My name is Chris Binns and I’ve just surfed for 30 days straight (37 by the time this has been posted). I doubt I’ve ever come close to that before, despite a long career in the surf industry and generally living within a stone’s throw of the ocean. I’m also currently sitting on top of the #MakeAWave leader board, which means a hell of a lot more to the good folk of Indonesia than it does to me.
I’ve been a big fan of SurfAid’s work since going to the the island of Nias in 2015, with David Rastovich, Courtney Conlogue and a team of local SurfAid staff. As well as scoring incredible waves at Lagundri Bay we trekked deep into the jungle to see first-hand the effects of SurfAid’s medical relief work.
“It’s a hand up, not a handout,” SurfAid founder Dr. Dave Jenkins told me at the time, and it resonated. “Our job is not to go out into the field and build a house or a well, our job is to convince the villages to do it themselves, and learn the skills needed to do it again. We want to facilitate the process, and that’s what we’ve got good at.”
Surfing World magazine commissioned me to write about the trip, and when Rasta manhandled a pristine 10-foot tube in front of Will Adler’s camera my article became the cover story of SW 366. Crazily, this was Surfing World’s September issue and was used to launch SurfAid’s 30 Waves In 30 Days program, which six years later morphed into this first ever #MakeAWave challenge.
Dr Dave’s ethos remains in place to this day, and SurfAid has gone from strength to strength across the breadth of the archipelago, tackling everything from malaria to dysentery to mother and infant health, and tackling it well. A few months ago I got in touch with Dave and SurfAid CEO Doug Lees to find out what their take was on the current situation in Indonesia, and if SurfAid had anything planned I could be a part of. Doug got back to me straight away that the already precarious Indonesian medical system was buckling under the added strain of Covid, and that SurfAid were planning a big fundraising challenge in September called #MakeAWave.
I was living in Yallingup, WA at the time and not being afraid of an overshare on social media I couldn’t really see where the challenge lay and replied immediately that I was in. A month later my girlfriend invited me to move in with her in Perth, and head-over-heels in love I left my beautiful home in the south-west and shifted to the city. Then, one morning in bed and seemingly out of the blue, she broke things off and broke my heart. To say I went into a tailspin would be an understatement. With a wild partying history to my name my mates went on high alert to stave off any potential rampageous benders, and with a pay cheque dropping at just the right time I zigged where normally I might have zagged, aimed for the ocean not the pub, and took off up north with a tank full of diesel and head full of fog.
Surfing set me straight, but so did deleting my Instagram and Facebook accounts. While my health felt fine, mentally I was all at sea and the thought of surfing in Perth every day and claiming it on social media lost its appeal very quickly. One night though, while staying in the middle of nowhere on Warroora Station, I figured that these things are called challenges for a reason and if I could help raise some money for my beloved Indonesia (I have lived on-and-off in Bali since 2013) then maybe I should swallow my pride and have a dig. Plus, I’d promised Dave and Doug.
I wrote a draft (or so I thought) of a long, emotional Instagram post, and went to bed. In the morning I walked outside, my phone found a random bar or two of reception, and my “draft” went live as I was having a shower, blissfully unaware of the commitment I’d just made.
I’m a lucky human who’s lived a very fortunate life getting to travel the world and surf purely because I can write or talk about it in a semi-intelligible fashion, and along the course of my travels I’ve built an incredible network of friends and colleagues. A bit of honesty, even if not quite done deliberately, must have resonated. Suddenly my #MakeAWave campaign took off, and here we are. There are 10 days left to run in the #MakeAWave month, though October 1 is Fluoro Friday and I intend to go surf with the @OneWaveIsAllItTakes team to talk mental health in the water with a bunch of kids in Scarborough at the Groundswell Festival before I sign off from the marathon.
I’ve reached out to all sorts of friends over the past month, I’ve surfed with everyone from Flick Palmateer to Jay Davies, Laurie Towner to Kai Neville, and plenty more everyday surfers you’ll never have heard of. I’ve surfed at Tombies in Gnaraloo, Jake’s Point in Kalbarri, Strickland Bay at Rottnest (Wadjemup) and of course my beloved Yallingup, but the highlights have been the deep conversations with friends old and new, even if that means surfing the average waves in Perth that I first cut my grommet teeth on 30 years ago.
Dave and Doug have both been in touch plenty over the past few weeks, and it sure feels good to be able to give a little back to a country and a lifestyle that have given me so much over the past dozen years. Life is never meant to be easy, but it’s fair to say that by surfing for others you can definitely help yourself too, and that’s exactly what #MakeAWave has meant for me. See you at the finish line legends, we’ve all done so bloody well this September and should be proud of our efforts.