The Center for Surf Research’s study abroad program (Groundswell Educational Travel) has finished for the 2013-2014 academic year leaving 40 very stoked students with fresh insight into sustainability and what it means in the context of international surf tourism.
The Groundswell philosophy is simple: students who are stoked on surfing are by necessity invested in and passionate about the wellbeing of the coastal and marine environments they are surfing in and the people who live there. This passion can be leveraged to create an incredibly powerful learning environment in the world’s best laboratory – the real world.
We take this philosophy and use it to teach students about sustainable surf tourism in world class surfing destinations. The program kicked off in January with 18 students travelling to Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama. The class scored some great waves on the long left point break of Caraneros, Dumpers and a number of beachbreaks on Bastimentos Island. The class was based out of the Palmar Tent Lodge – a property bench marked by STOKE Certified – at Red Frog Beach on Bastimentos Island.
In addition to learning about cross-cultural interactions in surf tourism and conducting a Framework Analysis for Sustainable Surf Tourism students went on a caving expedition, an organic chocolate farm visit, connected with non-profit Give and Surf and volunteered at a local indigenous school, snorkeled over pristine coral reef, and saw all kinds of amazing wildlife like caiman, sloth, and the famous endemic red frogs.
– Dr. Jess Ponting
Here are what some of the students have to say about their experience:
“I went to Bocas Del Toro, Panama with Groundswell in January of 2014 and it was the best decision I have made in my college career and even my life. Along with the unforgettable feeling of catching my first wave, I was also given the opportunity to experience a culture vastly different from what I was used too. My enthusiasm for learning rocketed and my passion for sustainability, tourism, and cross cultural interactions became a part of who I was instead of what I was told to read about in a book with all of the other students seated in the classroom. I was able to take the things I was learning and apply them to real life scenarios. My discovered obsession with sustainable tourism has now become my major, enhancing my college experience as a whole and my dream of surfing is now a part of my everyday reality all thanks to Groundswell.” – Olivia Dodge
“Studying abroad in Bocas Del Toro, Panama in January 2014 was one of the best college experiences I’ve had. Being out of my comfort zone was scary at first, but ended up being a valuable experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Being disconnected from technology connected me more to nature and the more important things in life. Talking to the locals brought upon a new appreciation and understanding for different cultures. Overall, I’m grateful to have had that experience to be lost in the jungle and learn outside of the classroom.” – Yvonne Chok
Over spring break Groundswell’s second trip landed in southern Nicaragua. We connected with non-profits Project WOO and Community Connect and worked with school kids and a community jam making project. Everyone got great waves brushed by the constant offshore winds that Nicaragua is famous for.
“With the opportunity of Groundswell, I was able to participate in my passion of traveling and surfing, while getting a firsthand experience of what sustainable tourism really is. We were able to engage in community projects that opened our eyes to the culture, practices, and daily lifestyle of Nicaragua. This was such a valuable experience to me because it goes beyond the books, and allowed me to gain more in depth knowledge on the lines of sustainable tourism, while being able to explore and surf the waves of Nicaragua! With this opportunity to combine an educational worldly experience and my passion of surfing, it is the most successful form of education. This trip made me stoked and ready to dive in deep learning the history and future of sustainable tourism.” – Jenayl Peters
In May, Groundswell ran its third trip to Nosara in Costa Rica where CSR alumnus Carl Kish explained his work in project managing the building of a sustainable surf resort and ensuring STOKE Certified compliance from the ground up. The surf was pumping the entire time.
“Groundswell offered me an experience unlike any other. Each day consisted of different activities that taught us about the Costa Rican culture. We were able to learn about the surf tourism industry hands on by spending a lot of time with the Groundswell staff, as well as the local surfers and business owners. The trip opened my eyes to an entirely new industry that I could not be more excited about.” – Stephen Lawrance
“Pura Vida! My first thoughts reminiscing on Costa Rica make me want to say that it changed my life forever. But, I don’t think thats the right way to put it, I think its more fitting to say that my adventure to Nosara enhanced they way I live my life. I have never felt so free and ambitious as I did down there because I was learning something that I was passionate about and I was being taught in an environment that I felt happy in. It was the perfect balance of learning, fun, surfing, volunteer work, cultural immersion and having the opportunity to make connections with the individuals in the forefront of sustainable surf tourism.This rounded out an incredibly successful first year for Groundswell.” – Garrett Hein
This rounded out an incredibly successful first year for Groundswell.
We proved that the model works — stoked students are passionate and focused learners, and the Groundswell experience creates real personal transformation that lasts well beyond the duration of the class. The 2014-2015 academic year is looking even better for Groundswell with 8-10 trips planned to amazing destinations including World Surfing Reserves, the South Pacific, and beyond. Watch this space for more details as they emerge.