Giving Back to Build a Stronger Island: CrossFit Siargao
Two years ago, Dutch CrossFitters Mike Breuker and Daphne Oudshoorn set out to open the first CrossFit affiliate on the small, but quickly growing island of Siargao located deep in the heart of the Philippines. Siargao is a big travel destination for surfing and tropical island escapes that was recently nominated on the short list of World’s Leading Island Destinations category in the World Travel Awards.
The plan was to open a destination affiliate for tourists and digital nomads dropping into the tropical island then COVID hit before they could even open their doors and tourism ground to a halt.
One big thing: With their original plan foiled, Breuker and Oudshoorn began spending more time embracing the local culture, getting to know the locals. In doing so they learned there was a large local population of school dropouts spending their time just surfing, getting into trouble and partying.
- Breuker and Oudshoorn met with French surf coach Virgile Paillard and his youth team of talented surfer who were avoiding school and spent their time out of the water roaming the streets.
Youth scholarships: They immediately threw themselves into the surfing community and began working with the youth surfers on the island. They gave the entire team a scholarship to come train at their facilities.
- “Most of the kids had nowhere to go when they weren’t training in the water,” said Breuker. “If they weren’t surfing, they were hanging out on the streets.”
- “We are working together with their surf coach to keep them on track, keep them out of trouble and make sure they go to school,” said Breuker.
The party lifestyle: One of the biggest challenges for Breuker, Oudshoorn, and surf coach Paillard has been trying to get these kids to stay in school and out of the party lifestyle on the island.
- They hope the discipline they learn transfers over to the kids’ everyday lives and helps them to stay in school and really make something of themselves
- “The thing that we focus on with them, apart from training is behavior and attitude, we want to make it clear that no matter how big of a surfer you are, people will always remember you on how you are as a person outside the water, and through CrossFit we instill discipline and teach them to stay humble.”
- Breuker added, “We are very clear to them that if they skip school or misbehave they are out of the club and training, meaning their chance to compete and travel to international comps is gone as well”
The big picture: Breuker and Oudshoorn truly believe that these kids could be the next generation of talent to come out of the Asian surf circuit if they’re able to stay on the right track and receive proper training. They hope to continue to be a big part of the community and support these kids as well as Siargao at large in big ways.
- But it’s more than just surfing. It’s about giving these kids opportunities and a community of support that they’ve never had.
- “We’re here to give back to the community and be a part of it,” said Breuker. “We didn’t just want to be two foreigners who came in and set up shop on the island to make money.”
- “We want to inspire, motivate, and bring a community together from all sorts of backgrounds from all corners of the world working together on their personal fitness and health goals,” said Breuker.
What’s next for Breukker and Oudshoorn? They hope to continue to support the youth surfing community on the island and someday potentially help to fund their journey to the professional surfing circuit in Asia. But that’s down the road. For now, they hope to give these kids a chance to get off the streets, stay in school, and be part of a supportive community that helps them to pursue their goals.
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