Becoming A Local, Without Living There

surf trip Oct 28, 2022

On my first trip to Indonesia, when I was 19 years old, I experienced a huge culture shock. I felt an immense gratitude for where and when I was born after watching one local washing clothes in a brown river, just downstream from another local relieving himself in the same river. I spent the remainder of the summer in a small town in Costa Rica which solidified the realization that I was a pretty darn lucky guy growing up where and when I did.

Since those trips, when I travel to another country to surf, I often times bring with me something to leave behind that could enhance the community in which I’m traveling. Generally, my donations are clothes (often times boardshorts) and/or fishing/spearfishing gear.

This isn’t an article about patting myself on the back, but rather a reminder to traveling surfers to remember that we are guests among the local community. As such guests, we should remember to tread lightly, and give back as much as we can at the time. Not only will it enhance the local community’s lives, but it may have some added benefits for you in the water.

This past month’s Baja trip reminded me of that, as did a friend’s note about a local community in Zimatlan, Oaxaca in mainland Mexico.  He described to me how the Mexican government has recently ceased providing subsidies to farmers. Because of that shift, farmers are abandoning their lands to work other jobs. This has created a social and economic problem where crops are not being grown, families are being torn apart, and local families that are trying to keep farming alive are having economic struggles.

The communities of Zimatlan, Oaxaca are some of the poorest ones in the country. A traveling surfer would pass through these communities on their way to Puerto Escondido if flying into Oaxaca International Airport.

To combat this change in the government’s policy and keep the farming communities together, a group of concerned citizens has created a company called Amaranthy, LLC. Amaranthy guarantees the farmers a portion of the sale when a consumer purchases one of Amaranthy’s superfood products (which not so coincidentally uses ingredients from these same local farmers). 

The company also provides the farmers with a greenhouse they can use to act as insurance for climate change (droughts, floods, insect plagues). The established product prices are fair so as to guarantee a sustainable way of life for the farmers.

In addition, Amaranthy gives advice and guidance to these communities on clean and sustainable farming methods, supplies food grade packaging, takes care of importing the final products, and follows FDA regulations and US standards to finally market and sell to the US market.

I know, this sounds like a pitch. And it is. Sorry. But these are the kinds of initiatives that we as traveling surfers could support to pay it forward for the communities that welcome us onto their land and show us their warm hospitality.

If you want to support the local communities of Zimatlan, Oaxaca, simply purchase one of Amaranthy’s products here - 

This is not the only way you can support a local community. Next time you go on a trip, bring some goods to give away, or find a local organization that does outreach to the communities surrounding your surf break. It’s not just the community closest to the surf break that needs assistance. Remember that the goods and services you use on your trip are supplied by the communities surrounding the surf break. It’s all connected.

Acting “locally”, can also benefit the surf communities you live near. If there is a surf town you frequent, stick around after your surf and grab a bite to eat at the local eatery, or grab a coffee/tea to support the local businesses. Strike up a conversation with those you see often at these places and maybe you’ll find a new friend in the water. Who knows, maybe you’ll befriend the local heavy.

Without our action, these smaller communities that we find so charming and welcoming might be completely replaced with colder, less friendly businesses/people. Don’t blow through a town like the Tazmanian Devil. Slow down, be present, and get to know the people that live there.

You might even become a “local” without actually living there.

Thank you for your ear…and I’ll see you in the local coffee shop!

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