As surfers, we'd like to think all the sandy-haired, board-bag-toting travelers out there share the same ideology: to depart from a location leaving it better than when they arrived and to leave nothing but footprints in the sand. The traveling surfer may not always feel that they have the means to help these communities they're passing through, however, whether it be aiding the local economy or packing up some trash on the way out. That's where Changing Tides Foundation comes in. Their goal is to develop programs where one can easily volunteer while surf tripping around the globe. We sat down with Changing Tides Foundation's Co-Founder, Becky Mendoza, to learn about the foundation, its origins, and its future endeavors.
Changing Tides Foundation is partly a result of your involvement in service work. How did you get your start?
A month before a surf trip to Nicaragua a few years ago, I injured my hamstring. Later, in a moment of honesty, I asked myself "Am I still going to go on this trip if I can't surf?" I made the decision that I was going to go, but I wanted to add another element to my travel.
I teamed up with Waves For Water and started fundraising through their platform, so I could pass out water filters. It was so gratifying that I decided I couldn't travel without that extra element ever again. The following year, I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a wedding. After the wedding, I headed three-and-a-half hours south to a location where I had heard the waves were good and which also had a coastal community that could use help with clean water. I dropped off 40 filters, and upon leaving, I committed myself to raising more funds for more filters, and to return a few months later.
Between the time of that initial visit and my return, Hurricane Patricia hit the community and absolutely decimated the place. The W4W team and I went back as part of a disaster relief trip, and we returned continuously to help the neighboring communities.
How did the idea for Changing Tides Foundation come about?
As I raised funds, so many of my friends kept mentioning how they'd love to get involved and to make it on one of these trips. I kept that in mind as I headed back and forth on those hurricane relief trips, but logistically it was always hard to bring others with me. I was also finding it difficult to focus on just water when these communities had so many other needs. There was so much more to be done.
One day, I had this vision for a broader foundation. I called up the girls whom I felt would most passionately contribute–-Leah Dawson, Leane Darling, Anna Santoro, and Jianca Lazarus–and they became my co-founders.
What is your overall objective with Changing Tides?
We want to identify social, health, and safety issues that exist in the places to which we travel, to collaborate with organizations that are already working to alleviate those issues, and to implement broader programs that will bridge the gap between us, subsequent travelers, and these communities that need help.
There are so many needs that exist in the places we travel to surf. It's a really beautiful thing to communicate with the locals rather than just indulging in their oceans, so the idea was to create a platform for traveling surfers to help the communities they come in contact with while on their trips – to enjoy the surf, but also to help the local populations.
Can you tell us about one of the successful programs you’ve set up?
Back in May, Changing Tides went to Mainland Mexico with 150 water filters as part of our first project, Clean Mexi-Agua. Not only did we drop off filters, but we also performed filter maintenance and taught locals how to install and maintain the filters themselves.
After distributing the filters, we left the rest in the community of Arroyo Seco. At this time, there are about 70 filters left. What this means is that anybody driving down the coast through Jalisco, possibly on the way to Pascuales or La Ticla, can stop in Arroyo Seco, pick up a few filters, get trained by one of our local advocates about how to install them, continue on their way, and set up the means for clean water in a community elsewhere.
Currently, we're working to set up programs in Sri Lanka and South Africa. The South African program is still in its preliminary stages, but it involves setting up water safety programs for urban youth, with help from other local programs such as Waves For Change.
How can people get involved?
At this point, we've established Clean Mexi-Agua for those traveling through Mexico to pick up filters and to distribute them.
We are still in the initial stages of developing more international programs. One of our main encouragements to travelers is to interact with the local populations and to ask questions. By connecting with the locals, you’ll find out the issues that these places are facing, and the value of your trip increases. Reporting these issues back to us will help in developing new projects or collaborating with existing organizations in these areas.
You can also donate at our website and we have an online shop that's filled with product to help surfers travel consciously and sustainably. The proceeds from the shop keep the organization running, so we can utilize all of the donations for projects and future initiatives.