Currently in San Diego County, there are over 1,000 troubled young men enrolled in Boys to Men, a help and mentorship program. Some of these boys are suicidal, on drugs, in gangs or looking to join one and on every path imaginable to self-destruction. Each week these boys sit in a circle, share their struggles with peers and are offered guidance and accountability by mentors–which most are missing in their lives, otherwise. Boys to Men was founded by Joe Sigurdson and Craig McClain. Sigurdson, a life-long surfer, has figured out a way to fund its life-changing work through surfing.


The ocean is a powerful thing and during a magical surf session years ago, Sigurdson stumbled upon an idea to use the ocean to power his Boys to Men program–an idea that morphed into a surf-a-thon event that is now its 10th year running.


“The ocean was like a machine [that day],” Sigurdson said about the inspiring session in Pacific Beach that sparked the idea for the 100 Wave Challenge. “The surf was 2-to 4-feet, Santa Ana winds were blowing. It was cool, crisp and beautiful. I was surfing with Norman, my son-in-law. We were giggling because the waves were so fun. When we came in, I said to Norman that I must’ve caught 30 waves out there easily. Then I said, ‘I wonder what it would take to catch 100 waves.’ He kind of looked at me weird. Then I said, ‘I wonder if I caught 100 waves, if people would donate money to me.’ I’m always thinking of ways to get people to donate to Boys to Men.”


Sigurdson continued to think aloud to his son-in-law. “I don’t need to catch 100 waves. I’ll get 100 guys to catch 100 waves and they’ll get people to sponsor them and we’ll call it the 100 Wave Challenge! Norman looked at me like I was nuts.”


Being the go-getter that he his, Sigurdson immediately started calling friends and explaining his grand vision for the 100 Wave Challenge. Sigurdson’s known to be persuasive and charismatic, so surfers quickly hopped on board. Skeptics asked how people would know if they caught a 100 waves or not, and it just so happened that Nixon had released a watch with a wave counting feature. Sigurdson contacted Nixon who sent him a batch of watches. It was only the beginning of the outpouring of support he would receive year after year.

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1977 World Champion, Boys to Men backer and 100 Wave Challenge participant Shaun Tomson tears one off the top. Photo: Craig

Knowing the importance of getting endemic support for a surf-related fundraiser, Sigurdson also reached out to local San Diego surf legends. Soon Joe Roper, Bird Huffman and News 8 meteorologist Shaun Styles were backing him. Scott Bass hooked Sigurdson up with a booth at the Sacred Craft surfboard convention (now The Boardroom Show) where surfers signed up to participate. During a panel discussion, Sigurdson caught the attention of 1977 World Champion Shaun Tomson. When Shaun approached me, my jaw dropped,” Sigurdson said. “He shook my hand and said, ‘I’m Shaun Tomson. What you’re doing is absolutely brilliant. How can I help?’ I nearly fainted. By working with Shaun, the donations nearly doubled.”


Sigurdson recalls setting up some tarps and dragging old dilapidated couches down to the beach for the inaugural 100 Wave Challenge ten years ago. Over the years, Sigurdson’s “Surfer’s Lounge” has evolved into one of the event’s most anticipated attributes. Nowadays the area is decked out with tropical plants and an old bamboo bar that Roper lends where Gatorade and water is served. Souplantation provides breakfast, and Rubio’s serves lunch. The grill doesn’t stop all day. Massages and yoga classes are offered as well. “It’s become a funky and awesome place to hang,” Sigurdson said. A far cry from those old couches.

From grass roots to a fun and laid-back day of surfing, the 100 Wave Challenge’s commitment to helping troubled young men remains as strong as ever. Each year the event allows Boys to Men to expand into more schools and provides more resources to grow the program. This year the 100 Wave Challenge will set up shop at Mission Beach on September 21st, and if you’d like learn more about the event, click here.

For an interview with Joe Sigurdson about Boys to Men success stories, click here.

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