Surfing in India?

Beyond the Surface is an explosion of color and calm, a documentary film, travelogue, and contemplative call to action on issues involving women’s empowerment, helping disadvantaged kids, spirituality and the fragility of the environment.

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The women of Beyond the Surface.

It’s a journey powered by the waves of India’s massive coastline, and riding – in part – on the surfboard of 25-year-old Ishita Malaviya, who describes herself as the first woman to pursue surfing professionally in India, one in a small community of total surfers there. “What I love about surfing is that in a country like India where people are divided in terms of caste, creed or economic status,” says Malaviya, “the ocean has been a great equalizer and united us all together.”

The Film's Star: Ishita Malayiva

The Film’s Star: Ishita Malayiva

The film, shot in the spring of 2013 by cinematographer Dave Homcy, was launched the year before when his wife, Hawaii-based surfer and environmentalist Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, contacted Malaviya about meeting during a trip to India. At a local chai shop, Thornburg-Homcy introduced herself and another fellow surfer, Emi Koch, founder of Beyond the Surface International (BTSI). Koch’s non-profit – founded when the now 25-year-old was still at Georgetown University – uses surfing – and a network of surfing groups in different countries – as a means of self-expression and support for underprivileged children in marginalized communities. Koch, who sums up the BTSI mission as “using the power of play for social change,” had hoped to to film and feature young wave riders from the Kovalam Surf Club in southern India.

Dave and Crystal-Thornburg Homcy at work.

Dave and Crystal-Thornburg Homcy at work (left).

With a film as shared goal, Koch and Thornburg-Homcy partnered on the project that would ultimately bear the BTSI name – and asked Malaviya if she’d join them for the ride. “It had always been a dream of mine to meet with other female surfers and surf with them in my own country,” recalls Malaviya, who (with boyfriend Tushar Pathiyan) co-founded and runs a surf school, The Shaka Surf Club, on India’s western coast. Malaviya says she felt “truly honored to be asked to be a part of this project and excited about the possibility of going on a month-long surf adventure!”

Malaviya catches a wave.

Malaviya catches a wave.

That adventure, captured in Beyond The Surface, follows Malaviya, Thornburg-Homcy, Koch and three others (Liz Clark, Lauren Hill and Kate Baldwin) as they travel along India’s southern coast and take to the waves, engaging with the surf club youth and the women they meet en route. The film’s band of surfers, activists and adventurers encourage the women they encounter to join them in the surf, to rediscover their uninhibited selves and feel more connected to the water. “In spite of coming from completely different worlds, we were able to connect with each other over something as simple and profound as the joy of riding a wave, says Malaviya, who’s also “seen how surfing is having a tremendously positive impact in local communities where people are discovering the joys of being in the ocean.” That discovery, in turn, is part of the film’s message of protecting the environment.

Beyond the Surface also documents the travelers’ self-discovery along the way – in yoga practice, surfing and conversation – and the travelers share their experiences, to the accompaniment of a memorable soundtrack and scenery.

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As a female surfer, Malaviya is aware of her outlier image and the message it sends to women in India.

“As a woman, I feel that growing up in India toughens you and in many way forces you to grow up a little too soon. I love that surfing not only made me a stronger woman but also reintroduced an element of play back into my life,” she says. “More than anything it has been a great spiritual influence in my life and made me realize the importance of living my life now.” In facing big waves, “I learned to embrace challenges and face my fears head on.”

Malaviya – and her fellow Beyond the Surface surfers – have many goals for the film. One is forging a sense of connectivity. “This is a very pure project,” she says. “I hope that people will be inspired to travel, experience new cultures, connect with others through a common love for the ocean, and develop compassion for our fellow human beings and Mother Nature.”

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Koch sees the finished film, which blends many perspectives, as “a work of art … like a living museum” and evidence of her conviction that “everyone has a story.” To that end, her non-profit’s newest project, Coast 2 Coast  links young people in disparate communities to use their voices to tell and share their stories.

For women, Malaviya says the film’s message transcends borders and cultures.” I hope that these magical moments captured on film will make all women feel like a part of a sisterhood and inspire them to pursue their passion and experience that same sense of liberation in whatever they do.”

 

For more information:

Beyondthesurfacefilm.com

Beyondthesurfaceinternational.org

 

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By Moira Bailey

Hungry for the Outdoors

New York City is an incredible place. Some even call it magical. Dwellers of the city bask in its wonders and gloat that it is “the best city on earth.” Yet with everything New York is credited for having, it is equally known as one of the most challenging cities in which to lead a balanced life. This is especially true if you find solace through time spent in nature. And for this reason, the city both loses outdoor enthusiasts each year, and has gained the reputation of being an outdoor “unfriendly” city. When faced with how to blend urban life and nature, many New Yorkers who desire both are left feeling that they must choose one to leave behind.

But what if New Yorkers could both live in the city and love the outdoors? This, in fact, was Sarah Knapp’s inspiration when she created OutdoorFest.

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Making s’mores with Biolite stoves during OutdoorFest’s VIP Launch Party

OutdoorFest is a 10-day festival that brings the outdoors to New York City through a series of events in Manhattan and surrounding boroughs. The first one took place this summer, and featured an impressive collection of events: stand up paddle boarding and sailing on the Hudson River, rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, surfing at the Far Rockaways, a nature walk with Ken Chaya through Central Park, and more. Fascinated by OutdoorFest, I attended a female surfer meetup that screened AWAY, a documentary by Elisa Bates about the subculture of NYC surfing. That evening at the meetup, I sipped a local hard cider at an artsy surf shop on the Lower East Side, and watched in amazement as the seemingly displaced (and feisty) surfer gals of the city came out from their apartments and gathered together under one roof. And this undertaking, of constructing community, lies at the core of OutdoorFest.

Though the mission of OutdoorFest is to make the outdoor lifestyle accessible to urban dwellers, Sarah explains that, “it’s not just about accessibility to the outdoors, it’s about connecting people with the outdoors and creating a community while doing so.” When Sarah first moved to New York City, it took her a while to locate the outdoor community. Experiencing this, she set out to create a space for people to feel like they are a part of an outdoor enthusiast community while also living in the city. Sarah’s vision is ultimately to bring OutdoorFest to other dense urban environments like Chicago and D.C., where people experience challenges to urban living, stating “If it were just a dedication to the outdoors, I would move, but it’s a dedication to the reality that people live in cities, and then caring about the livability of cities. I love going outside and want that for others; the answer for how to do that is by creating the space and community.”

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Founder Sarah Knapp (left) during OutdoorFest June 2014

Sarah, through OutdoorFest, brought the hungry outdoor enthusiasts of the city exactly what they needed—community.

Curious to join this community and learn about upcoming events? Check out Mappy Hour, OutdoorFest’s monthly gathering of outdoor enthusiasts around maps, guidebooks, beer, and adventure stories.

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By Alison E. Berman

The Healing Initiative|Travel + Leisure’s Jimmy Farren Hickey

“So much of the news media today is fear based. When I watch it I find myself saddened at the condition of our planet. It all starts to look so hopeless.”

So starts the unlikely but entirely salient mission statement of The Healing Initiative, an online project from Jimmy Farren Hickey, the Digital Creative Services Director at Travel + Leisure. After many years of doing both design and wholeness work, Jimmy found that there wasn’t an outlet within our 24-hour news cycle that spoke to him in an engaging and positive way. News coverage, as we all know, tends to focus on only the bad, pushing human-interest stories to the backburner, often turning them into silly puff pieces. With Jimmy at the helm, The Healing Initiative flips the script. As he states, “I wanted to celebrate the goodness and divinity in people.” And he does.

TheHealingInitiative

The Healing Initiative is a visual catalog showcasing the works of healers, literary and anti-bullying activists, teachers, mediums, and more. Updated bi-monthly, The Healing Initiative is a digital domain of actionable optimism. The well-designed site reads less like a feed and more like a coffee table book. Visit.

Hillary Kaylor: What was your a-ha moment to start your project?

Jimmy Farren Hickey: Sometimes it seems as though the world is full of fear and hatred. When I watch the news I find myself saddened at the condition of our planet. It all starts to look so bleak. But I’ve met some amazing people in this lifetime, people who are making a difference in my life and the lives of countless others. I am so grateful to be in the world with these men and woman, and grateful for the impact they have in healing the planet.

At the beginning of this year I felt a calling to do something. I too wanted to be a part of this healing movement. So I went to the dictionary and looked up the word “heal” and found this definition: “to restore to wholeness”, which somehow seemed like an easier job than mending bones or curing cancer. When using this definition I immediately understood that inside of me I had the potential to heal. Then this summer while traveling through Ireland I discovered that my last name means “one who heals”. So this just had to happen.
Can you explain the mission statement of your project and how you go about finding subjects for it?

The mission of The Healing Initiative is to highlight the faces and stories of compassionate individuals who have made it their life’s work to restore the Earth and all its inhabitants to wholeness. I find subjects by looking through my own friends and by word of mouth. There’s nothing I love more than having someone tell me about someone doing amazing work. Those are the stories I long to hear. I am so grateful to have found a project that’s all about meeting and photographing amazing people.

HK: Have you been involved in philanthropic efforts before and why? Family, friends, church?

JFH: I grew up doing volunteer work in the church and in the community with my mother. There were times we had nothing, but we still helped others. It was a given. It might be something as simple as making a plate of cookies or it might mean devoting several hours or a weekend of our time, but my mother understood the importance of compassionate acts.

HK: Why do you think most people are not involved in philanthropic efforts on a regular basis?

JFH: I would guess that most people aren’t involved in philanthropic efforts because they don’t know how it good it makes you feel to help others. The feeling you get when helping others is unbeatable. I think people probably also have this idea that they have to do something really big in order to change the world, but the truth is that the smallest acts can add up to a world of difference.

HK: Do you think that spirituality and the so-called meaning of life can be achieved through helping others?

JFH: Absolutely. I would go as far to say that helping others is a spiritual act. It might be nice to live alone in a cave in India and meditate toward enlightenment, but I think the biggest spiritual growth happens as a result of our interactions with others on this planet. It’s through walking into difficult and challenging situations that we grow the most. When we look deep we often discover that the challenging situation is our own fear, our own ego. Helping others is a way of doing battle with our fears. When you’re feeling alone, in need of help or just stuck in fear… that’s the best time to help someone else.

HK: What would you like your legacy in this world to be?

JFH: I would hope that I could live every day on this planet with love and integrity and that I always remember to express gratitude for the blessing and tremendous challenges of being human. If other people learned this from watching me, then that would be a life well lived.

HK: How can someone who is just starting out pick and join a cause?

JFH: I highly recommend sites like nycares.com, where you can search through hundreds of volunteer opportunities and find one that you have an affinity with. I would also say that we can do service every day through acts of compassion, love and kindness with the people who are in our lives every day. Do something good for your friends and family today. Send love to the people who challenge you most. All of these acts add up quickly and can change the world. And if you don’t see the impact these acts have on the world, I promise you that you will feel the impact they have on you.

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Jimmy Farren Hickey

Raised in rural Nebraska, Jimmy grew up dividing his time between working cattle with his father and doing craft projects with his mother. At age 4 he announced to the world that he would one day move to New York City, which he did at age 26.

Jimmy has enjoyed a diverse work history that includes time spent as: a cowboy, a waiter, a cook, an art consultant, a web designer, an illustrator, a creative consultant for reality TV, an editor, an editorial director, and a creative director. He is currently the digital creative services director for Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine and Departures at American Express Publishing (the views expressed on this website are his own). Prior to that he served as the digital creative director for Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., working on the websites of ELLE, ELLE DECOR, Metropolitan Home, Car and Driver, Woman’s Day, and many others.

Jimmy is a long-time yogi, a reiki practitioner, a world traveler, and a pretty decent ukulele player.

Jimmy is available for photo shoots and design projects, so feel free to drop him a line at info@thehealinginitiative.com.

HIllary

Hillary Kaylor

A regular FOND Group contributor, Hillary Kaylor is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, The FADER, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Vice, and Gawker. She once drove a tractor on an Australian banana farm where they paid her in bananas. Kaylor is currently working on a non-fiction book based on the three months she spent volunteering in the slums of Cambodia earlier this year.

A Guinness Record at Google HQ for Electric Vehicles

An interview with the one-of-a-kind Susan Jones, the inspiration behind the record-breaking Ride The Future Tour.

FOND recently had the pleasure of meeting up with Susan Jones, founder and mastermind of Ride The Future Tour (RTFT). We sat down to chat with Susan in NYC just after she completed her trek across the nation on nothing but electric vehicles to set a Guinness World Record at Google’s HQ in Palo Alto.

From managing her four daughters’ professional music careers while jet setting around the globe to authoring books to healing clients through acupuncture, this woman has a passion for life that is downright contagious. FOND is proud to count Susan as a friend, a client (when we can keep up with her) and a mentor when it comes to living fearlessly and laughing in the face of adversity. In fact, she might have had a little something to do with the motivation behind the founding of FOND last year 😉

Check out the amazing video of their trek and read our QA and with Susan –  a very special woman hellbent on improving the planet.

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INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN JONES

FOND: Could you give us some background on how you came up with this idea to do an electric vehicle tour across the US and what the goals were?

Susan Jones (SJ):My personal goal is to stop gas emissions and help clean up the Earth for our future generations. I started my own electric vehicles company called Xenon Motor Company. Once I saw that Americans were not all jumping at the chance to leave their gas cars in the driveway and get on an electric scooter no matter how much sense it made, I switched gears and started Nashville Scooter Tours. We take tourists on a fully guided 2 hour tour of the city. It was an instant hit. So then I asked myself what else can I do? I thought that if I rode my scooter across the US, it would be a good way to make a statement for EVs. I really wasn’t sure if I could make it, but I wanted to at least give it a try. The whole tour grew out of this idea for me to ride my scooter alone.

FOND: How did you determine who was going to be the riders/driver in the tour?

SJ: The 11 other members who joined the tour just sort of came to me. Duane – who drove the car – I met in a park in Nashville while I was hiking one day. Rachel McCarthy, Ben Hopkins, and Stuart Scott I met while in Bangkok. Jonathan Becker – our filmmaker- I met when I went for a test drive of the Nissan Leaf when they first launched it about 4 yrs ago. Nissan hired him to document the tour across America.  Jonathan hired George Wymenga and Evan Scott to make up our 3 man film and sound crew. One member was my 26 year old daughter, Dominique Arciero. We put her in charge of the music entertainment at our nightly town parties since she’s a professional musician. Our boy wonder, Sean Scott, from Hawaii, was brought on by his dad Stuart. And lastly, I found Ben Rich who rode the electric motorcycle on Facebook.

FOND: How did you determine the route for the tour?

SJ: Our route across America was pretty much laid out for us. I knew I wanted to start in Charleston, SC because it would be beautiful for the documentary.  Then we mapped straight across the US as much as possible with little detouring. Then we made our cities about 100 miles apart because of the range of the electric car. These parameters dictated our trek for the most part.

FOND: What kind of electric vehicles were in the tour?

SJ: On the tour we had the electric car, electric motorcycle, electric scooter, and electric bicycle.

FOND: What was the most memorable experience from the tour?

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       Click to see more amazing footage of the teams ride.

SJ: The most memorable experience of the tour was riding my scooter down the mountain as we left Big Bear Lake,CA. I’ve seen a lot of beauty in a lot of countries but these views were spectacular like I have never seen before. And the ride down that mountain is an experience I will never forget. Scary but spectacular.

The Xexon All Electric Scooter. Click to learn more about Xenon.

The Xexon All Electric Scooter. Click to learn more about Xenon.

FOND: Who was the most memorable person you met along the way?

SJ: Angel. 90 something yrs old. The man known for keeping Route 66 alive with his store and barbershop. He is a virtual warehouse of wisdom and I was so fortunate to have met him. I can’t wait for the world to meet this special human in our documentary.

FOND: What was the craziest thing that happened?

SJ: The craziest thing that happened to me on the tour was the day we left Las Vegas, NV. I was supposed to wait for the film crew van and ride along with them as my support because it was a very dangerous ride and I was going to ride alone that day. We would be in the desert with extremely high temperatures and would not be able to rely on stores and shade and other people. It turned out that the film crew needed to change our plan and I would head out alone.  I headed out but I couldn’t find the small streets that Duane sent out in our nightly email for the next day’s trek. I got frustrated and jumped on the freeway thinking at least I can’t get lost and won’t be alone. 30 seconds later a cop pulled me over and insisted I get off and take an off highway route.  So my 89 mi trek became a 139 mi trek in 110 degree heat through the desert all by myself. I was armed with extra batteries and a charger so I eventually, just as the sun set and it got dark, rolled into the hotel in our next city. What began as my scariest moment on the tour became the most memorable. The vast openness, dead silence, not a soul in sight, and facing my fears made the ride that day unforgettable for as long as l live. It was the most beautiful day of all 44.

FOND: Did you have a lot of interest from people you met on the road and at presentations?

SJ: We didn’t have large numbers of people flocking to our town parties but the groups that did come out were so great. They loved what we were doing and were so eager to hear more about our journey and electric vehicles. It was nice to be able to sit and chat with people from all walks of life and get a snapshot into their life – and them into mine.

FOND: How was the finale at Google Headquarters?  Was there a lot of interest from Google employees?

SJ: I had no idea Google would turn out to be such a fantastic finish line. I simply wanted to thank them for everything they create for us. As it turned out the Google campus was teaming with people riding the Google bikes, strolling around, hanging out enjoying the gorgeous day. It was a built in crowd for our final scene of our movie. Our people all turned out but it was even more perfect with the buzz of the Google HQ folks. It couldn’t have been better !!

This was Ben Hopkins first time to the US and he road his A2B Alva
3,700+ miles and set a Guinness Book of World Record for the journey.

FOND: That is an impressive way to see the US for the first time!  How is Ben doing after that monumental ride?

SJ: As it turned out the mileage was more like 4400 miles. I haven’t even spoken to Ben once since he’s been back to Bangkok. I’m good friends with his wife and she has been sending me reports. He’s telling her stories non stop. She just sits and listens for hours soaking it all up.

FOND: You had a professional film crew recording a lot of the action on the road and when you gave presentations in local towns and cities.  When can we expect to see the documentary film about RTFT and where will we be able to see it?

SJ: We hope the editing of our documentary will be completed by November of this year. We would like to submit it for the film festivals as well as make the DVD available. At some point we will also make a 10 episode version showing all the entertaining people we interviewed along the way, more of the 12 tour members’ daily experiences, and lots more footage of America.

FOND: Now that the dust has settled a little, do you feel that the tour was as successful as you wanted it to be?  Is there anything you would
change if you were to do it over again?

SJ: I feel like the tour was a complete success because we finished the entire trek on our EVs on time and made a documentary to commemorate the event. If we were able to positively influence others to trust EVs the way we do, then all the better.
The one thing I would change next time is how I handle a group of 12 adults. I was real big on giving everyone a say and letting everyone express themselves. That just doesn’t work in every situation. Sometimes it’s a recipe for disaster. So next time I ll just have to be more comfortable with telling people exactly how it’s going to be. Not my style!  But things will run a lot smoother.

FOND: Do you have plans to do this tour again?  Or maybe a different tour?

SJ: I am contemplating making another Ride The Future Tour in 2014 through SE Asia. We would start up in Hanoi, Vietnam and end in Singapore. This would be a beautiful ride and an amazing documentary. I would love for the world to see Vietnam the way I’ve seen it. Cambodia and Laos are fascinating. Thailand is full of beautiful untouched countryside with the sweeting people. The longer distance version would include Burma. Google HQ in Singapore would be the grand Finish Line. If all the necessary components come together then this will be my next adventure and documentary.

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Thank You!

A huge thanks to Susan and congratulations to the entire Ride the Future Team! We are thoroughly impressed.

Contact: To reach the Ride The Future Team, Click Here.

SOUVENIRS from dominique arciero on Vimeo.

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