Surf Aid International To The Rescue

November 25, 2011, Judd

The first time Andrew Griffiths witnessed the debilitating effects of malaria in the Mentawai islands of Indonesia, his reaction was like Edward Munch’s painting, “The Scream”- silent horror and shock. He saw how the mosquito-borne parasitic disease devours the livers of children, resulting in severe vomiting and diarrhea.

It’s hard to shake the image from his mind: near-dead, glassy-eyed five-year olds suffering intense bouts of anemia, attacking and depleting their red blood cells to the point where their immunity system is suppressed as though they have AIDS.

“I remember this one boy,” says Griffiths. “He had turgid skin, so dried out that when the doctor lifted the skin it stayed standing rather than bouncing back in place. He was hours away from death, white with anemia. We had to give him treatment via suppositories.”

Griffiths is a Kiwi who grew up surfing Auckland’s best breaks. Why would he and hundreds of surfers like him spend their holiday in this malaria-infested remote tropical realm?

“The Mentawais have the best waves on the planet,” says Griffiths. Since the early ’90s, the Mentawais have attracted the world’s best surfers with exquisite, crowd-free waves. It’s the ultimate idyllic surf nirthing on a structured level,” says Griffiths, who moved to the Mentawais with Dr. Jenkins in April 2001, leaving London and a six-figure salary in the investment-banking business.

“Every boat captain and others who are involved in the surf-travel industry do try to help the locals,” says Griffiths, “but they’re not necessarily equipped to help the locals in the way they need medically. I think there’s a good awareness in the Mentawais now among surfers. The problem is so enormous that it’s impossible not to be conscious of it.”

Unfortunately, the Indonesian government doesn’t have the resources-or perhaps lacks the will-to alleviate the suffering.

Because of corruption and other geo-political factors, SAl is in a better position to help the Mentawai locals than the government.

And even if you can’t afford the time or the price to visit the Mentawais, you can help Surf Aid International by donating some money or your time. You never know how far your charity will extend.

Griffiths’ involvement with SAl was a radical departure from how he envisioned the next phase in his life. “I thought I was going to live in the Canary Islands off Spain and learn to be a Spanish chef,” he says. A thousand children thank him for his change of path.

Visit www.surfaidinternational.org for more information.

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.