It has been an eventful week in the surfing world, and unfortunately the underlying theme of the stories that affected us the most here at SurfStitch have been quite upsetting.
On Friday the 8th of November, Typhoon Haiyan or more affectionately “Yolanda”, a storm of catastrophic proportions ripped through the Philippines –some news outlets are even calling it one of the Earth’s biggest storms. Even as this piece is written, we are still struggling to get reliable media on just how far reaching and severe the damage is, however it is clear thousands of lives have been sadly lost, and many thousands will return to lives of minimal resemblance of their lives before the storm hit. The video footage and images that have circled the globe in the days since have brought back vivid memories of the Boxing Day Tsunami that tore apart Thailand and parts of Banda Achey. Boats hundreds of metres inland, rubbish piled over the rooves of two story houses, lonely and lost souls laying piled lifeless out the front of churches, children standing roadside missing their parents, parents standing roadside missing their children and hundreds of cars upside down and thrown in precarious positions as if they weighed no more than the single litre fresh water bottles NGO’s now rush to distribute throughout the area.
Sadly, the news stories aren’t yet tipping in the favour of good news. Things are still grim, and the Philippines still very much needs our help. There are a number of reputable charitable organisations slowly getting relief to the area, one specifically we at SurfStitch know are doing amazing work is the Hurley supported Waves for Water organisation. With 235mph wind gusts recorded, the local infrastructure that supported the flow of clean water has been decimated. So far, the Wave for Water organisation has provided enough water for up to 20,000 typhoon victims – and with our help this number can only increase. To learn more about the amazing job that Waves for Water do, check out the below videos and open your wallet to them on their website.
The second piece of news that was felt at SurfStitch this week was the news that a life was lost at Outside Alligators on November the 13th. Kirk Passmore, a 32 year old San Diego surfer went down while surfing the first truly significant swell of the winter on the North Shore. Kirk is acknowledged as an experienced waterman, having surfed the Hawaiian island since he was just 15 years of age, however it was the reef which many years ago took Todd Chesser’s life, that has punished the young man for a late drop in the cruellest way possible. Different accounts of events continue to trickle in, however as video footage has emerged, it seems likely a late drop, and the falling lip of a 30 foot plus faced wave has potentially burst Kirk’s ear drum, disorientating him to the point where he lost all sense of up and down while under water. As many as 8 waves of equal size detonated in the area Kirk was last seen immediately after the wave he went down on, creating the worst case scenario for an injured surfer trying to escape to safety. Parts of Kirks board have been recovered, however most painfully for his family and friends, no body has yet been located. The surfing community is in mourning, reigniting the age old debate of how all participants of the sport need to properly measure the risk associated with big wave surfing. As technology continues to develop, and the limits of big wave surfing continues to be pushed by almost super human efforts, one must wonder whether dying doing what you love is truly a comforting thought for family and friends who will now live with an unfillable void in their lives. Not being one of the individuals who has dedicated my life to the progression of big wave surfing does somewhat deem me unqualified to have an opinion here, but as a member of the surfing community it truly saddens me to see the team a man down. Was Laird Hamilton right a fortnight ago when he criticised Maya Gab for surfing giant Nazare in Portugal and almost drowning? If she had drowned, would people be saying she died doing what she loved doing? Does the fact she came so close to death but survived allow people to be more brutal and opinionated on her actions? Would the loss of her life have kept big old Laird quiet on his opinion?
Kirk’s last wave.
Maybe… however we feel that all that should remain for any surfer is their love of the ocean and respect for the sport, and most importantly a respect for all individuals who share this love, and our thoughts are with Kirks family and all those connected to the surfing community and all families affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
On a happier note, a feel good story has trickled through media outlets this week that is absolutely worth sharing. A Victorian surfer, Martin “Marty” Brown, has this past week set a benchmark for generosity we don’t expect will be broken in a hurry. After an inspiring surf trip to the PNG region in 2012, Marty was inspired to give the local families he met along his journey the best possible chance to share in his love of surfing. Marty initiated a donation drive for new and used surfboards and essential hardware such as fins and leg ropes. The drive was so successful that this past month Marty and two Patagonian Surf team riders travelled to the island nation with over 140 surfboards. Marty explained his motivation was driven by the fact he was actually giving them the opportunity for a better quality of life, not just the opportunity to better enjoy surfing.
“By developing passion for surfing from a young age, people in these communities become more motivated to foster surf tourism, which provides a sustainable business model from which they can profit.
“When I returned from my first surf trip to PNG, I was so moved by the lack of money and the fact that people were surfing on splinters, or planks of wood, that I knew I wanted to do something,” Marty said.
“It wasn’t until I looked into it further that I realised the incredible potential for tourism and what that could mean for these communities, and being here again to hand over the boards has cemented the importance of what we’re doing.”