My Green Life: At Work with Jon Rose

By Rima Suqi / September 10, 2011

“I was on a boat last November, off the coast of Sumatra, on a surf trip. The earthquake hit while I was there, anchored off Padang, and I knew that was the defining moment of my life,” remembers Jon Rose, founder of Waves for Water. “I had accessibility nobody else had, and assets nobody else had.” Those assets were the ten water filters in his bag. Rose, a former pro surfer, had planned to go to another island with those filters, to teach inhabitants how to use them to purify water.

Instead, the 32-year-old Malibu native and the filters—which last anywhere from one to three years and provide water for 10 to 15 people—ended up at the local Red Cross office in Padang. “I got to see firsthand, under the most extreme circumstances, how easy it was to help in this way. And thousands of lives were saved.”

Rose has more of a connection to water than just surfing. His father, Jack Rose, founded Raincatcher, an organization that installs rainwater harvesting and purification systems primarily in Africa. As a sponsored surfer who traveled the world, the younger Rose thought he’d take the applications and methods his father developed to places where he had surfed.

“I have a list of ten or fifteen places I’ve been—in Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Samoa and some outer islands in the South Pacific—that could use our help,” he explained. “Some are heavily impacted by poverty and because of that they have no means to get clean water. Other places are so remote that it’s an issue of access. We need to retrain and reeducate people on these fundamental ways to provide a new source of water, or to clean their existing source.”

His worldwide travel plans were put on hold after a call from Sean Penn earlier this year. The actor needed help in Haiti, and Rose spent six months in the earthquake-ravaged country, ultimately distributing 9,000 filters. That was followed by the earthquake in Chile, where he distributed 1,000 filters. The organization has provided 37 villages on the east side of Bali with filters, as well. All this is done without anybody drawing an income—Rose is currently sponsored by Hurley, and all donations go straight into the foundation. “That’s the benefit of being a small organization—there’s no bureaucracy, no red tape. We can see a need, see a solution, and put them together pretty fast.” and

Rima Suqi
Rima Suqi

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