Surf re­lief

Unique ben­e­fit hooked to waves

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - Sarah Rup­penthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an in­ter­est­ing neigh­bor? Tell us about them at mis­s­rup­penthal@gmail.com. “Neigh­bors” and “The State of Aloha,” writ­ten by Ben Lowen­thal, al­ter­nate Fri­days. SARAH RUP­PENTHAL

It’s been nearly two months since Hur­ri­cane Florence made land­fall in North Carolina, but the heart­break­ing im­ages are hard to for­get: fam­i­lies wad­ing through waist-deep flood­wa­ters; chil­dren car­ried to safety in the arms of po­lice of­fi­cers; evac­uees ar­riv­ing at shel­ters in the pour­ing rain.

Five thou­sand miles away, as the storm un­leashed its fury on his home­town of Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., Paia res­i­dent Cur­tis Sny­der watched the dev­as­ta­tion un­fold on his tele­vi­sion. “I was glued to the screen,” he said. “I felt help­less be­ing so far away.”

Hur­ri­cane Florence racked up bil­lions in dam­ages, stole more than 50 lives and dis­placed thou­sands of North and South Carolini­ans. For Sny­der, the im­ages of Florence’s af­ter­math were gut-wrench­ing. The storm had passed and his loved ones were un­harmed, but the de­struc­tion was far from over. As flood-rav­aged Wilm­ing­ton be­gan to put the pieces back to­gether, he said, “I wanted to do some­thing to help.”

And that’s when a plan started to take shape.

He de­cided to raise funds for Port City Proud, a corps of com­mu­nity vol­un­teers that had quickly mo­bi­lized to help hur­ri­cane vic­tims in North Carolina. Sny­der also saw an op­por­tu­nity to help an­other wor­thy cause: Wounded War­rior Project. The na­tional non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vides free sup­port ser­vices and pro­grams to vet­er­ans and ac­tive duty ser­vice mem­bers phys­i­cally in­jured in re­cent mil­i­tary con­flicts, as well as those liv­ing with the in­vis­i­ble wounds of war, such as de­pres­sion, trau­matic brain in­jury and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Like Port City Proud, Sny­der says the Wounded War­rior Project’s mis­sion hits close to home. At the age of 26, he en­listed in the U.S. Coast Guard and served for four years; he was sta­tioned at Maalaea Har­bor. When he learned the Wounded War­rior Project was host­ing an event on Maui, he signed up to help with­out a mo­ment’s hes­i­ta­tion — he’d vol­un­teered for the or­ga­ni­za­tion as a civil­ian back in Wilm­ing­ton, and says it was a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. “I’ve al­ways wanted to help them out in a big­ger way,” he said.

When it came time to de­vise a fundrais­ing strat­egy, Sny­der de­cided to do it the best way he knows how.

With his surf­board.

Sny­der rode his first wave at the age of 6 — and was in­stantly hooked on the sport. It seemed im­prob­a­ble for a kid grow­ing up in North Carolina, but he was de­ter­mined to be­come a big-wave surfer. In 2010, af­ter prov­ing his met­tle at surf spots like Tres Pal­mas in Puerto Rico and Cal­i­for­nia’s Mav­er­icks, he brought his board to Peahi, bet­ter known as Jaws, for the first time (and it wouldn’t be the last).

Like any big-wave surfer, Sny­der yearns for a colos­sal swell — and now more than ever. Donors can pledge a dol­lar amount per foot of the tallest wave he rides at Jaws be­tween now and Feb. 4. So, if a donor pledges $1 per foot and Sny­der surfs an 80-footer in

that time­frame, that donor will be con­tribut­ing $80 to his fundrais­ing cam­paign.

“We’ll see what Mother Na­ture has in store for me,” he said. Even if it’s 25 cents a foot, he says ev­ery pledge will make a dif­fer­ence — be­cause in the end, it all adds up. Sny­der’s fundraiser is hosted by Pledge It, an on­line per­for­mance-based do­na­tion plat­form for pro­fes­sional ath­letes and their re­spec­tive causes. Pro­ceeds will be split be­tween Port City Proud and the Wounded War­rior Project; he’s aim­ing to raise $10,000 for each or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Sny­der en­cour­ages oth­ers to sup­port dis­as­ter re­lief and re­cov­ery ef­forts — which are still on­go­ing in the Caroli­nas, Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico — in any way they can. Not­ing Hur­ri­cane Lane’s near miss in Au­gust, he says Hawaii could some­day find it­self in the crosshairs. “It could hap­pen here,” he cau­tioned. And if it ever does, Sny­der says he hopes res­i­dents of other states would step up to help, too.

Be­cause help is sorely needed in th­ese hur­ri­cane-stricken ar­eas. “Peo­ple had so much taken from them — their homes, their busi­nesses, their liveli­hoods,” he said. “That’s why I’m do­ing this.”

To learn more about Sny­der’s fundraiser or to make a pledge, visit www.pledgeit.org /big-wave. For more in­for­ma­tion about Port City Proud, visit www.portc­i­typroud.org. For more in­for­ma­tion about the Wounded War­rior Project, visit www.wound­ed­war­rior­pro­ject .org.

Paia res­i­dent and big-wave surfer Cur­tis Sny­der has rid­den waves as tall as build­ings. This win­ter, he hopes to reach even greater heights to raise money for wounded vet­er­ans and hur­ri­cane vic­tims.

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