Santiago Aguerre’s Open Letter To The Surf Industry

Editor’s Note: Reef Co-Founder Santiago Aguerre sent us this e-mail a few days ago. We liked it so much we asked him if it would be okay to post it on our Web site.

To: Sean O’Brien, Editor, TransWorld SURF Business

Dear Sean,

I have a little favor to ask you. Some people far away need our help, and I thought you might be able to help them. You see, a couple of years ago, Dr. Dave Jenkins, a doctor from New Zealand, visited the Mentawai Islands on one of those classic boat trip most of us have taken.

The difference this time was that contrary to what most surfers do there, he got off the boat and went into one of the villages, just behind that beautifully palm-lined beach. To his shock, he did not find the classic National Geographic clean village with fisherman taken care of their nets, women preparing a nice table, and kids happily playing around it all.


What he saw hurt so much that he decided to do something about it, something about their suffering. You see, we all know there is suffering around the world and so did he, but he could not come to grips with the fact that there was a huge contrast going on around there. The contrast was the fact that there are so many people surfing, playing in the water, sport fishing, and having fun coming from the nearby flotilla of boats equipped with AC, great food, DVDs and cold beers, while just 100 feet from all that a mother was helplessly watching her child die from something that ten bucks could cure (yeah, cheaper than a pair of sandals).

In these villages, right in front of hundreds of traveling surfers, in front of our boats, our cameras, our pros, half the kids will die before they reach five years of age from sickness that we would not even consider a risk here in the States and are very preventable with little money.


A few months later Dr. Jenkins dropped his high paying job and came back to that same village with two other volunteers and began changing things around in a big way. Vaccines, mosquito nets, antibiotics, and lots of teaching and help are beginning to turn things around for this village. Dr. Jenkins’ efforts needed a name to make it official with the government of Indo and with anybody helping in such great effort. There could be nothing more descriptive than what they chose: Surf Aid International (


A couple of months ago I read article written by Steve Barillotti for Surfer Magazine (“The Jungle Is Looking Back,” Volume 45#12) about Dr. Jenkins and his crew. I was very touched. I have been there twice myself, had the time of my life, and did not even realize what was going on just beyond the jungle line.

The article woke me up to the real world, who these people are out there, and how much they are doing with so little, and I too felt the responsibility to help. Luckily, at the same time some other people in U.S.A. have also gotten involved and are doing their part. Gary Sirota, another visitor that got off the boat, has helped Dr. Jenkins create Surf Aid U.S.A. as a nonprofit organization channeling funds to the Mentawai group. Gary is today the liaison of this local chapter. I have met him several times and he is trying very hard to get things going. He is working on some other ideas to get money to help these guys out on the islands, to get more results. We are helping with time and money from our side. We would like others to come on board and help, too.


Surf Aid is the work of a dreamer with a lot of courage and a big humanitarian heart, and a band of crazy people that feel passionate enough to drop their jobs to help and sensible enough not to look the other way. Today, Dave and his Team are looking at us — surfers, industry people, boat operators, pros, yes all of us — to see if we can help further their dream of mmaking this effort an ongoing humanitarian crusade. I will help. Will you?

This, my letter to you, is to ask you to help increase the awareness within the industry about what these people do. To give them consistent editorial coverage in TransWorld SURF Business so all the industry can realize that they exist and that they are good for all of us, business and personally, and good for the people of the Mentawai.

All in all, it’s a great cause and very worth mentioning in a mag that talks about the pulse of the surf industry and its many facets. There are so many angles to report on this, so many follow-up stories, that it’s a great chance to show that we’ re not only about making money, but that we really love what we do with surfing, in and out of the water.

Aloha, in its true spirit,

Santiago Aguerre
Co-Founder Reef.

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TransWorld SURF Business applauds Aguerre’s call to the surf industry to get involved with Surf Aid International and encourages other individuals and companies to support this cause. If you have a thought or comment on this or another topic about the surf industry, e-mail and get the word out.