“It’s similar to that feeling when you just got in trouble,” Yehuda says.
“I get severe anxiety if the waves are good and I’m not there. Some people may know what I am feeling at that moment.”
Growing up in Florida, the surf was almost always lackluster so Yehuda had to be willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice to score solid waves.
“I made a promise to myself: nothing is going to get in my way of getting good waves, and not much has.”
Surfing is an addiction, and Yehuda Ben-Hamo is a straight-up fiend.
“It’s selfish to admit, but my family, friends, love life, work—just about everything—comes second to my obsession for surfing,” says Yehuda.
Perhaps that is why—when he is not chasing barrels, getting shacked—Yehuda volunteers so much of his free time to help others or the environment.
For Yehuda, surf trips seem to be just as much about grassroots social aid as they are about surfing.
Before traveling to score perfect waves in Bocas Del Toro, Panama he teamed with an organization called, GIVEANDSURF.ORG to create a surfboard drive for underprivileged kids there. He and other surfers partnered with WAVESFORWATER.ORG to bring as many water-filters as possible to the region, improving lives by supplying families with access to fresh drinking water.
Back in 2018, Indonesia was devastated by a series of earthquakes. Yehuda was there working with Love4Lombok, passing out much-needed supplies while helping to rebuild a school and shelters.
He was also getting barreled, of course.
In between hunting hollow tubes, he made time to deliver more water-filters to remote villages and volunteer with @balianabukit, a group helping local children with education programs including English and environmental awareness.
Closer to home Yehuda Ben-Hamo enjoys volunteering with WAVES4ALL, a San Diego surf therapy group for impaired surfers.
“I feel like it’s a duty in a human’s life to devote time to helping his or her community,” says Yehuda. “It’s our responsibility to take action.”
Actions such as protesting the dumping of nuclear waste at the San Onofre power plant, or rallying to save dog beach in Del Mar from multi-million dollar development projects that would be harmful to the coast and surrounding wildlife.
“We (humans) are responsible for the current mass-extinction, climate crisis, public health issues, and degrading ecosystems that are negatively impacting our planet,” says Yehuda.
“Large industry, energy companies, and massive corporations make it nearly impossible for us (humans that care about the planet) to implement the change that we needed so long ago. Money has influenced and blinded governing bodies, legislators, executive officials, and media outlets. This has resulted in worldwide nescience.”
Yehuda uses his environmental degree to combat this worldwide nescience. He works for WILDCOAST, a non-profit conservation group based out of Imperial Beach, CA that specializes in local and international projects that protect and restore coastal marine systems.
Yehuda, alongside WILDCOAST, is raising awareness by making social activism fun with events like:
- The Annual Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest held at Imperial Beach Pier. Inspired by the legendary surfer Dempsey Holder, one of California’s most iconic watermen who helped pioneer big wave surfing at the infamous Sloughs Reef, now called the Tijuana River Mouth Marine Protected Area. All proceeds support WILDCOAST and its mission.
- Sustainable Lucha Festival. A full day of music, food, art, keynote speakers, with eco-minded vendors and grassroots organizations.
- Sponsored Clean-ups and Restoration Projects.
“The time to act is now—not tomorrow,” Yehuda says. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Get involved with your community, connect with individuals and organizations, make a difference, support grassroots activists, and help find solutions to our environmental crisis.”
Surfing is so selfish. People will understand—eventually.