Editor’s Note: Two years ago Santiago Aguerre, after being moved by Steve Barilotti’s SURFER magazine article The Jungle Is Looking Back, had a vision of bringing all of the surf industry brands–the ocean tribe–together in support of Surf Aid International (malaria prevention in the Mentawais). At the urging of Santiago, Dr. Dave Jenkins of Surf Aid offered a stirring presentation in front of SIMA members at the SIMA Surf Summitt Six. What followed was the longest heartfelt ovation to ever take place at a SIMA event. Liquid Nation is Santiago’s vehicle for humane and noble causes such as Surf Aid.
Reef co-founder Fernando Aguerre’s home sits perched in the cliffs above the grinding lefts of Big Rock, one of the best waves the La Jolla reefs have to offer. Nestled in a breathtaking location, it is an amazingly laid out structure with views of the Pacific dominating the entire property. The three level complex is part surf museum, part home, and part surfers paradise. As the sun sank into the sea on the evening of September 11th, torches were lit, and Fernando Aguerre opened his home for the Inaugural Liquid Nation Ball. Arriving guest were treated to a glimpse of one of the best vintage surfboard collections in the world, combined with food, drinks, and access to one of the most lavish homes in the La Jolla area. Taking in the surf memorabilia adorned walls, the elegantly mosquito netted entrance, and palm-frond hut lined yard, it became next to impossible for most to keep from imagining they had wandered off to some sort of Indonesian island paradise.
The atmosphere, however, was not the only reason everyone had Indo on the brain. The Ball itself, organized to help raise money for Surf Aid International, the non-profit medical group dedicated to stamping out malaria in the Mentawai district of Indonesia, brought out those who want to resolve the darker aspects of the Indo experience, and this was the crucial element putting everyone’s thoughts on the far off island nation.
Malaria kills at least one child in over 50% of the families that inhabit the Mentawai’s, and this mortality rate creates a myriad of problems for the indigenous people. Family instability, a poor quality of life, and teetering local economies are just a few of the issues caused by the disease and, because many who survive a malarial infection suffer from some brain damage, average IQ levels remain low. Dr. Dave Jenkins, the creator of Surf Aid International, as well as it’s Chairman and Medical Director pointed out that for him, the dark side of the Mentawai’s was simply too horrific to ignore. “My first trip down, I was surfing perfect H.T. barrels in the morning, having fresh scallops with wine at lunch, and then dealing with dying kids in the afternoon. It didn’t take long for me to realize something was wrong with the equation.”
This glaring reality was a preventable epidemic Dr. Dave was unwilling to tolerate, and since 1999, he and SAI have waged war on malaria in the Mentawai’s. In the past few years the surf industry has come strongly onboard to help, and by backing events like the Liquid Nation Ball and the Wave of Compassion Boat Trip Sweepstakes, and through the support of programs like the SAI Adopt a Village campaign, the industry has begun to make a noticeable contribution to Surf Aid’s battle.
The Ball on Saturday, which was organized by Liquid Nation, a non-profit organization designed to bring together the most influential and recognizable personalities in the surf industry for the purposes of supporting various humanitarian causes, sold out all 300 tickets to the event at a price of $175 each. Once inside, guests were invited to participate in an auction which sold off signed surfboards donated by top pro’s. Host Fernando Aguerre took the stage as auctioneer, and industry CEO’s, surf stars, celebrities, and local philanthropists were allowed to duke it out for the rights to own major pieces of surf memorabilia. Reigning world champ Andy Irons’s autographed stick went for close to $5000, and a one of a kind, brand new, autographed gun, signed by all the major surf stars in attendance went for roughly $11,000. An amazing package trip to J Bay and the surrounding game parks also sold for over $7000, and with about a dozen other items and boards auctioned off, the Liquid Nation Ball managed to put together a huge chunk of change for Surf Aid International.
Commenting on the evening festivities, and the generosity shown by his guests, host Fernando Aguerre had this to say. “I’ll just tell you what my grandmother once told me. She didn’t have much money, but she still was always giving it to my brother and myself, and I asked her once why she would do such a thing. She looked at me and said, ‘Fernando, you may be too young to understand this now but when you grow up it’s something I think you will. Nobody became a better person by just getting things, but a lot of people have become a better person by giving.’ So, tonight is the giving night for us.”
The pros in attendance agreed. When asked, Keith Malloy, Mick Lowe, Damien Hobgood, and many more all said they felt the power of the opportunity to give back to a place that had given them so much, and Rob Machado said he felt “honored to be able to attend an event for such a great cause.” Kelly Slater, who is the Honorary Chairman of Liquid Nation, took a moment to say this about the event, “I’m feeling good. One of the key elements to helping out is having the right funding to do so, so it’s nice that everyone here is donating money, and raising their awareness about the problem.”
The Inaugural Liquid Nation Ball was another opportunity for the surf industry to display it’s ever increasing commitment Surf Aid International, and it was undoubtably a huge success, raising major funding that will be used to help resolve the plight of the Mentawai people. With the Wave of Compassion Sweepstakes also coming to a close, Surf Aid International, and the people of the Mentawai’s, have been treated to incredible levels of help on two different fronts from the surf industry, and everyone who has donated or participated should be enjoying the feeling Fernando’s grandmother described to him when he was a boy.