Fernando Aguerre, the co-founder of Reef, has spent his post-footwear-making years devoted to philanthropy. He created the Liquid Nation Ball—a high-end auction, which he hosts—with his brother Santiago in 2004 to provide support for the humanitarian efforts of SurfAid International. In 2006, however, the brothers donated Liquid Nation to the SIMA Humanitarian Fund and expanded its scope. In the years since, the event has donated more than $1.4 million to various surf-related, non-profit humanitarian organizations. We sat down with Fernando to discuss Liquid Nation Ball 8, which will be held September 17, in La Jolla, CA.
You started the Liquid Nation Ball with your brother eight years ago. What were your original intentions?
We created the Liquid Nation Ball to fund-raise for SurfAid, which was then mostly an organization run by surfers, operating in the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia. We just wanted to raise much-needed funds, but also make them visible to the whole industry. The first year, in just a couple months, we organized the whole thing, and raised almost $100,000. So a couple months afterward, we decided to hold another one. In 2005 we raised almost $250,000. But it was originally designed to just help support SurfAid.
What made you decide to broaden its scope?
We thought that the industry should support a wider group of NGOs so we decided to donate Liquid Nation to SIMA. With the late Dick Baker, we created the SIMA Humanitarian Fund and extended the benefits to 12 other humanitarian organizations.
Tell me a little bit more about the SIMA Humanitarian Fund.
Its basic function is to look over the selection of beneficiaries, analyze their plans for the grants, and verify their actions taken with those grants. We also look over potential Humanitarian of the Year recipients. The idea is to find organizations that do a good job, that are run by decent people, and that get a lot of bang for the dollar.
Tell me a little more about the charities you're raising funds for?
You can go to Sima.com and take a look at each of them. It's all there. Basically, they're all surf-based humanitarian organizations, doing a good job for a better world.
Shaney Jo Darden, Co-Founder and CEO of The Keep A Breast Foundation, will be announced as the 2011 Humanitarian of the Year. Can you tell us a little about her?
Shaney Jo is a great person, a great inspirational and tireless leader. She has all the respect of the people she interacts with—volunteers, supporters, sponsors. We need more people like here in the world. Hopefully by honoring her, we will inspire other people to realize that the only way to change the word is by doing something about what is not right.
Why is it important for SIMA to have a strong presence in supporting humanitarian and environmental causes?
SIMA has an obligation to lead our industry in worthy paths. As the joint arm of the industry, giving back to humanitarian and environmental causes is not a luxury. It's an obligation. It's a must. The world needs the help of every human being. We are all passengers in this spaceship, the Earth. By supporting these worthy humanitarian and environmental organizations, we provide them much-needed resources, but we also make them more visible, more relevant, hence more powerful. It's a win-win for them, us and the rest of the world.
The main fundraising portion of the Liquid Nation Ball is connected to an auction. You guys are hoping to raise $200,000. What are some of the items up for bid?
The live auction, which lasts a bit less than an hour, plus the ticket sales are the only revenues for the event. While we do have some expenses, I'm always leaning over them, with a very sharp pencil. I want to maximize what we give to our beneficiaries. We auction around 20 high-value items—from very rare surfboards, to art pieces from surf-based artists, to amazing travel packages to remote and isolated surf destinations. Overall, mostly things that are almost impossible to buy in the marketplace, but that are donated by kind humanitarians.
You've raised $1.4 million since 2004. Does it give you a sense of satisfaction to know that something you've started has been able to contribute to causes larger than yourself?
It's indeed a great feeling of satisfaction, but at the same time, I'm aware that we are just a bucket—certainly a large bucket [laughs]—of water added to the ocean. Most surf brands have their own programs to support humanitarian causes. Our beneficiaries all have a great and positive impact on the world. Hopefully, people that come to Liquid Nation go home happy to contribute, but, more importantly, inspired to contribute to a better world, every one of the other 364 days of their year. Achieving this ambitious goal is my dream, my hope, and my goal. We all need to be part of the solutions.