By Laura Nederkorn
The NGO "Paddle Paddle" collects donated surfboards, repairs them and organises surf lessons and workshops on a global scale with local NGOs from developing nations. We spoke to the founder: Mathieu.
How did the idea for Paddle Paddle come about?
The project was born, at least in our minds, when we were traveling around Nias, Indonesia, in 2018 and met a young boy surfing a broken board. It made us think that we should have brought over some of our unwanted secondhand boards from home, and given them to the kids here. When we returned to Hossegor, France, we launched Paddle Paddle.
What is your role at Paddle Paddle?
I am involved in every project we run and I make sure everyone has everything they need to succeed. It’s not my full time job (I’m a freelance writer and journalist), but Paddle-Paddle could definitely be a full time job if it received enough funding. There are about 10 of us working on different projects, and the team is getting progressively bigger over time.
What is your intention with the work at Paddle Paddle?
If you are talking about personal intentions, I think I’m just a citizen and I have a role to play in society. I have to get involved in something, like we should all do. I want to convince other people to do the same. Not only in surfing, but in any way we can to make our planet a cool place to live.
And if we talk about the intention of Paddle Paddle - What is the basic idea of your organisation?
The idea is to make surfing more accessible, more inclusive and more aligned with the future of our planet. We think that when you look a bit closer, you can easily spot what’s going wrong with the sport. We aim to fix these things.
What are Paddle Paddle’s major obstacles in accomplishing this?
Money and time, of course, but also society itself. I don’t feel like current society takes NGOs into consideration, and it’s been quite hard to find our place anywhere. In France for example, most administrations think of us as a classic organisation earning money. We don’t receive any help and we’re expected to pay as if we were a profit-making business. Due to this we can’t move forwards as fast as we’d like to. It’s one of the reasons we act as independently as possibly.
How are the projects and employees financed?
It’s all volunteer-led and we also launch crowdfunder’s from time to time. It actually costs us a lot of time and money, but we all think it’s worth it.
What are some of the major action items on your group’s agenda at the moment?
The Make Some Waves #2 in Hossegor, a skate trip to Ghana with Skate’Her and a big project in Nigeria.
Sounds great! Looking into the past - What was the most exciting project you’ve completed with Paddle Paddle so far?
All of them were pretty exciting. Colombia was memorable as it was probably the most complicated to organise. When we pulled it off we were like, “Ok, that was crazy cool, let’s do it again”. A few of our upcoming projects look even more complicated. We’re trying not to think about it!
How can people get involved in Paddle Paddle projects?
You can support us through donations, all the money goes to fixing equipment and sending bags overseas. If you don’t have much to give, supporting us on social media is also a big deal. Doors open up more easily when you have lots of followers, it’s sad but true haha!
Do you surf too? What does surfing mean to you?
I do, I always had a board even if though I didn’t grow up near the ocean. When traveling, surfing showed me a pretty cool walk of life. I literally rushed into it. Now I’m surfing any kind of board, anywhere. Surfing is about opening-up and connecting to the world, it means a lot to me.
Your tip for a more sustainable surf world?
Just get involved in a non-profit organisations, even if it means creating your own! We should educate ourselves and the next generation to the non-profit way of life. It will definitely make a difference in the end.
Thank you Mathieu. Your work at Paddle Paddle is really inspiring. We are happy to support such a great project!