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Photo Essay: A Surfer Makes Waves With Post-Hurricane Relief

After Superstorm Sandy devastated coastal communities in New York and New Jersey, professional surfer turned philanthropist Jon Rose brought his clean water organization, Waves to Water, to help.

D.J. Struntz

“It struck a real personal chord.”

A former professional surfer, Jon Rose has personal ties to the surfing communities of New York and New Jersey hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. When he learned a friend’s restaurant was destroyed by the storm, he decided to leverage Waves to Water, his humanitarian aid organization, to help with recovery efforts. In an interview, he shared his disaster relief plan and the most rewarding aspect of his experience. 

D.J. Struntz

“I laid out a three step plan…”

“As we were getting more information from different communities up and down the coastline, I started think about an all encompassing plan that I thought could be replicated in each community. I laid out a three-step plan to addressing this disaster. I wrote it out, put it on our site, and… within a week’s time, we had substantial support come in.”

D.J. Struntz

“Where do we begin?”

“There’s a certain emotional tone to [the scene] when you first show up. It hasn’t sunk in yet; everyone is in disbelief. There’s so much disaster, there’s so much devastation—where do we begin?”

D.J. Struntz

“…getting people the basic things they need…”

“The first stage is supply distribution: getting people the basic things they need [clothing, blankets, food, water] so they can sustain through a time without infrastructure. I have warehouses in New York and New Jersey that were able to receive things, then we set up relief centers we would funnel supplies through.”

D. J. Struntz

“You can’t see your future until you’ve cleaned everything away.”

“At the three-month mark, the second stage is debris and rubble removals. You’re either gutting houses, or people have already gutted their houses and you’re trying to clean out the garbage. You can’t see your future until you’ve cleaned everything away.”

D.J. Struntz

“We have an overwhelming amount of work still.”

“The third step is rebuilding. We’ve been in Phase Three for the last six months. We’ve got 10 sites that we’re rebuilding—houses and small businesses—but we have an overwhelming amount of work still. We almost have more work now than we did six months ago.”

D.J. Struntz

“There’s a real physical change.”

“There’s always a sense of fulfillment when you’re able to transform someone’s state. There’s an obvious physical change; you look at somebody and go, ‘Wow, you look 20 years younger. You’re back on your feet.’ It’s this moment where time stops and you’re looking at somebody, it represents everything you’re doing.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest