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Celebrities to Hang Ten at Surfathon Benefit  


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By Melonie Magruder
Lookout Staff

October 12, 2011 -- Project Save Our Surf will hold its Fourth Annual Project SOS: SURF 24 this weekend, a celebrity “surfathon” to benefit organizations that take care of surfers' habitat – the water.

Last year's Project Save Our Surf team.
Photo courtesy of Deanna Despot

The event will field teams of celebrity, professional and “civilian” surfers to raise money for Santa Monica Baykeeper and other nonprofits who help steward the health of the planet’s oceans and drinking water.

Local actress and activist Tanna Frederick (currently onstage at the Edgemar Center Theatre in A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia”) founded Project SOS five years ago, shortly after taking up surfing.

“I was out with a friend near Ocean Park and we couldn’t believe the amount of trash in the water,” Frederick said. “And all our friends were getting ear infections from the pathogens in the water. I just said, ‘we have to do something.”

So Frederick went straight to a guy who knows from water – 1977 IPS World Surfing Champion Shaun Tomson – for help. They started modestly, with 50 participating surfers and a few sponsors.

Three years later, Project SOS is one of the southland’s major charitable surfing events, drawing nearly 300 surfing participants and 5000 visitors. They have contributed more than $250,000 to their designated beneficiaries in three years.

“Surfers recognized before anyone else that our oceans are not healthy,” Frederick said. “Shaun didn’t know me from Adam, but he was on board immediately and was able to draw the people we needed to get the word out.”

Though Frederick claims the organization has “far to go,” the last three surfathons have attracted an impressive roster of professional surfers to participate and teach: Pete “PT” Townend (’76 IPS World Surfing Champ), Don Bigelow, Jesse Timm, Mary Osborne, Jon Rose, Buttons Kaluhiokalani and Erin Edwards are among the athletes showing up this year.

But perhaps one of Frederick’s biggest “gets” is the list of celebrities who agree to surf competitively for the event – some who have never been on a surfboard.

“Kasey Kahl (ABC’s “Bachelor Pad”) is surfing with us for the first time,” Frederick said. “I’m amazed at how much people are willing to put themselves on the line.”

Other celebrities lending their names (and surfing talents) include Tate Donovan (“Damages”), John Slattery (“Mad Men”), Gregory Harrison (“One Tree Hill”), Chad Lowe (“24”), Zoe Bell (“Death Proof”) and even the original Gidget, Kathy Zuckerman.

Some of the volunteer spirit might come from the fact that Project SOS donates 100 percent of funds raised to its designated charities.

This year, the beneficiaries are SM Baykeeper; Waves for Water, a nonprofit that works to provide clean water to impoverished communities world wide; Inside the Outdoors, a hands-on environmental education program in Orange County; and Tumelo Home, a South African facility that cares for disabled children (Project SOS is providing a freshwater well there).

It’s not just a surfing event. Over the two days, Frederick said that visitors can participate in live and silent auctions, work with surf coaches to introduce youngsters (and oldsters) to the sport, enjoy professional sand castle building, and explore children’s activities that teach environmental responsibility in “fun and innovative” ways.

Local restaurants are donating free food and there will be yoga classes on the beach. Prizes will be awarded for teams raising the most money. Special featured events include “Challenge Surf,” wherein quadriplegic teen athlete Patrick Ivison will surf with his dog, Ricochet.

And, if local folks want to try and hang ten themselves, there are still a few spots available for different teams. There is no cost to register, but teams hope to raise at least $500 each to contribute to the cause.

“Skill level is not important,” Frederick said. “Participation is what counts.”

“PT” Townend, who has lived and surfed in the area for years, will be coaching, surfing and providing commentary on performances. He said he was thrilled when Frederick asked for his involvement.

“For surfers, anytime we can do something to preserve our oceans, we owe it,” Townend said. “My livelihood came from the ocean and I want my grandkids to have the same opportunities I did.”

Townend said that the success local groups like Heal the Bay and the Baykeepers have achieved in improving the health of Santa Monica Bay was nothing short of phenomenal.

“The main reason people come to Santa Monica is to go to the beach,” he exclaimed. “So let’s clean it up!”

Anyone interested in participating as either surfer or sponsor can sign up at the Project SOS website. Frederick said they will Tweet and film the event so that people all over the world look in on the activity.

“This is a really joyous event,” Frederick said. “To be able to materially help great organizations like Santa Monica Baykeepers makes it worth all the effort.”

Project SOS: SURF 24 takes place October 15-16, from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm on the beach near Lifeguard Tower 28, just south of Santa Monica Pier. The event is free to the public. For event scheduling and more information, visit www.projectsaveoursurf.org .


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