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Joe Surf: An eye-opening trip to Peru for one Newport teen

June 27, 2012|By Joe Haakenson

Axel Eaton admitted his trip to South America last summer was an eye-opener.

At the urging of his mom, Eaton, a Newport Harbor High student, joined Waves for Development last year, and was struck by the level of poverty when he took a trip to Lobitos, Peru.

Waves is an organization that combines surfing with volunteering in downtrodden communities — surf volunteerism — to help the people of those communities in both social and economic ways.

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Last year, Eaton spent three weeks in Lobitos, teaching surfing to locals, teaching English to third graders and planting trees. But his personal project was the development of a local surf shop.

Waves provided the funds and Eaton would help start the surf shop, knowing that it would be successful because there were no other surf shops in town and Lobitos is known for attracting touring surfers from all over the world, particularly throughout South America.

Next month, Eaton and a few surfers from the Newport Harbor High surf team will make the trek back to Lobitos for four weeks to check on the surf shop and participate in a variety of other volunteering efforts.

"The shop has generated so much profit that it will cover the cost of a part-time college degree for the organization's financial manager," Eaton said in an email. "A portion of the profits is also being used to provide private English classes for five locals so as to create more opportunities for them long term."

Eaton, 17, said that the benefits of building successful businesses include more than just the direct financial gains. It also creates a sense of inspiration and determination, showing the locals that they are not destined for a life of poverty.

"Henry, a local 18-year-old, was trained by a Waves volunteer to take pictures of the surfers in the area using a donated camera," Eaton said. "Using the surf shop's widespread attraction, Henry is now able to sell his photos to the tourists who come to surf his local break and makes a significant profit.

"This is a technique the organization uses throughout the community. They show the youth of Lobitos the sustainable business possibilities they have, so they can choose to not continue with their family's unreliable industry of fishing. The effects of the organization's presence are endless."

While he's there, Eaton also will help with the distribution of water filters, part of the Hurley H2O project that aims to provide clean, drinkable water throughout the world.

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