ASP x Waves For Water: The Great Thirst Quench

All photos Steve Sherman
Danielle was a robust Brazilian woman that spoke to us with an infant nursing on her left breast. In her one-room home (a dodgy arrangement of scrap wood and tin), were Carissa Moore, Alejo Muniz and ASP CEO Paul Speaker. There was a yellow 5-gallon bucket in the corner. It said, “100k World Water Day.”

“You could take anything you want from this house,” she told us via Alejo, who was translating. “Except for that.” She pointed at the bucket and attached water filter. “That’s my most important belonging.”

She received the filter in March, when Rob Machado, Bob Burnquist and friends executed the Brazilian initiative of World Water Day. She’s been using the filter religiously ever since, and says that her newborn is the first of her children that has lived without regular diarrhea. (For our non-parent readers, that’s a big deal.) She got emotional as she spoke about how the filter had changed her life. She cried. Carissa cried. Sherm cried. Suddenly Waves For Water [W4W] was more than just a webcast commercial.

Danielle’s house is in the Jardim Gramacho neighborhood of Duque de Caxias, just outside of Rio. It’s a trash dump. Or at least it used to be, before a documentary called “Waste Land” was released 2010. The film highlighted Jardim Gramacho’s people through an art project by Vik Muniz, and it raised enough eyebrows that the government stopped dumping there. Trouble is, the people had made their living from sifting through and recycling the garbage, and thus lost their means to make a Real. Talk about your all time backfires.

Anyway, our purpose in Jardim Gramacho was to baptize the 2014 ASP and W4W partnership. You’ve seen bits of it on the webcast, but to just to clarify, the premise of the relationship is that for every stop on tour there is a corresponding W4W initiative in that country, or in a country nearby (no, they won’t be launching a Laguna Hills project around the Trestles event). That way, the ASP leaves a positive footprint on the communities it visits. Sports entertainment and selfies with John John are great, but saving lives is like, the best.

Leading the baptism was W4W founder Jon Rose and his Brazilian point man, Guga Ketzer. In introducing a few of the athletes and webcasters to W4W, they hoped that the partnership would become less of an abstraction, less of a commercial, and something more real. Attendance was optional and when I talked with Jon on Thursday, he said he’d be stoked if one athlete showed up. After all, these guys and girls are here to do their jobs, and he’s sensitive to that. But Friday morning he had the wonderful problem of having too many volunteers. He assured those on the alternate list that there would be plenty of opportunities at the seven remaining stops.

Carissa Moore, Lakey Peterson, Alejo Muniz, Miguel Pupo, Peter Mel and Pat Parnell were among the participants. After visiting with Danielle and her family, the local pastor, Anderson, took us to the community center he runs to deliver 100 filters to mothers and community leaders. Jon and Guga gave a brief demonstration — dirty water goes here, clean water comes out here, gulp-gulp, ahhhhh, sweet hydration — and then we split into groups for some more personal attention. Language barriers be damned, these filters are easy to put together with nothing more than common sense and hand gestures. Carissa took a group. Lakey took a group. Miggy and Alejo took groups and handled any translations needed. Later, if anyone has any problems with the filters, they’ll speak with Pastor Anderson, who has a direct line to Jon and Guga.

This local network solution is one that Jon has set up all over the world, and it works. Thousands of people like Danielle have experienced the change the water filters can bring in their lives — change that is literally lifesaving — and after our field trip on Friday, a few more surfers know just how easy it is to affect that change. And it’s not going to stop. The experience was a eye-opening for everyone. Before we left, Miggy said to me, “Man, I wish I could do this every day.”

(And now, back to your regularly-scheduled webcast.)

—Taylor Paul

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