Surf Voluntourism: Education for Youth, Surfing and Service for Travelers

Surf Voluntourism: Education for Youth, Surfing and Service for Travelers

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

WAVES believes surf travel should benefit the people and communities where it happens. Recognizing not only the economic value of surfing and surf travel, WAVES leverages the positive social and environmental impact travelers can have while going on a surf trip through ongoing community education programs.

About You
WAVES for Development International, Inc.
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Section 1: About You
First Name


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Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

WAVES for Development International, Inc.

Organization Phone
Organization Address
Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

Less than a year

Your idea
Country your work focuses on
What makes your innovation unique?

A few surf related nonprofits exist, however, none with the combination of ongoing local vocational and educational development programs for youth, conservation and volunteer tourism components for travelers integrated into the delivery. By leveraging the fun factor we engage youth through the sport of surfing and create an infrastructure to put good intentions of volunteer travelers into action; a fun way to do good. WAVES offers the opportunities for volunteers to personally visit and participate in the programs where their money goes.
Swimming and surfing are healthy, non-competitive sports that require concentration, persistence and adaptability - characteristics of empowered, engaged and transformed individuals. Educational Surf programs offer at-risk youth a chance to develop healthy physical activity habits outside of the classroom, gain an appreciation for the natural environment and acquire life skills while building confidence and having fun as they transition into adulthood.
The following programs were identified in a participatory approach including home visits and community meetings:

1. Swim Classes
2. Surf Classes
3. Surfboard Repair
4. Surf Film/Photography
5. Microcredit
6. Environmental Education
7. English Classes.

Each of these classes fit into the program pillars of Life Skills/Healthy Living, Social Entrepreneurship, Environmental Conservation, and Sustainable Tourism. They are currently offered by local teachers and complemented by the presence of international volunteers.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

We strive for small victories on the local level. 143 youth have participated in the programs in Lobitos - which is over half of the youth population. Anecdotal evidence from volunteers tells us that the youth are advancing in their surfing, swimming, ability to speak English and conservation ethic. Henry, a local ripper, was one of three participants - because of their involvement with WAVES, that traveled to a neighboring community to participate in a regional surf competition. So far over 56 people have volunteered in Lobitos, hailing from over five countries. The host family volunteers stay with has opened a small restaurant to diversify their income.

Another success story is that of WAVES' local surf instructor/coordinator - Holggers Clavijo. He has been trained and is now earning an income that supports his family. He has gone on to teach youth surfboard repair techniques so they can earn money from skills learned in the Educational Surf program as well. Additionally, he has gone on to be trained in surfboard fabrication techniques and has shaped two surfboards that he will sell to add to his family’s income. Small businesses are being incubated through the program including fishing tours and surf photography. Two loans of around $200 have been giving to form and expand microenterprises. The recipients attend business classes and have formed a business plan. We look forward to reporting more and more local families earning increased income from surf tourism to the area.
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Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Despite overall macroeconomic growth in places like Peru, many times the benefits don't trickle down to those living in rural coastal communities plagued by limited education opportunities. Surfing largely remains a luxury sport in Peru. WAVES looks to overcome this income disparity by partnering with local schools, governments and international surfing bodies to bridge cultural, environmental and financial gaps.

Many of the residents of Peru’s coastline are engaged in fishing as their prime economic activity. High school graduation rates are as low as 30%. According to government statistics ( approximately 30% of Peru's population is under 14, amplifying the impact of poor education. Instead of youth standing on the street corner figuring out how to ‘not get caught’ doing something mischievous, they can put energy into healthy outlets such as the nontraditional education opportunities provided by WAVES.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

WAVES takes a community-based approach to its programs. For example, before launching a pilot program, meetings were held with the local government, school teachers and community members. Based on the themes identified as important garnered from these meetings a series of classes were organized for a set period of time. Swimming classes were requested by the fisherman families. While many families live and work close to the ocean, organized classes have not previously been available.
The community diagnostic is not a one-time endeavor. It is an ongoing circle of feedback. Once the pilot program is complete, families of the participants are visited to gather further feedback on what worked, what they liked and what the families would like to see in the future. New programs are developed accordingly. For example, in the case of Lobitos – a number of women mentioned they would like to make and sell t-shirts to the visiting tourists; however, they don’t have the capital to buy the materials. From these conversations the microcredit program was born.
The Educational Surf Shack is another example of the community-based approach. Local staff and participants needed a space to fix surfboards. Together, staff, volunteers and youth participants designed a structure, solicited funds from WAVES, and implemented the plan. Labor and tools were donated by the community. Volunteers helped in the construction as well as financially. Together the space was completed and painted with a vision of the youth’s future for Lobitos.
Overseas volunteering is a growing area of tourism, and every year thousands of people travel around the world to participate in voluntourism (volunteering while on vacation). Surf Voluntourism allows travelers to participate in adventure sports and volunteer in ongoing education programs. Surf Voluntourism can be considered “voluntary service realized in surf zone destinations where physical, cultural or environmental action, uncertainty of outcome and risk are calculated and embraced”. Volunteers come to Peru to enjoy the natural splendor of the country, learn to surf, learn Spanish or learn more about some of the oldest civilizations.
The inability to attract volunteers may inhibit the success of the program.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Educational Surf Program Participation (Goal Addressed) Total 2009 ParticipationÇ
Lobitos, Peru est. population 1,200 - 200+ Peruvian children, young people and adults;
Participants in Surf / Surf Repair program (Healthy Living, Intercultural Exchange, Social - Entrepreneurship), 96 male and female Lobitos youth aged 8-17;
Environmental Education (Environmental Conservation)- 20 male and female Lobitos youth aged 8-17;
English Education (Life Skills, Sustainable Tourism) - 120 male and female Lobitos youth, 5 adults;
Special Events and Projects:
Beach Clean-Up Day (Environmental Conservation, Sustainable Tourism, Cultural Exchange) - 15 male and female Lobitos youth, 4 international volunteers, 4 parents, 6 tourists;
WAVES Surf Competitions and Award Ceremonies March and August 09 (Life Skills / Healthy Living, Intercultural Exchange, Sustainable Tourism) - 31 male and female Lobitos youth, 4 international volunteers, 120 spectators;
Construction and Inauguration of WAVES Educational Surf Shack September-November 09 (Life Skills, Intercultural Exchange, Sustainable Tourism) - 50 male and female Lobitos youth, 5 parents, 10 international volunteers;
Environmental Awareness Day: Negritos, Peru October, 09 (Life Skills, Intercultural Exchange, Environmental Conservation, Sustainable Tourism) - 2 Lobitos youth; 35 Negritos youth and adults, 3 international volunteers;
Women’s World Championship Tour Movistar Perú Classic – Surf Class Showcase: November 2009 (Life Skills / Healthy Living, Intercultural Exchange, Sustainable Tourism) - 15 Lobitos youth; 3 international volunteers; 200 Peruvian spectators;
Kite-Surf Competition / Kite Showcase and Beach Clean-Up (Healthy Living, Environmental Conservation, Sustainable Tourism, Intercultural Exchange) - 15 Lobitos youth; 1 international volunteer, 1 parent, 10 spectators;
Film and Photography Documentary Project (Life Skills, Intercultural Exchange, Social Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Tourism) - 35 Lobitos youth; 15 parents, 4 international volunteers;
Micro-Credit Pilot Project (Life Skills, Intercultural Exchange, Social Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Tourism) - 3 Lobitos women; 4 international volunteers;
Community Consultation (Life Skills, Intercultural Exchange, Sustainable Tourism) - 80 Lobitos adults; 40 Lobitos youth;
Surf Voluntourism Program Participation (Goal Addressed) - # Beneficiaries:
Total number of volunteers (Life Skills / Healthy Living, Environmental Conservation, Intercultural Exchange, Social Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Tourism) -38 international volunteers from different countries including: Switzerland, USA, Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Australia, UK, Germany, France, Peru);

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

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What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

In terms of partnerships - two would be extremely beneficial. First, a tour operator- type partner that could provide a constant stream of volunteers would take a huge marketing burden off our shoulders so we could put even more focus on delivering high quality education programs for youth.
Next, an educational partner that has experience in a combination of the goal topics would be invaluable. These include: Life Skills, Environmental Conservation, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Tourism. Adapting previously established and effective curriculum to our current curricula and monitoring and evaluation tools would be invaluable.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Volunteers currently provide a substantial funding base and will continue to do so into the future. Each volunteer is required to contribute a minimum of $400. Some raise even more. Additionally, events are planned that increase awareness, lead to more volunteers and generate funds for the organization. A short documentary film will be released about the organization will further drive volunteers and donations. Grants will be sought. The combination of these activities will lead to a diverse funding stream from which the organization with continue to thrive and grow.

Taking the organization to the next level will happen institutionally and programmatically. Institutionally, in April the WAVES Board of Directors welcomes two new members to the team. These individuals will bring to the organization further contacts and financial stability. These human resources will lead to further financial resources which will enable the expansion and growth of impact.

Programmatically, with an infusion of funding further staff can be hired on the ground. A full-time Lima-based staff member will be able to further develop the support-base within Peru. This entails meeting with corporate and government entities that will enable the sustained growth of programs in Peru.

We will know we’re successful when:
• By June, 2011 there have been over 100 cumulative volunteers that have served on the program(s).
• By June, 2011 WAVES is operating ongoing Educational Surf and Surf Voluntourism programs in another community besides Lobitos.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In 2004 a number of people from various countries, with various college degrees and backgrounds (including Peace Corps Volunteers) came together on the beaches of Northern Peru. Through a google group we worked together on formalizing some of these initial ideas on how to use surfing to do good.
It didn't take long to notice the rural coastal communities, like many communities in Peru, suffered from poverty and limited educational opportunities. We also noticed that lots of tourists came to these communities to surf, but that they also left as soon as they finished surfing, leaving the communities with no benefit. We looked into the educational reality of these communities and found that a mere 30% of students in communities like Lobitos graduate high school, and only a handful go on to universities.
Combining our work in community development and our passion for surfing the idea of making WAVES for Development was born. We took action and asked a number of surfboard manufacturers for help. Global Surf Industries responded. Before long, 400 surfboards, (an entire shipping container) were promised to the idea. When shipping and customs delays almost caused the boards to be sold off instead of being donated, I knew I was in it for the long haul. I took personal responsibility for finding a solution so the boards would arrive in Peru. It was my ‘moment of obligation’.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

I have more than four years experience living and working in Peru developing tourism initiatives in rural coastal communities and the tropical mountains of Northern Peru. As a Peace Corps volunteer I researched, wrote and presented feasibility plans on ‘coffee tourism’ and ‘adventure conservation’ volunteer tourism initiatives and analyzed and revised the Peace Corps’ environmental project framework and reporting format.

Fluent in Spanish, I have worked in collaboration with ProNaturaleza, the Peruvian Foundation for the Conservation of Nature, where I supported the development and launch of a community-based volunteer vacation opportunity, providing blended adventure/conservation trips in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Degrees include: M.S. Organizational Management from the School for International Training, 2006; and B.S. in Business Administration from Colorado State University, 2000.

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