Wrightsville Beach surfer delivers water filtration systems to storm-hit islands


For more than 20 years, local professional surfer Ben Bourgeois has traveled to the British and U.S. Virgin Islands during the winter to enjoy the surf, the warmth and be with the many friends he’s made there. But this year, Bourgeois’ journey to the islands is part of a humanitarian mission that will help the small, rural islands restore water after reeling from back-to-back hurricanes following landfall from both Irma and Maria.

Photo courtesy of Ben Bourgeois.

Working with Waves for Water, an organization founded by surfer friend Jon Rose, Bourgeois has been in the Caribbean for several weeks, helping deliver and teach locals how to use the organization’s water filtration system that is delivering crucial drinking water at a time when the island nation’s infrastructure can’t meet safe drinking water needs.

Locals who want to help don’t have to go all the way to the Caribbean, however, as King Neptune restaurant is holding a fundraiser for Waves for Water on Friday, Oct. 6 through the Buddy Pelletier Surfing Foundation. Starting at 6 p.m., $10 gets any patron food and an entry into the raffle for prizes that include surfboard donated by Hope from Helen, a paddleboard donated by Carolina Paddleboard Company, designer sunglasses and other prizes. Proceeds from the event will also go to the Waves for Water team in Puerto Rico.

Photo courtesy of Ben Bourgeois.

However, after a brief return to the U.S. this week, Bourgeois will be returning to the islands to continue to deliver the water filtration systems, which he said were simple, didn’t require electricity and could operate for more than 10 years if cleaned properly.

“It does take a little bit of training, about 20 minutes, but then they’re good to go,” Bourgeois said. “We don’t just drop supplies and run. It’s long term, it can last over a decade, and one unit can provide water for dozens of households.”

Bourgeois and other volunteers went to St. Croix and other spots in the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma passed over. It landed them in the path of the next storm, Hurricane Maria.

Photo courtesy of Ben Bourgeois.

“As we were there, a few days into the trip, boom, Maria hits,” he said. The crew weathered the storm and even made an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“We are launching a full scale relief initiative for the Caribbean Islands that were ravaged by Irma. We have personal friends who lost everything and thousands more that are in dire need of help. Clean water is at the very peak of what’s needed most and our program speaks directly to that need,” Rose said of the project.

Other islands that the Waves for Water team helped on the most recent trip include St. Johns, St. Thomas, Tortola and Antigua & Barbuda. It’s not  Bourgeois’ first experience with Waves for Water, as he’s volunteered with Rose in the Dominican Republic and Mexico.  

Photo courtesy of Ben Bourgeois.

A former competitive surfer, whose wins include the 2003 X Games and the 2008 Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro, Bourgeois still surfs professionally, mainly in an ambassador’s role at events, for surf magazine photo shoots and other similar promotional roles.

Bourgeois also said that donations can be followed online, so that those who gave to the group can see exactly where their funds were used.  Go to: www.wavesforwater.org for more information.

Already, local businesses have helped out. A fundraiser at Waterman’s Brewery raised nearly $6,000 for the charity. And, in addition to the Friday fundraiser at King Neptune at 11 N. Lumina Ave., Ceviche’s at 7210 Wrightsville Ave. will host a fundraiser on Sunday to raise funds for Puerto Rico, another island that suffered devastation from the recent storms.


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