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Apr 12, 2016 2:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor Natives Distribute Water Filters In Panama During Surf Trip

James McMahon participated in Waves For Water, an initiative that gets local surfers to bring water filters with them in their luggage while they are looking for good waves in third-world countries. Courtesy James McMahon
Apr 12, 2016 2:12 PM

Most locals trade in their bathing suits for parkas during the frigid winter months on the South Fork. But not Sag Harbor natives James McMahon and Dane Riva.Instead, the two surfers work together to deliver water filters to Bocas del Toro, an archipelago that sits on the coast of a province in Panama.

Mr. McMahon and Mr. Riva participate in a program called Waves for Water, which works to provide clean drinking water to different communities around the world. The organization partners with surf company Hurley International, ultimately seeking to attract surfers who are looking for good waves in third world countries, and then asking the surfers to take along portable water filters with them.

“In a place like Bocas del Toro, they don’t have a problem with getting water, it is just about getting that water to be filtered clean,” Mr. McMahon said last week. “They collect a lot of water there and, basically, it just sits in these big containers.”

Last month, the two surfers returned from Panama, where they distributed 10 filters, each of which cost $50, that exceed requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for producing clean water. According to the Waves for Water website, the filters can remove 99.9 percent of contaminants, such as those that cause waterborne diseases, and one filter has the potential to provide 100 people with clean water for up to five years.

All that is necessary to create the filtration systems are paint buckets, a knife to create a hole, spigots and ceramic drip water filters.

“It basically focuses on easy-to-use, easy-to-implement water filters,” Mr. Riva said of Waves for Water. “We talked to certain people, making sure they go in the right hands,” including community leaders, he explained.

“They hook right into any type of container as small as a bucket or as big as a giant vat,” Mr. McMahon said. “Living down there, it has been amazing and you see people that are really, really poor, and I think of things: how I could go back and what I could do to give back to this community which has given me so much.”

Mr. McMahon said he wants to do more than just hand out water filters. He would like to educate the indigenous people about the importance of properly disposing of their garbage. “If they are given a plastic bag full of bread, they eat the bread and toss the bag out the window,” he said. Next winter, the two surfers hope to return to educate the local residents about the importance of disposing of garbage, recycling and more. “There is so much information, there is so much data on what and how you can use garbage for recycling,” Mr. McMahon said.

Ultimately, he and Mr. Riva would like to purchase land in Bocas del Toro and set up “a compound with different types of amenities,” Mr. McMahon said. The compound would include a yoga retreat, a surf resort with eco-bungalows in the jungle and a community educational center for locals.

“It will be a business for us, but it will also be a way to have an area where we can give back and have a home base where we can give back,” he said.

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"He would like to educate the indigenous people about the importance of properly disposing of their garbage. “If they are given a plastic bag full of bread, they eat the bread and toss the bag out the window,” he said." So that's why all the "indigenous" people in Hampton Bays leave garbage all over town. I get it now. Mr. McMahon doesn't need to go all the way to Central America to teach the "indigenous" people how to pick up after themselves.
By Babyboo (292), Hampton Bays on Apr 17, 16 7:54 AM
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