Stab Magazine | Want A Scholarship To Surf?

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Want A Scholarship To Surf?

Enter developing markets. 

news // Feb 14, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This week the ISA announced that their scholarship program was accepting applications for 2017. The spin is that in the ten years since the program was introduced, they’ve given away a quarter of a million dollars to help fund more than 300 aspiring surfers education, travel and training costs. The “ambassadors” (read: contributors) of the ISA scholarship program include Billabong, Hurley, Reef and Dragon.

Unsurprisingly, a Google search for other “surfing scholarships” turned up very little. The East Coast Surfing Association has their act together. Thanks to both the Buddy Pelletier Scholarship and the Marsh Scholarship, there’s some dough out there for Right Coast kids that want to make something of themselves. And for kids in Hawaii, the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Scholarship gives preferential treatment to water sports. And that’s about it. For shame all the surf companies lining their pockets off other people’s beaches–reinvest that cash. The future of surfing isn’t cramming more ads down the throats of everyone in the “major markets,” it’s cultivating a surf culture in places that are just learning the love of the brine.

“As part of our strategy for global expansion, it’s important to support the youth to ensure a bright future for the sport. This ISA Scholarship Program has played a key role in promoting the sport in non-traditional Surfing nations such as Ghana, India and Haiti, where Surfing is growing in popularity,” says ISA President Fernando Aguerre.

This is coming from the guy that started Reef then sold it and got surfing in the Olympics a hundred years after Duke first tossed the idea out there. Today, when a surf company sponsors an event at T Street or a grom in Santa Barbara they’re preaching to the converted. There’s a reason growth in surfing’s epicentres has stagnated–no longer shiny and new.

Enter “developing markets.” Costa Rica’s Carlos Muñoz is a great example. He got an ISA scholarship as a young pup and today he’s got contracts with Volcom and Red Bull, and for the last five years has hung in the top 100 on the QS. He’s evolved into one of the best ambassadors Costa Rica has for their tourism industry, and because he was able to chase his surfing dream as well as get an education, his influence is only going to become more substantial in the years ahead (Plus, he’s got the best hair in the biz since Buttons.)

“I always had people around me that gave me a lot of support, but without a doubt, the scholarship was a gift from God,” says Carlos. “My mom did´t have the money that she needed to send me to school. I got into a private high school thanks to this scholarship, and after two years of being an ISA Ambassador, I got another scholarship in school because of my good grades. I will always be thankful to the ISA for those scholarships; it was one of the things that made my life happy.”

Now imagine if you could create 100 little Carlos mini-me’s in each and every developing surfing country. That’s a hell of a lot of brand loyalty…and it would grow exponentially in ensuing years. All it would take is a little reallocation of marketing dollars. No problem. Consider that there are surfer’s who make a salary in the neighbourhood of $400,000+ a year from just one brand. Over the course of ten years, the ISA has spent $248,500 in scholarships. What would the return on their investment be if big-monied companies clipped their high-priced rider and spent the cash on growing the sport on a grassroots level?

Growing the sport isn’t about banners on the beach or what sticker’s on the nose of a 12-year-old’s board. It starts with providing the tools to learn and expand horizons—boards, wetsuits, rides to the beach, good instruction, etc. Education has to parallel that. You can’t create the next generation of industry leaders if you’ve got a bunch of kids that can’t spell the funny Hawaiian names their parents gave them. A solid foundation in surfing and school and can make all the difference in a young person’s life. That has to be worth more than throwing another pro-am in Orange County, right?


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