Get Around It: A 10-Kilometre Paddle To Provide Food To the Struggling People of Bali

8 Oct 2020 0 Share

Paddling for a good cause — the Million Meals Paddle will raise money and food for the struggling local Balinese community. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

Paddling for a good cause — the Million Meals Paddle will raise money and food for the struggling local Balinese community. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

COASTALWATCH | NEWS

By Dashel Pierson

Bali, like many other travel hotspots, is hurting. Due to the global pandemic, the steady tap of visitors coming to the island nation has essentially run dry – meaning the local people, whose livelihoods rely on this tourism, are struggling to get by.

According to the US's TSA daily database of travellers passing through checkpoints, the number of people catching planes in 2020 are less than half what it was in 2019. And, as for Bali, you can’t even get there even if you wanted to — the island won’t open to outside visitors at least until the end of the year.

As a result, people who hold Bali near and dear, including surfers, have been stepping up to help. One such organisation is Scholars of Sustenance – a non-profit based in Thailand and Indonesia with the goal of feeding those in need – and their upcoming event in Bali, the Million Meals Paddle. The concept is based on the fun-run/jog-a-thon format, but with a surfing twist; participants will raise money, then attempt to paddle the 10 kilometres from Kuta Reef to Old Man’s. All the proceeds will go toward providing meals to the Balinese people who have suffered financially due to the pandemic and lack of tourism.

To hear more about the event, which will go down on October 25, we caught up with Scholars of Sustenance’s project manager, DJ Denton, who lives and surfs in Bali and has witnessed the local struggle firsthand.

What’s the mission behind Scholars of Sustenance?

Scholars of Sustenance is a food rescue foundation. Our mission is to create food equity in which lower social economic communities have access to life’s basic necessity of nutrition. SOS is not only a humanitarian organisation collecting surplus food from large commercial outlets and delivering it to those who need it most, but we remain focussed on the environmental aspect of food waste and production.

So, by collecting the food that otherwise goes to waste and giving it to the people who are struggling, we are providing them with a lifeline that in time should allow them to reach other life resources that many of us take for granted.

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Welcome to #MillionMealsPaddle! A paddle race to give desperately needed nutrition to the vulnerable communities around Bali. The race is essentially an opportunity for surf enthusiasts across the island to give back to Bali through their courageous commitment to paddle across the island from Pantai Jerman Tuban or the surf break Airports to Batu Bolong, Canggu or Old Man's. It will takes approximately 10 KM! All participants will receive participation packages of free breakfast, BBQ, Bintang and the million meals rash guards! Heaps of great prizes! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, SIGN UP AND BE PART OF THIS RACE NOW! (https://www.scholarsofsustenance.org/millionmealspaddle) - Link on Bio - --------------- Event partner: @oldmansbali @ripcurlschoolofsurf @baliswimofficial #MillionMeals #MillionMealsPaddle

A post shared by #Feeding2020 by SOS (@sos.indonesia1) on

And how did you guys come up with the idea for the Million Meals Paddle?

It came out of nowhere, honestly. It was in a meeting with the Old Man’s venue in Batu Bolong, Canggu when we decided on a plan to help Bali together. SOS has already distributed over 600,000 meals to the vulnerable communities of the island since the start of the pandemic in March and the folks at Old Man’s wanted to support.

We talked about doing a charity run or cycling event. But then I said, ‘Nah to average.’ Then the manager of Old Man’s suggested a paddle, and the idea was born. With myself being a surfer, I said, ‘Yes! Let’s make it happen!’ Now we are rallying the Bali community together in making a huge positive impact for the local people here.

How will the event raise money and where will that go?

So, the event is based around the basic idea of networking and crowdfunding. We are encouraging any and all members of the general public who want to push themselves to their limits or simply want to give back to Bali to sign up.

They register for the Million Meals Paddle via the website and our dedicated team of professionals creates a customised crowdfunding campaign for that individual to raise money for the people of Bali. It’s simple, they use their social media and network to collect funds that are directly converted into meals by the SOS team.

As COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the SOS operations, we are temporarily purchasing food from local farmers and suppliers to provide to those in need. This is happening on a daily basis with over 2000 meals prepared out of the SOS Rescue Kitchen in Rumah Sanur. Also, twice a week, the SOS team does large-scale village outreach in the form of dry goods – which last over a week – for isolated villages in the northeast of Bali. This is where the money goes.

Photo: Jeremiah Klein

Photo: Jeremiah Klein

Are all types of paddlers allowed? (i.e. paddleboards, surfboards, pair of fins etc.)

We have four divisions: shortboard, funboard, longboard, and SUP. So, not all paddlers, but all surf-related paddlers.

The website mentions a “Quitter’s Boat” – seems like it’ll be a pretty tough challenge?

Yes, it is. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you’re an active surfer it’s not too bad. I have already done it myself to prove that it is possible and set a time of 2 hours 50 minutes on a 26-litre shortboard.

The reason for the quitter’s boat is a way for people just wanting to find a way to give back to the community. Bali is full of gorgeous souls who jump into activities they may not be exactly qualified for. We at SOS prioritise safety, and we must have a time limit, and if the paddlers don’t finish in the designated amount of time, we will assure they arrive safely to the beach at Batu Bolong via the quitter’s boat. They’ll still be stoked though – they still get cold beers, free BBQ, and awesome participation packages.

How badly are the people of Bali struggling as a result of no visiting surfers?

This is a hard question in regard to only surfers, and I don’t know the exact statistics, so I can only speak for myself and likeminded surfers. The beautiful beaches and waves of Bali are what drew me to the island and have kept me here for such a long time.

The problem is not only that surfers are not coming, but tourists cannot come at all. Bali remains in a state of lockdown which basically has closed the doors to all international tourism. Bali’s overall economy is an estimated 80% based on tourism and without that, literally hundreds of thousands have fallen into poverty, which leaves them unable to provide for themselves.

To put it simply, without the assistance of SOS and all of the generous surfers getting behind this paddle, thousands would go without food.

For decades, surfers have flocked to Bali. But due to the pandemic, that influx of wave-hungry visitors — and their impact on the economy — has run dry. As a result, the people of Bali are hurting. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

For decades, surfers have flocked to Bali. But due to the pandemic, that influx of wave-hungry visitors — and their impact on the economy — has run dry. As a result, the people of Bali are hurting. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

To put the impact into perspective, how important is surfing to the local economy?

Bali is a surfing mecca. Normally, there would be various events such as the Padang Padang Cup, the WCT event at Keramas – those draw in thousands of people who inject money directly into the economy. Surfing and tourism are the Bali way of life.

For perspective, the standard salary pre-Corona was around $200 US dollars per month for a six-day, eight-hour work week. That is gone. Most people are without jobs or income of any kind. Let’s estimate 100,000 surfers come here per year – just a guess – spending on average $1,000 dollars for their trip. That’s a hundred million dollars into this economy. That pays a lot of salaries and provides additional income in taxes, services, taxis, surf lessons, or other tourism-related costs.

For those who have been here, you know. But for those who have not, the best part of Bali is in the people. The smiles, the constant helping hand to get you where you’re going, or the simplicity of their daily routines is the true beauty of this place. They have done so much for me, and millions of others, and now it’s time we give back to them.

View this post on Instagram

Call out to #Surfers, #SUP riders, Body Boarders and ocean enthusiasts of Bali The Million Meals Paddle is a community initiative to give back to #Bali! Come out and #PADDLE! What do you have to loss? Your arm strength? Couple nights sleep? Your sanity? ............ Imagine what that thousands of families across the island are going through without access to to life's basic necessity of food. We as a collective of "Bali Surfers" can do our part in giving back to the island that has gave us so much! Come out and help us to help them! It wont hurt that bad, or it might......but get involved and help us to KEEP BALI STRONG! If you cannot paddle yourself, please see the website and give to one of the generous participants who are putting themselves on the line for the greater good. Please share this post with your mates who might want to get involved #SOSBali #MillionMealsPaddle #ScholarsofSustenance #ScholarsofSustenanceIndonesia #SOSIndonesia #MillionofMeals #surf #paddling #standuppaddle #surflife #charity #fundraising

A post shared by #Feeding2020 by SOS (@sos.indonesia1) on

How does surfing fit in to the Scholars for Sustenance mission?

Since Bali is one of the top surfing destinations on the planet, and we as a surfing community are lucky enough to enjoy what Bali has to offer, we should also give back to Bali. I anticipate that this will become an annual event that continues to benefit the communities of Bali for a long, long time moving forward.

This article also appeared on Surfline

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