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Among the many valuables lost to the Woolsey Fire were surfboards and skateboards — items that offer access to a way of life and a sense of normalcy for many Malibuites.
At Zuma Beach Saturday, Dec. 1, local surfers and skaters were revitalized at Stokefest, at which they were able to receive donated surf gear, skateboard equipment and clothing.
“This event is all about working class Malibuites getting help to get their surf and skateboard gear back,” said Ted Silverberg, one of the organizers. “Getting their boards back means everything to them and they cannot just go charge $5,000 or so on a credit card to replace it.”
Attendees clapped heartily as the event got underway. Some enjoyed the food. Others enjoyed a massage, compliments of April Demars.
“Getting a body massage by the ocean can help get the sadness out of one’s body, especially with the body cupping technique I use,” Demars said. “It is healing to hear the ocean and feel its energy.”
Music played as friends and neighbors, many displaced and separated since the fire, embraced and caught up. They shared stories of trauma; some literally fled for their lives. They shared stories of heroism; some had neighbors who stayed in Malibu and managed to save properties. They shared stories of hope for the future; several said, “We plan to rebuild.”
As attendees entered the shopping area, accompanied by “angels,” volunteers who shepherded them through the experience, they were touched by the outpouring of generosity extended by individuals and corporate sponsors alike. Expanses of surfboards, skateboards, wetsuits and clothing lay before the recipients. Many attendees’ faces bore expressions of hope, of joy and of thankfulness.
“We’re just trying to bring heart, stoke, hope and faith into the lives of the victims by getting them back into the water,” said Heather Carter, a co-organizer of the event. “We know that will soothe their souls.”
Christopher Ryan Rucker, a junior at Malibu High School, smiled broadly as he surveyed the largesse.
“It think that it’s good for the community to come together as a whole and for many in Malibu to have donated boards,” he said. “It’s nice to get a board and wetsuit and to be able to go out on the water because that’s part of the healing process.”
Bianca Torrence, president of the Malibu Rotary Club, delivered gift certificates from Becker Surfboards to help victims.
“We need to show support to one another, and we also made a $4,400 donation for the Malibu Sharks,” she said. “We need to extend compassion to those that lost everything and we need to realize that all of us in the community have been traumatized by this.”
Shane Wilkins stood amidst the surfboards, reflecting on the event.
“It means a lot to donate my six boards to much-loved people who need it,” Wilkins said. “To be able to give help to those affected by the fire touches my heart and this event proves that Malibu is still standing.”
Attendee Erick Randall agreed.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and I remember the 1993 fire,” he said. “It’s all about giving things to those with nothing.”
Little Hudson Findley, 7, stood next to her dad, Sean Findley, as she selected some clothing.
“My house burned up in the fire,” she said. “We lived up the hills up from Neptune’s Net.”
Sean hugged his daughter tightly.
“It’s the first time we’ve been back since it happened,” he said. “It’s awesome that they are donating surf equipment because everything is gone and it’s great because we were able to get my wife a stand-up paddle board and wetsuit.”
Volunteer Jeff Sweet called out to Findley, “We’ll see you at Point Dume.”
“In just a week we’ve been able to collect about 200 boards,” Sweet said. “There’s Laird apparel, clothing from Outerknown, a company owned by world champion Kelly Slater, Patagonia, and Quiksilver, to name only a few donors.”
Sweet emphasized that the organizers were aware that many victims who are displaced were unable to attend the event.
“Some who cannot make it reached out to us and we’ve set aside some boards and wetsuits for them as well,” he said.
“We would do anything to help and it is amazing to see this outpouring of people all willing to lend a hand,” said Mitch Taylor, manager of Becker Surfboards. “We see each other every day as neighbors, but this tragedy has made us like family.”
Silverberg smiled broadly as he visited with Malibu Surfside News.
“This began as a grassroots event and it just grew and the amount of support and stoke is amazing,” he said. “The goal was to increase the number of hugs and smiles on faces.”
A surfboard painted by Malibu artist Eamon Harrington seemed to say it all: “Only Love 90265.”