Middle Eastern Adventures
Our stellar team is back from the Middle East and have countless stories of all their impactful experiences. It has been a pleasure to listen intently as they paint a beautiful picture of their journeys and we are excited to also share them with you!
As Told by Kaylen Wray,
The goal of this trip for me was to see how Surfing The Nations surf culture influences the surf community in Egypt, specifically the Bianki Melt club. Surfing is the platform that allows us to actually connect with people and it was very obvious that Surfing The Nations has truly impacted the Egyptian surf community and is a huge part of the boys’ lives. The Bianki Melt boys have adopted so many of the characteristics that Surfing The Nations embodies and it was so clear that the STN crew coming is the highlight of their year. Everything they plan revolves around this trip and it is apparent that they have a deeply rooted love for STN. It was crazy because it was the first time for all of us going on this trip aside from Tom, yet we had just as much influence and opportunities to continue building upon the relationships that have been cultivated for years. There is something really special about the boys in Bianki Melt and their heart for surfing. It really is amazing to see how much the stoke for surfing has grown within the Egyptian culture. One highlight was opening up the Bianki Melt Instagram and reading the description that says “Surfers always give back.” They totally share our same heart for giving back and serving those in their community and were so vocal about wanting to come out to Hawaii and experience our culture as well. They really want to learn and experience more of the adventure and thrill STN has to offer. Not only have the Bianki Melt boys started their own surf club, but they also put on surf camps for everyone who is interested in learning to catch waves. There has been so much invested in the past 7 years and it’s amazing to see them truly thriving and creating so many opportunities for others to experience surfing.
We also connected with them through playing soccer. Other than a few girls from our team, there were no other females playing. Soccer is pretty much considered to be a male’s sport. It was cool though because one of the last days we played soccer, there was an Egyptian girl on the beach wearing her hijab watching us play. As our crew started leaving the beach, the boys continued to play and the girl actually ended up joining them. It was cool to see kids just being kids, regardless of their gender differences. We also had the opportunity to meet Sarah who is one of the first female Egyptian surfers. There are very different expectations of individuals based on gender roles and the culture they are socialized in, but it was awesome to see people stepping outside of their comfort zones for the thrill of a new experience. It brought me hope that there will be more women that have the opportunity to experience surfing and fall in love with the sea. Egyptian women generally stay and care for the home. It is pretty rare to see them out especially in the evenings. I did get the chance to connect with Mai who was our host’s wife. She was 9 months pregnant but went almost everywhere with our group. Whether it was going to the beach or going out in the evenings, she was almost always with us. We connected in so many ways despite not speaking the same language. Language never really posed as a barrier and we hung out as if we were the best of friends. Laughter was the language we spoke and I’m so grateful for the timeless bond we now share.
In the Middle East, the guest is the center of everything and it is considered to be a great honor to be a host. We really learned a lot from their culture and how we as individuals can better host others. They dramatically changed their schedules and dropped everything just to spend time and include us in everything they did. We were welcomed with open arms and invited not just into their lives, but the culture fully.
John was our host on the trip and was absolutely incredible. He seemed so familiar and is an extremely caring man with a heart full of desire to serve every individual he encountered. John loved joking with us and did whatever it took to make our dreams for the trip come true. He was also so intentional with encouraging each of us individually and embodied every attribute of what a great host is, taking every opportunity to make us feel special. One thing we noticed is that he would always have his hands full trying to carry all of his things. A few of us noticed this and decided to get John a nice leather, over the shoulder bag and also left a gift for him inside. We wanted to thank him as a team because of his willingness to always go above and beyond. This journey impacted us greatly and allowed us to cultivate so many lasting, genuine relationships.
Perspective through the eyes of Mikael Snook,
Stepping off the plane, it hit me that my whole life had led up to this moment and it was a dream come true because I had wanted to travel to the Middle East from a very young age. There was an immense amount of excitement and anticipation for the journey ahead of us individually and as a team. Our goal for the trip as a group was to each make a friend for life and pour into them. There were so many impactful moments on this trip. The night we arrived, our crew met a group of activists at one of the local tea shops in Cairo and we had so many opportunities for great conversations. One of the guys was actually the leader of the activist movement and began singing songs with us while someone else played guitar. After singing one of the songs in unison, he said, “I love this song, I don’t even know why but it sets me free when I hear it.” It was such a beautiful bond and connection we created with them through our mutual love and language of music.
We wanted to share as much love as possible and were actually able to take at least 11 suitcases full of clothes and shoes to hand out in Garbage City. Being able to give out clothes and school supplies was a tremendous gift, not only to the local people but to us as well. Two of our team members played soccer with the local guys and it was the first time I had tangibly seen love for a sport break down cultural barriers.
Our team met up with the Bianki Melt in Alexandria for about 4 days and had the opportunity to surf with those on their team and other local kids. The young kids we surfed with would give us pointers in the water and with every word of advice they gave, their faces would grow increasingly brighter. The Bedouin children didn’t care that we only spoke English, they just wanted us to treat them as if they were our brothers. By embracing and respecting the culture, it broke down so many walls that we were unaware of. After hours of surfing, the young group of Bedouin boys ran all the way back home to grab a ball so we could play fútbol. The more we played, the more comfortable they were with us. At the end of the day, the kids all pulled their money together and rented a field for us to play at. We played Egypt versus STN and then began mixing up the teams. From that night on, they began calling us brother or sister. Through our group finding and exploring the things they love, we were able to create deeper connections with them. The boys began sharing their stories and dreams with us which is something we will always treasure. As I got back on the plane to head home, I had the sudden epiphany that this is why I have been created the way that I am. Everything in my life has led up to me being able to impact these peoples’ lives in this way. I left knowing I had numerous new brothers that taught me how to really dream again and constantly pushed me to dream momentous dreams.