I wanted to interview him, but now was not the time. Anthony Fillingim was walking up the beach with his contest jersey still on, and his head down. It was a tough final with mostly big closed out waves, making it hard to do maneuvers. He was not going to finish first, and I understood his disappointment after watching him surf amazingly leading up to the last heat of the event.
Anthony is the first Wave Brigade Ambassador for the Envision Festival, who also sponsored the national surf competition that took place in Dominical in January. As an ambassador he gets help with sponsorships, surfboards, contest entry fees, and travel expenses. He will get promoted by the festival’s media outlets, with over 90,000 Instagram followers and 140,000 Facebook fans. He will get the support he needs to realize his dreams of surfing in contests around the world as a career.
The Wave Brigade was created to highlight ocean conservation, to support surfers who otherwise may not have the chance to be discovered in manifesting their dreams, and to elevate awareness around sustainability. To understand more about what the Wave Brigade’s mission is, I spoke to Reuben Walker, a surfer from Santa Cruz, California, and the CEO of the Envision Festival.
Q: Tell me what is the Wave Brigade?
A: Although many people may think it is, Envision is not a festival, but a platform for positive change in the world. (See Envision’s 8 Pillars) Looking at Envision’s calling, it is to “Awaken the self to a higher consciousness in alignment with the natural harmony.” I like this because it promotes growth in a variety of different ways and it expands well beyond the festival experience. So the idea with the Wave Brigade was that here we are, an environmental Festival, in Costa Rica, on the beach, and we were missing an opportunity to bring attention to and support local athletes.
We want to support local athletes that lack opportunities to achieve their dreams. And it’s odd to me that a sport that relies so heavily on the ocean is not giving attention to the struggles the ocean is facing daily such as trash, oil, and global climate change, that damages the very medium where surfing takes place. Every athlete who gets to the winner’s podium should be an advocate for ocean protection.
I’m looking to partner with various ocean advocacy groups, and then get each athlete in the Wave Brigade to champion one of them that they can connect with. Every time they are out there surfing, they can draw people in to help protect the ocean.
Q: How did you choose Anthony Fillingim to be your first Wave Brigade ambassador?
A: Well, I spoke to a bunch of people and explained to them that Envision was trying to elevate surfing as the national sport of Costa Rica. And all the signs pointed to Anthony as not only an incredibly talented surfer with a great deal of potential for international success, but also as someone with integrity, who cares about where he is from, is humble, and works hard toward his goals. He has an intrinsic desire to see the growth of the sport of surfing and I thought his selection would exemplify the union of surfing, athleticism, the environment, and awareness. In the future we hope to grow the team organically, with an equal mix of women and men, plus a team of grommets.
Q: What are the benefits of being selected as a Wave Brigade ambassador?
A: I want to raise up the awareness of the athlete in order to help develop their following and strengthen their personal brand. We also want to help them with creating funding sources like sponsorships. We purchased the latest batch of Carton Surfboards for Anthony since he goes through them quickly. And our biggest goal for fundraising is so they can attend more international surfing contests, which are quite expensive in terms of travel and lodging.
Q: What will the Wave Brigade be doing to help highlight ocean conservation?
A: We are reaching out to ocean related organizations like Parley for our Oceans, Surfrider Foundation, and The Lonely Whale plus other local groups like Limpiando Osa and #FiveMinuteBeachCleanup. We want to promote their objectives through our media platform and our ambassadors, and highlight them for good work they are doing.
Q: How can average surfers get involved with the Wave Brigade?
A: We are looking to establish a loyalty fan base so surfers can support the athlete directly. Fundraising efforts like ticket giveaways, Envision Wave Brigade merchandise, stickers, surfboards – we want the fans to feel connected to the athletes. Through crowd sourcing funds while receiving rewards and discounts to future events, they can feel like they are taking an active role to forward the surf careers of the Wave Brigade ambassadors.
Q: Where can Envision Festival goers find out when and where the beach cleanups are taking place?
A: The best place to check in is on our social media outlets and to sign up for our newsletters. You can also reach out directly by contacting us through our website and say you want to get involved. We just had a group of 60 volunteers pick up over a ton of trash from a local beach. We are working with a group called “Limpiando Osa” (Cleaning the Osa) who you can find on Facebook in order to get involved after the event.
Q: What else can we do as surfers do to help protect our oceans and beaches?
A: I want to create a culture of awareness around trash in general. Last year I came up with Mission365, an initiative that tracks 365 volunteers each doing 24 hours of beach cleanups. The problem doesn’t start at the beach, that’s where it washes up. The problem comes from the whole world around us. It comes from the city streets. It comes from people leaving trash in the rivers and mountains. The idea is to not just be at the beach cleanups, but also to extend community service to where-ever you are. So if you are living or visiting or just walking somewhere and see something out of place (MOOP – Matter Out Of Place), you have the opportunity to contribute to the health of the oceans and the environment around us by doing whatever you can. It can be simply making less of a carbon footprint, or picking up trash on the street, on the path, and not just at the shore. A metaphor would be the ‘dishes plus one’ mentality. When you make a mess, you are responsible for cleaning it up. And when at the sink, you clean your dishes plus a little more. If everyone did that, then there would be a lot less trash ending up on our beaches.
Reuben concluded: “Envision Festival is very much an event of Costa Rica. In the jungle, on the beach, in the waves; you are right there, immersed within the culture. Through The Wave Brigade we will support surfers and their dreams while simultaneously cultivating our values that we deem non-negotiable.”
I applaud Anthony on his success as the Envision Festival’s first Wave Brigade Ambassador. He has earned the distinction from his victories in other international events and I know he will go far as a professional surf athlete. With that success he can further advocate for his community in Santa Teresa, helping them fight against plastics and other forms of ocean pollution. If you, the reader, have suggestions of other surfers who would make a great addition to the Wave Brigade team, please share their names in the comment section below.