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Coming With Something: Six Santa Cruz Surfers Bring More Than Their Boards to Sumatra

| posted on July 22, 2010

When the tsunami swept the Indian Ocean last December, taking so many lives and wreaking such destruction, it hardly seemed appropriate to think about surfing. Yet six friends from Santa Cruz had already planned a trip to Northern Sumatra. They discussed canceling, but decided that the money they would spend visiting the region would help the local people. Taking this reasoning a step further, the surfers organized a fund-raiser and delivered more than $8,000 in supplies to remote villages via the crew’s tour operator, Sumatran Surfariis.

“‘What can we bring?’ was the initial idea,” Marco Cruz, fresh back from Indonesia, said last week. The limits of what they could cram in boardbags or in carry-on luggage were obvious enough, so the crew contacted Chris Scurrah (a.k.a. “Scuzz”) of Sumatran Surfariis, to assess what the villagers needed. They determined that the most efficient way to help would be to wire funds directly to the tour operator, who would buy supplies locally.

I ran into these guys on my flight home from the Mentawais. It was then that I heard their tale. I was moved by their selflessness. I’d like the readers to know that they did not solicit this story to us. Just really good peeps.- Scott Bass

“All the help from the developed world has caused a lot of problems for local producers,” Cruz said. “It’s breaking down the existing economy.” So with the desire to not only bring supplies to villagers in need, but also help the local economy, the crew realized they needed to raise money, more than collect donated material. Being surfers, they decided to throw a party. “We made flyers and posted them all over Santa Cruz.”

With support from local bands Dub Congress and Spun, plus Santa Cruz’s O’Neill, Cobian, and Freeline Designs, the crew threw a classic Memorial Day surfer-stomp/barbeque on the east side of town. Local wineries donated bottles for a silent auction and a guy from the North Coast Brewery (another surfer) brought a keg to keep the bands rocking. “We got a lot of help from, you know, just surfers,” Cruz said.

Another member of the Santa Cruz contingent, Anthony Kresge, said, “It was just that … a group of everyday surfers wanting to make a difference, and thinking of a fun way to do it. We worked for it, brought it, and delivered it … can’t get any more in touch with a relief effort than that.” Joining Kresge and Cruz were Santa Cruz surfers Brian Thom, Chris Saari, Scott Prince, and Tony Depuydt. With the funds they raised and wired to Indonesia, the group bought more than five tons of rice, potatoes, food supplies, school supplies, fishing gear, diesel fuel for generators, and soccer and volley balls which were delivered to 15 villages in the islands of Nias, Telos, and Hinakos.

“It was a lot of work,” Marco Cruz said, “but you know, that’s part of it.” The weather was stormy, but the crew managed to find good surf and a typical day was split between a half-day surfing and a half-day delivering supplies. “Sometimes you never get off the boat,” Cruz continued. “We got to give something back.”

Chris Scurrah, the Aussie operator of Sumatran Surfariis, e-mailed the crew upon their return from the islands: “The locals, while still being their sometimes hard selves, have started to say some really nice things at the end of the day and do really appreciate all that you have done. … We also donated some money to the beach clean-up at Sorake and got enough barbed wire to finish the fence on Bawa. Your group has influenced the group arriving tomorrow, who have also chipped in to bring aid up, so again we will be climbing over supplies. The locals are crying out for water at a lot of isolated places. Lots of diarrhea and sickness due to lack of clean water. Terima Kasih to you all for supporting Indo. Just coming over here is huge. Well done, big thanks—Scuzz.” The Sumatran Surfariis website, www.sumatransurfariis.com, has a detailed section on how to help in Sumatra.

So, are you and your crew planning a boat trip to Indo? How ’bout a send-off party/fund-raiser?