“I was doing a cycling race on Maui last year and one of my dad’s friends was raising money for every minute he did the race under a certain time for a local charity,” Durkan told GrindTV.
“I thought that was pretty cool, and thought why not just do it per foot of the biggest wave I surf for the whole season. It was a way to get friends and the community involved.”
Last year, Durkan started a project called “Surfing BeCause,” a campaign where people could donate based on the size of the biggest wave he surfed. If by the end of the season, Durkan’s biggest wave surfed was 40-feet, and you had pledged $2, your donation would be $80.
Durkan raised $3,000 for coral conservation research for his 50-foot wave at Jaws. He also tried his hand at some plus-size Nazaré, paddling into a few bombs, after towing into waves at the big-wave break the previous year.
Now, he is at it again, focusing on an anti-plastic campaign. After cleaning up the shoreline at Jaws at the end of last year’s big-wave season, Durkan noticed just how much plastic, and specifically plastic bottles, had accumulated.
He’s teamed up with the Rob Machado Foundation to supply public elementary schools on Maui with water bottle filling stations, as well as reusable canteens, so that students don’t have to buy plastic bottles of water in order to hydrate themselves with clean, good-tasting water.
“It made sense to do something more community-based, and start at the foundation of the problem and reach out to kids. They’re impressionable and they’re going to be buying plastic water bottles for a lot longer,” Durkan told GrindTV.
When more than 11 billion gallons’ worth of bottled water was sold in the United States in 2014, it’s clearly an issue that needs attention.
Durkan had only hoped to raise enough money to supply Haiku Elementary with one water station, until local zipline company Skyline Adventures offered to donate $10,000 to the campaign. He’s now aiming to also donate a station to Paia Elementary school.
“Both locations are almost third-world like, which is crazy that [this is] allowed to happen on Maui, where the richest of the rich live,” Durkan said.
“Paia Elementary actually had to discontinue use of their fountains. They have to use plastic water bottles because their pipes are so old,” Durkan told GrindTV.
In the midst of his second campaign, Durkan wants to better the world by riding big waves. He changed the name of the non-profit to Athletes BeCause in hopes of expanding its scope beyond surfing.
“The intention came out of me wanting to make my whole surfing experience more meaningful. I was to the point of, ‘Why am I doing this for my own selfish pursuit at the expense of friends and family worrying about me being a wave junkie?’ I wanted to bring something else that can be productive in the world with my hobby and passion.
“Outdoor and individual sports have a connection to nature, and to the places they meet when they’re traveling. A lot of athletes do a lot of stuff already. But this sort of brings it from a different angle, relating it directly to the activity or sport they’re doing contributing directly to their cause. Hence, Athletes BeCause,” Durkan said.
To get involved and pledge to Durkan’s campaign, check out Athletes BeCause.