Jon Rose, professional surfer turned activist

Jon Rose, professional surfer turned activist


I try to live a clean lifestyle and I stay very active. I was a professional surfer for many years and my mother is a nutritional consultant so I always had good input when it came to diet.

What people and/or events inspired you to do the work you do today?

My dad used to ask me when I was a kid if I was having fun when I was doing something. If I said “no,” he'd ask, “then why are you doing it?” Our entire mantra for Waves For Water is “Go do what you love, and help along the way.” We go out into the world and follow our passion, then plug the purpose into that—not the other way around.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

Creating an existence where anything feels possible. If you asked me six years ago what I would be doing in the future, I could have never guessed the reality I'm in now.

What is some advice you have for people trying courageously to change the world?

The best piece of advice that I can give is to follow through. This alone is the framework for success. Even if you don't have an original idea, by simply committing to something, you will be successful. And if you have the ability to innovate with the follow through, you’ll be a change-maker.

How has adversity shaped who you are today?

I think the only things we grow from are the hard things. I don't remember easy times in my life, but I can recite every hard time down to the specifics. These experiences are what pushed me to make changes or think bigger and outside of the box. I founded Waves For Water on the idea of trying to reinvent and innovate the existing models pertaining to development and aid work. This comes from trying new things and failing over and over again, but then one time it all clicks and you realize you've just created a new way forward.

How does your past experience as a surfer play into your success as a humanitarian?

Waves For Water was born out of realizing I could go to all of the places I knew from surfing and help. I have always been socially conscious and surfing around the world was great training for learning adaptability, resourcefulness, and patience in dealing with different cultures. When my dad got involved in the water cause, I supported him and when I was looking for a way to transition out of my surfing career, I thought: I can do that, too.

What is a defining moment that helped you realize your passion for the work of Waves For Water?

I was on a trip to Indonesia with friends and planned continuing on to a nearby island to distribute portable water filters and officially launch Waves For Water. I was caught in an earthquake in the Sumatran city of Padang before I ever got to the island and became a first responder distributing the filters to relief centers there instead. It was a life-altering experience that taught me how practical water filters are as a solution and the vast need for them. It was also a lesson in learning how much one person can do. It changed my life forever and from that day forward I have been focused on Waves For Water.

What are ways that other members of The Courageous Class can get involved with Waves For Water?

There are two main ways people can get involved:

1. People can donate directly on the Waves For Water website where funds raised go straight toward buying and transporting water filters as well as feeding local networks on the ground throughout the world.

2. We also have a non-traditional volunteer model called Clean Water Couriers for those who want to travel and have a giveback component to their trip. Waves For Water provides the platform for those interested so they can educate themselves on the filter systems and learn how to distribute them once on the ground. It’s very simple and very guerrilla by design.