- Reading time 8 minutes -
Written by Laura Nederkorn
For almost exactly two years now, Rebel has been supporting Provide The Slide in their mission to help surfers in Africa to live out their passion. To do this, PTS collect unused or defective surfboards, repairs them and then donates them as complete sets (including fins, leash and surf wax).
In our interview, co-founder Simon talks about the work at Provide The Slide and reveals how you can give your broken surfboards a second (and very meaningful) life.
How did the Provide The Slide NGO come about?
The deciding factor was a trip we took together to Liberia in 2019, after which Chris took the initiative to collect materials for our surf buddies we met out there. A few months later we founded the association "Provide the Slide". We both live in Switzerland (Bern) and this is also where the association is registered. Since the foundation, Tino and Basti from Germany have also joined us.
How did the idea come about?
We already knew before the trip to Liberia that there was a shortage of surf equipment on site. So we took two boards each, which we then, at the end of the trip, handed over to the local community. However, it was obvious that this was just a drop in the ocean and that there was a much greater need. We thought there was enough unused surfing material in Europe and since Chris works for an NGO that exports bikes to Africa, we saw a way to get the material to the West African coast at a reasonable cost.
Was there a particular event that sparked the creation of PTS?
When we let it be known in Robertsport that we would give away our boards after the vacation, the problem was to decide which surfers we would give our boards to. The surfers there asked us to give the boards to someone personally, so that the ownership would be clear. The person would then share the board with his friends. We wished we had a few more boards with us.
The driving force after that was definitely Chris. He had a vision, already had experience through his work and knew what the next steps needed to be. For me as a physical therapist, this was all pretty new, but I let my curiosity guide me. Very soon we realized that the idea of giving a second life to unused and broken surfboards made a lot of sense and generated a great response from surfers.
What is your role at PTS? Do you work full time for the NGO?
All work for PTS is voluntary, we all work for this project in our spare time. I am responsible for managing the hardware, I have over 100 boards in my garage with major and minor defects and a bunch of accessories. Most of my work is to make the boards water-tight again and assemble sets. We only export complete sets (board, leash, fins, surf wax). It is important to us that the quality is high and that the boards have as long a second life as possible in Africa.
Furthermore I am responsible for the finances and accounting. Besides that there are many small tasks like public relations, partner support and logistics.
I think that by now all four members are doing more than ten hours of volunteer work per week.
How big is your team in total?
Until recently, there were four of us. I met Tino and Basti through Chris and the project. The small team complements each other perfectly and everyone can play to their strengths. At the moment, the registration of PTS Germany is in progress. To comply with the law in Germany, we have added four more friends to the organization. Not to forget a bunch of friends and volunteers. In the end, we are all united by the fascination of surfing.
How are your projects financed?
In the beginning from our own pockets. Later from the sale of donated equipment. Now we have private and public institutions supporting us. This allows us to cover the running logistics, storage and repair costs.
What is your goal?
At a team meeting in the Swiss mountains, when we all met in person for the first time (Corona sends its regards), we formulated the following goals, among others: Primarily, as avid surfers, our goal is to help other surfers live out their passion. Secondly, it is our intention that PTS will no longer be needed in the future, because our partner communities will be able to produce or procure surfing equipment themselves.
This empowerment has become the second pillar of our activities. In addition to providing material, we also try to provide know-how and contacts in order to promote the independence of surfers in Africa.
What are the main obstacles for PTS achieving these goals?
On the one hand, there are large geographical and cultural distances to bridge, and on the other hand, we have only been on the road with PTS for three years, and there is still a lot to learn. We have now shipped surfboards to seven different West African countries, often to places where surfboards didn't even exist before. We've planted the seed. But what is emerging on the ground from the communities we are only just observing now. But there are very positive indications.
What has been your most exciting project with PTS so far and why?
The collection tour in autumn through Spain was a highlight, because I could combine surfing and working. By now we are known to a larger audience and doors are opening for partnerships with interesting institutions and exciting people. Often these are people who have also traveled to remote places through surfing and know the joy you can bring to a person when you lend or give them your board.
What are PTS's plans for 2023?
The plan is to make a big delivery to Sao Tomé, where we will be working with www.somasurf.com. Here we support an existing project that provides surf therapy for women. Every year there is also a project trip where existing projects are visited and evaluated. In what form this will take place in 2023 is still unclear.
What is the best way to support PTS?
There are many ways, the easiest is to Follow/Share us on Instagram. And to visit our website and spread the message that there is an organization like PTS. If person has no material to donate, we are also happy for monetary donations. For 70 Euro a surf set will find a new owner and for 5000 Euro we can load a shipping container with about 80 boards and handle all the logistics and customs formalities.
And last but not least, we are always looking for people who are willing to repair broken surfboards for a good cause. SurfUpcycling!
What does surfing mean to you?
I don't really want to inflate this term. For me it's a nice way to pass my time. Nowhere else am I so in constant contact with an element as I am with surfing.
On every surf trip I meet people who become really good friends and form a kind of surf family for me.
Your tip for a more sustainable surf world?
Educate yourself, there are lots of small start ups and initiatives that make eco surf gear, like Rebelfins, who press fins out of recycled plastic. The technology is there, it's up to us to make that choice.
Repair your boards, use the fellow surfers exchange on Facebook and other social networks, meet like-minded people and make surfing a water community sport and not a single engine sport.