Stuart was introduced to SurfAid back in 2016 and along with his wife Kate, has quickly become one of SurfAid’s biggest advocates. Beginning with a team in the SurfAid Cup Santa Cruz, Stuart expanded his support to include a goal of surfing in every US based SurfAid Cup event. This led to a deeper connection to SurfAid’s work and an interest in seeing the programmes first hand. Stuart and Kate have visited our projects in the Mentawai, as well as SurfAid USA’s new partnership program in Baja, Mexico. 

Recognizing the financial implications that come with cancelled events, Stuart was among the first to step up and provide support to help fill the gap created by the cancellation of this year’s SurfAid Cup Santa Cruz. This act of generosity is just one of many stories of resilience we are seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about Stuart’s kindness and find some inspiration until the days when we can all get back to surfing and saving a few lives along the way. 

How did you first hear about SurfAid’s work? 

My brother-in-law, Dr. Charlie Nager is a friend and colleague of SurfAid USA Board Chair, Dr. Karl Luber at UCSD.  I was headed out to Pleasure Point to surf and Charlie said I couldn’t because there was a surf contest for this thing called SurfAid.  I checked the SurfAid website announcing the first SurfAid Cup Santa Cruz Cup at Pleasure Point and thankfully it wasn’t that weekend. But the contest looked awesome and I immediately signed up.

What inspired you to get involved at a deeper level?   

My first SurfAid Cup event was so fun and had such a good vibe that I immediately wanted to get more involved.  SurfAid Founder, Dr. Dave was in town for the inaugural event and he gave a short presentation for a few friends and our event partners from Big Stick Surfing Association at Kate’s and my home in Aptos. He was amazing and inspiring in only the way he can convey.  Karl and Erin (SurfAid USA’s Executive Director) also spark great enthusiasm, as did practically everyone involved in the event. A coffee with fellow board members Paul Riehle and Rick Peters in San Francisco sealed the deal!   

You’ve visited two of SurfAid’s program areas, the Mentawai in Indonesia and our newest US partnership program with Raiz De Fondo in La Paz, Mexico – what were some of the takeaways from these experiences? 

It is so wonderful to meet people in other parts of the world who are trying to make it a better place. The SurfAid staffers in Indo are bright and committed young people who are doing their best to help their countrymates in some of the most isolated places in the world.  I left feeling that if SurfAid fundraising could just help pay the salaries of these talented young people, we were making a difference. And our visit to the SurfAid programs in South Pagai showed that we are, in fact, moving the needle. The trip to Raiz del Fondo was a very similar experience and showed that we can partner with do-gooders closer to home.  Again, I felt that supporting exceptional people committed to alleviating poverty is a great use of charitable dollars.

You’ve surfed in every US based SurfAid Cup event, including last year’s inaugural SurfAid Cup Surf Ranch. Any standouts amongst the different locations and surf breaks?  

We’ve been incredibly lucky with the surf. Surfing head high Malibu with 5 other people on a sunny day was quite a high, but getting a few waves at the Surf Ranch was even more extraordinary.  And any day I can catch a set wave at Pleasure Point is a banner day, made much easier in the SurfAid Cup Santa Cruz!

With most, if not all of CA beaches closed to surfing, we’ve got nothing but time to dream about the perfect wave. What is your ideal surf session and where?  

When I turned 60, I decided that I needed to surf a few of the world’s best waves before my body gave out completely.  During a visit to one of my daughters living in South Africa with my wife Kate, I insisted on a few days at Jeffrey’s Bay and Supertubes was amazing even though way above my skill level.  I loved Macaroni’s on our SurfAid trip and had a great time at Chicama with some of the guys on the Ola Grande team from several SurfAid cups…too bad those spots are not rights!

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced SurfAid to cancel three major fundraising events – including your local SurfAid Cup Santa Cruz competition. Despite the event being cancelled, you still fulfilled a matching donation opportunity in honor of SurfAid’s 20th Anniversary. What prompted this continued generosity?  

I was disappointed not to enjoy another SurfAid Cup Santa Cruz but, after all, it’s primarily a fundraiser and as a Board member, I felt motivated not to hold back. And if people don’t dig deep during this health crisis, SurfAid and other non-profits are not going to be able to survive.

What would you say to others who are looking to make a deeper connection between surfing and their ability to make an impact in surf communities around the world?

I love a “two-fer” as much as any busy person and the opportunity to be a do-gooder while also deepening my connections in the surf community has been very satisfying.  The members of the surf tribe who are attracted to SurfAid are uniformly a soulful group, and I’ve met many incredible people. There are so many needs and problems in the world that it’s sometimes difficult to focus on just one…why not pick a problem where the solution involves surfing?

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Hang in there, SurfAid, this, too shall pass! Keep up the good work!