. They came over and shook hands, smiling and chatting to our guide. I let out a big exhalation. It turned out they were our government ‘protection’ and had been keeping an eye on us to ensure our safety, and on our last day they wanted to meet us and say hello. Like I say, nothing is what it seems...

Iran is perhaps most famous amongst travellers for its ancient culture and the stunning art and architecture of its cities. So with the swell weakening and only a few days left we decided to travel inland and visit Shiraz, once the birthplace of the world-famous Shiraz wine. This was Arman’s hometown and he lamented the loss of Shiraz wine-making. He told us when a girl was born to a Shirazi family they made a special pot of wine that they kept until she was married and served it at her wedding.

Our hotel was in a maze of old, twisting alleyways, a traditional Persian-style house with an open courtyard and a cooling fountain in the centre. Shiraz is a city of captivating beauty and vibrant energy and quickly became one of my favourite places in the world. We visited the Citadel and an old bath house, one of Shiraz’s many famous walled gardens, and a maze-like bazaar with vaulted ceilings where I got lost and enjoyed the ancient art of haggling. In the evening we visited the resting place of legendary Sufi poet Hafez, a beautiful memorial to poetry and love called ‘Aramgah’, meaning place of rest, in the heart of Shiraz. Hafez’s poems speak of love, wine and the divine that captures the frailty of human endeavour, the fickle heart and transient nature of all earthly things. His poetry filled the air and there was a fairytale-like quality to the place in the soft evening glow. It was clearly a favourite social gathering place with the local after-work and school crew. I met rebellious tomboy Nasreen and her pretty young friends. A few days with them and I would have picked up Farsi in no time. Nasreen was kitted out in the local football team gear complete with football boots and had just finished practice. One of the girls had a crush on Arman and gave him a rose.

LOOKING BACK...

The next day, my last on all too short a visit, I walked up the same steps as Persian kings Darius and Xerxes and Alexander the Great, to the heart of the once greatest civilization and empire on earth.

A place where records reveal everyone was paid for their work, and there were such things as life insurance and maternity leave. Three kings, 12 palaces, an unfinished ‘gate’ from when Alexander came rampaging through, burning Persepolis to the ground. It’s incredible what still survives today; Giant, detailed sculptures of warriors, lions and bird-gods, 30 foot columns that supported the palace roofs... Full of meaning and symbolism, ancient ‘newspapers’ recording who did what in battle. Built on a huge platform of cut stone rising up out of the desert. All this in 583 BC, over 2500 years ago when the Celts were forging iron and expanding west and north into Ireland and the British Isles.

Before I came to Iran I knew so little. A lack of understanding which gave rise to fear and a perception of Iran through the lens of western media: politics, the oppressive regime, Islamic extremism, axis of evil, generally a violent land and no place for a blonde haired, blue-eyed surfer girl. But there’s two sides to every story isn’t there?

And nothing is quite what it seems. You don’t hear about the people, ordinary people like you and me, in the news. The humanity and heart of the Iranians, their passion and pride for the Persian way of life, descended from the once Greatest Empire on earth. It is a surprising multi-cultural society with a diverse mix of nomadic tribes, religions and nations living together. I came with my own preconceptions too. I thought being a woman here would be very difficult, especially a woman who wanted to surf. When I first arrived in Tehran I found a cosmopolitan vibe and a contemporary city, although since, I have heard there have been further crack-downs with shop owners being ordered to chop the boobs of their plastic mannequins as they are too revealing and a woman’s figure must remain shapeless. Talking with locals and families in the park, girls playing sport with the boys, there was real friendliness and openness towards us strangers, a tolerance for others and happiness that we were visiting their country. They are a social people who love the outdoors (skiing in the mountains, playing in the parks, swimming in the sea), young people smoking hookah and drinking tea or non-alcoholic beer. It is a place full of contrasts. Women rebel in their own way in their fight for equality such as human rights campaigner and lawyer Shirin Edabi and one of the founders of the ‘One Million Signatures’ campaign, who insists that enshrined within Islam are all human rights and all that is needed is more intelligent interpretation. Her hope for Iran’s future lies with women and their powerful social movement, and with young people, over 70% of Iran’s population are under 30.

It’s very unlikely Iran will become the surf destination of the Middle East, especially given the growing political hostilities. However, I wholeheartedly recommend you visit this fascinating land and beautiful people with an open mind and open heart and take in its treasures, while you can. And along the way you may even catch a fun wave or two...

PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED IN SURFGIRL

EASKEY BRITTON


@easkeysurf 


Easkey has surfing in her blood. She comes from Ireland's first surfing family and grew up in Rossnowlagh surfing. Her Mum and Dad taught her to surf when she was 4 years old and her life has revolved around surfing ever since. She got her first taste for travel when she went to Tahiti and became the first Irish person to surf the infamous hell-wave Teahupoo aged just 16 and hasn't looked back since! Ireland's 5 x National Champion she is leading the charge of the next generation of Ireland's surfers taking on the International surf scene. She has done surf-related humanitarian work in Cuba and East Africa, and is also a founding member of Wellcoast.org, a human wellbeing and coastal resilience network. 

TRIP REVIEW: Bike Across Cambodia for Good

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“We have to learn before we can help,” is the motto behind PEPY Tours, a development education tour company, where the focus is learning rather than volunteering.  PEPY stands for Promoting Education, empowering Youth in line with its mission to inspire people to improve the way we give, travel and live. What Daniela Papi, the founder of PEPY Tours who has been traveling and volunteering for many years, realized is volunteer travel can be problematic. It risks giving the impression that volunteers are superior to those they are helping, and/or fostering that false belief system. At times, it can cause more harm than good. When someone volunteers in another country where they don’t understand the culture, they may be working on what their ‘perceived’ versions of the problem are, rather than the actual problem itself. In Daniela’s case, she spent time building a school in Cambodia, then stuck around after its completion... only to find that the school was not being used, as there was no one to teach in it. Volunteering can risk supplying short term solutions, rather than sustainable aid.

PEPY is unique in that it integrates travel and sightseeing in Cambodia with experiential learning, all the while raising money to support local community development. They offer student study trips, where the students learn about the culture of Cambodia and about sustainable development, and also get to experience it all firsthand. They also offer custom adventures, and social enterprise adventures, that follow a similar structure. Learning about the culture of those you are trying to help can allow you to see what the real problems are, which will lead to effective, long-lasting solutions.

And if you’re into adventure, it’s PEPY Ride that will really get your heart racing. PEPY Ride is their annual cross-Cambodia cycling adventure that introduces bikers to community development projects. It gets you off-the-beaten track, up close and personal with the culture and people while you bike the rural back-roads of Cambodia. As you do so, you focus on learning about development issues and responsible tourism in Cambodia.

You start out in historical Siem Reap in the north, and bike all the way down to beautiful, coastal Kep in the South, with the option of finishing early in the capital city of Phnom Penh. The group size ranges from 5-18 people, with at least three English-speaking trip leaders. You can bring your own trusted bike, or rent one. You’ll be staying in a variety of accommodations, ranging from basic hotels with hot water to mid-range hotels. It’s a strenuous trip, with a medium-high level of physical activity (some days you will travel over 100 km!), but you don’t need to be an experienced cyclist.

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There is also a fundraising requirement that is both a great way to learn, and a great way to give, as it lets you contribute even after you have left. Each biker is matched with a mentor who will provide ideas and resources to help you reach your goal of $1,500. The money is spent on the local groups working on sustainable development programs in Siem Reap, one of Cambodia’s poorest provinces, directly benefiting them.

PEPY believes in a world where “travel offers two-way learning... and a lot of fun,” and PEPY Ride aims for both, which is what makes them so unique. If you’re looking for adventure, cultural immersion and a chance to give back, look no further. Not only will you be making a difference, but because of PEPY’s focus on learning about culture you will know why and how you are making a difference. This is the keystone to PEPY’s philosophy. 

So if you’re interested in PEPY Ride, check it out here

If you’re not a biker, but are still interested in PEPY’s mission, learn about their other trips here.

TRIP INFO: Dates: PEPY Ride begins on December 24th, 2012, and ends on January 12th, 2013, lasting a total of 20 days, with the option of finishing early in Phnom Penh. Prices: $1,650 for the full 20 days.$1,425 for two weeks, if you leave early in Phnom Penh. Price includes accommodations, entrance tickets, in-country transport, instructors and guides, donations to the NGOs you will visit, and most meals. Airfare not included. The fundraising portion of the trip is spent on the sustainable development programs in Siem Reap.

CONNECT WITH FIND YOUR MISSION for more change-the-world experiences

Chantal Stein can never reply to the question “where are you from?” because there are too many answers. She has traveled extensively and now lives in New York City. Her favorite place (so far!) is Easter Island, and her dream is to one day visit Antarctica.

TRIP REVIEW: Surfing South Africa to Help Out

The downfall of many volunteer organizations is cost. All too often there will be a $1000+ price tag on a trip that lasts only a week or two, not included airfare. This isn’t news, so it should come as no surprise that there are people out there who are working to fix this. One of these people is Daniel Radcliffe (no, not the actor). After collecting a Masters of Business, Daniel decided that it was time to give back to the world. He began to research volunteer trips. He too ran into this roadblock, but unlike someone like me who will simple notice the problem and then write about it, Daniel decided to do something. International Volunteer HQ was founded upon his return to New Zealand in 2007. “IVHQ was born with the goal of providing safe, affordable and high quality placements in areas where there is a real need for volunteers.” One of these places is South Africa.

It’s easy to read a statistic or to watch a documentary and think that we understand. Sure, we have problems here in the United States, there’s inequality and poverty everywhere, but, honestly, we cannot imagine what some citizens of the world live through. In South Africa the average life expectancy of a white South African is 71 years. The average life expectancy for the black population is 48 years. In 2005 it was estimated that 31% of the female population was infected with HIV, most of them black. There are 1,200,000 orphans. These are numbers and statistics, I could throw them onto a graph and you would see the vast differences, but you still wouldn’t know, you would still be using your imagination. Over there, it’s a reality. South Africa needs help and, if you feel so inclined, you can give it.

IVHQ sends volunteers to South Africa on the first and third Monday of each month. They normally arrive in groups of twenty to fifty people and the assist the community in an astounding variety of ways. Participants can involve themselves in a teaching project, in childcare, computer training, sports development and, an organization after my own heart, a surf outreach program.

Maybe you’re wondering what good a surf outreach program would do for children when they could be receiving extra medical attention or extra food and shelter. In the words of Ellen Varoy, Marketing and Media Coordinator for IVHQ, “The Surf Outreach program is designed to provide these children with an after school activity, keeping them off the streets of Cape Town and placing them in a safe and encouraging environment. Through the program, these children have the opportunity to learn new skills, take up new challenges, gain confidence and interact with our international volunteers, who the children look up to as role models.” It’s not about whether or not these kids learn to surf. It’s about showing them that there are people who care. It’s about being a ray of light on an otherwise bleak horizon. As a surfer would say, it’s about sharing the stoke. Would these children benefit more from help that focused on their health and nourishment? On the spreadsheet, probably, but where would they go after that? I say give them role models, give them hope and teach them that they can overcome. That, in my opinion, will last much longer than a loaf of bread.

The cost of IVHQ trips is one of the things that makes this organization so great. Prospective volunteers for the surf outreach program only have to pay $320 for one week. Longer periods of time require more money, being capped off at six months for $4580. This does not included airfare or visas or spending money. Also, if you want to participate in the surf outreach program you must know how to swim. I just thought I would point that out. If you are interested in any of the other programs offered for South Africa, you can find more information here

IVHQ is a fantastic option for people who want to volunteer for an affordable price. A full range of trips can be found at their website, http://www.volunteerhq.org/. As usual, if you were interested in the trip, but don’t think it’s for you, check back with Mission.tv next week for the next article in our series of trip reviews.

For testimonials by volunteers who completed the surf outreach program, check out: Testimonials  

To check out a video from the trip click here.

LEARN MORE ABOUT IVHQ

KINO CROOKE spent the last three years juggling school and travel. He most recently spent the last two months traveling across Spain before moving to New York to work with CATALYST.

NICARAGUA: Surfing for Change Travel Guide

The mission of Surfing for Change is to spread awareness that tourism, and surf travel, can bring dollars and along with it a lot of destruction to surf destinations in the developing world. Their vision is that there is a better way. Here, watch Nicaragua's Wave of Optimism (WOO) implementing a new model for surf tourism, and Courney Hull, social entrepreneur, building the world's first plastic-free hotel.

CONNECT WITH SURFING FOR CHANGE