It almost didn’t happen. The hard drive crashed. A years worth of footage gone. The videographer got called to a job in New York. The date was already set and the clock was ticking. Two days out from launch the video came through. It was great. Surfing clips from the Philippines put together with edits from Newcastle. And in between the waves there’s a positive message about a positive human, from the people who know her best. All she needs is just a little bit of help.
“Surfing is an individual sport. But you can’t get there on your own”, 23 year old WQS surfer Philippa Anderson beams. There are six events left on the Women’s World Qualifying Series and Philippa needs to get to them all. The problem is, like many other women in her position she doesn’t have a major sponsor and traveling the world comes at a price. Not only is there flights to pay and accommodation to book, but the level of women’s surfing is now so high that a support team is vital to get through heats. The solution? She’s crowd-funding.
Philippa isn’t the first surfer to turn to crowd-funding after the finances suddenly disappeared. Ricardo Christie spent 2013/14 grovelling his way through the beach breaks of the Men’s Qualifying Series, and he did it with the support of an entire nation. “You should have seen it, it was like the whole of New Zealand was behind him!”, a Kiwi friend recently told me of Christie’s crowd-funding campaign. “And look, he’s on tour now and he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet”, he continued with an air of pride.
Both surfers followed a similar journey through their youth. Successful pro junior careers followed by hardships during the GFC. Both surfers were approached by a friend who suggested crowd-funding to them because they believed they have a place at the elite surfing level. And both surfers were apprehensive about asking for help.
“A bit of me thought, I don’t really want to do it. I see so many campaigns where people are raising money for someone who has cancer or to help someone have an operation. I’m 100% fine! There’s nothing wrong with me and I have an awesome life. I felt a bit strange reaching out to people”, the humble Novacastrian confesses.
While the initial support for Philippa has seen almost $10,000 raised in just three weeks, not everyone agrees surfing can be an answer. In one comments section of an article about Philippa’s campaign someone has written, “Good luck with your surfing holiday but I donated to people in Nepal”.
With a youth spent in the waters around Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Philippa has seen with her own eyes what the disparity between wealth and poverty looks like. Even after immigrating to Australia she’s gone back to visit poverty stricken countries and has spent the last three years sponsoring a girl in Bangladesh through Compassion International. She only recently stopped with donations as her girl was married off, at only 14 years of age. “But at least for three years I was able to give her a bit of a life that we have; education, clothes, water, christmas and birthday presents”, Philippa states.
We as surfers are an incredibly unique group of people. During our lifelong journey for waves we come across countries, people and situations of extreme hardships. Places where the average wage is 25 cents a day or it’s politically unsafe to travel to certain cities. We live with these people in their countries and have seen where help is needed. Charities and NGOs have been started around the world by surfers who know what the transformational effect of riding a wave can do. Part of Philippa’s dream in qualifying for the WCT is to put herself in a better position to give back.
The other aspect of supporting athletes like Philippa is using our money to make a statement to the industry – we support women’s surfing. Over the last couple of years the WSL has followed through on their promise of increased prize money and better quality waves. Every single female on tour is capitalising on these new opportunities and showing the world they’re at their best level yet.
Donating to Philippa isn’t giving someone money for a surfing holiday, it’s supporting women as athletes and giving them a voice. Giving them a platform to bring about change, a space where they can use their influence for good. So meet the girl from Newcastle and let’s support women in the waves.