Paddle Against Poverty has raised much needed funds for the people of an Indonesian Island for teaching aids and access to clean water.

Last month, 60 participants left Wollongong Harbour at 8am using paddle boards to cover the 14km at sea to Thirroul Beach, enduring 2.5 hours of paddling.

Conditions were fierce with a drizzle of rain that never let up, and a solid swell pushed through that led to many participants having to swim to shore after losing their boards in the brutal waves.

Paddle participant Ben Moore compared the event to the conditions faced in the previous year, and suggested that more could be done to work around the events on the day.

“We got really lucky last year,” he said.

“Although the water was a little colder we had the current moving with us, so it was much faster.

“Maybe we could have moved ‘The Paddle’ this year to go south instead of north against the currents, but I suppose that’s tricky with all the organising of patrol boats and jetskis.”

Several small businesses contributed to the event, providing meat for post-event barbecues and prizes for raffles, the funds raised from these endeavours contributing to charities.

Event organiser Sandon Groves said being able to raise close to $30,000 for the event was only possible thanks to businesses offering their support.

“I just really appreciate the generosity of those businesses to pay for things like the t-shirts, and new teardrop banners for the event,” he said.

“Just things like that we wouldn’t have been able to do without them, and they’re important to show our paddlers that we appreciate them coming, and that it looks like the team event it is.”

The charity event is designed to fundraise money for several causes including the organisation Mercy Huts, who are sending a teacher to the Pacific Island of Rotè, and Surf Aid, who are working on climate resilient wells to provide sustainable drinking water.

The Paddle Against Poverty is run through the Christian Surfers organisation, which was founded in Cronulla in 1977 by Coledale resident Brett Davis.

Christian Surfers is now an established international group, with chapters existing throughout the Pacific and the Americas, and moving into areas where even the idea of Christianity can be dangerous, such as in China and the Maldives.

Source: OpenDoor 2024; World Watch List

The Paddle Against Poverty has now run for its 13th straight year, bringing together surfers across Australia to raise money for different charitable groups.

This year was the first time a second Paddle Against Poverty was able to run, with 25 paddlers in the West Australian coastal town of Yallingup, just south of Perth.

It is this connection with surfing that has led to the Christian Surfers involvement with SurfAid. Originally the brain child of keen surfer and physician Dr Dave Jenkins, SurfAid provides physical care and education to third-world populations.

The SurfAids project, “Rotè Malole” began last year, with aims to improve the malnutrition status of children under five.

Addressing childhood stunting has become a major issue with a target to decrease stunting from 24.4 per cent in 2020 to 14 per cent in 2024. Access to clean water is a major reason for childhood stunting, which is why SurfAid is intent on building wells in Rotè.

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Source: National Centre for Biotechnology Information

Rotè Island sits 500km northwest off the Australian coast, and is part of the East Nusa Tenggara province. It is famous for the world-class surf break T-Land, and attracts roughly 100,000 visitors each year.

Almost 30 per cent of the population on Rote is categorised as poor. Only half of households have access to clean water and only a quarter of villages are declared Open Defecation Free.

In remote villages across Indonesia indicators of health and wellbeing are consistently poorer than average. The “Rote Malole” project is targeting 12 villages in the most vulnerable sub-districts, providing cleaner and more consistent drinking water and nutrition to more than 1,500 children across the island.

Rotè enjoys the typical tropical weather of the Indonesian region. Heavy rainfall and the warm humid climate are common features, and it is for this reason that climate resilient wells are needed so quickly.

Globally, scientists are using projected scenarios known as RCP’s, an accumulation of several data points as a result of global warming; air pollution, warming, rainfall.

Below is a graph demonstrating predicted increases in Australian rain and dry periods, and underneath the same for Indonesia, contrasting how much more severe seasonal shifts are for those areas closer to the equator.

Source:  WorldBank Climate Change

Apart from reducing the rates of stunting seen in Rotè, SurfAid’s Australian board member James Botley said that filtered water can be used in cooking and for other medical maladies.

“We take water for granted at home, but the reality is if you stop for a second and realise how important it is to nearly every component of the day,” he said,

“That’s why it is so important to try and implement this new scheme so quickly.”

Donations to the SurfAid cause can be made via their website, and Christian Surfers are reportedly already in talks to discuss organising another year of the Paddle Against Poverty.