Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not a Charity Contest

*All of this is based on what can be seen. We have tried to talk to the promoters before posting this (and forthcoming revelations), but the promoters have turned down meeting with us and won't answer questions. We don't take it personally because they also bailed out of meeting with the SSA.


It is now super common for community events such as bike races, marathons, walks for "cause x", and tournaments to market themselves as charity events. It is common for non-profits to associate with for-profit entities in such cases. A local example of that is the rock and roll marathon.
In all, the Competitor Group has returned $344,176 in public funds since The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in February that the private business profited off the marathon while receiving thousands of dollars in discounted police services and county grants through an affiliated foundation. (UT 10/5/09)


Probably more common are events being run by legal charities being operated in full or in part to benefit the principals running the charity. Most of us know that lots of charities take advantage of the good will and generosity of Americans.

Donate to a Good Charity, Not Just a Good Cause.
Michael Organ

It is that time of the year when people are reminded to offer their help. Here are a few resources to learn about charities before you donate.
  1. Charity Navigator
  2. BBB Charity Reports
  3. Charity Ratings
One of the aspects evaluated in charity ratings are administration expenses and how much of the donations actually go to program expenses. Unfortunately, some charities exist to fund the operators of the charity and their "cause" just provides a reason for accepting others' moolah.

Be most inquisitive of charities that invent their own causes.


Back to the contest. The contest is being pitched to the public as a charitable event, however it looks like the associated charity won't be running the contest. The permits will be issued to a for-profit organization. It can't be a charity event; surfers will be competing against each other for personal financial gain.

The promoter is telling the WLBs that the prize money will be $30,000.

They have stated a hard minimum for the prize money. There is no hard minimum for how much will be given to charity. Why not? Does this reflect the priorities behind this event? That is fine if it does, but lets not confuse this with a charity event.

We have some documentation the promoter has been circulating in the surf industry. The promoter has been trying to get companies to give her money in exchange for:
  • -Increase your brand leverage with surfers and the coastal community
  • -Touch point to connect with your customers and potential customers
  • -Sampling opportunity for consumers to try your products and services first-hand
  • -Enhance exposure in the southern California market and media
  • -Tie in to a fun community event
  • -Partnership – ...Please let us know your event marketing goals so we can craft special features just for you.

The documentation also describes what the promoters will do for the commercial sponsors. One is, "Recognition over the public address system and webcast during the event" and "Opportunity to go onstage 10 minutes per day to promote, conduct giveaways". That is what the sponsors are being told. Others are being told the event is going to be quite and have a garden party feel; something that won't disturb the Self Realization Fellowship.

The SRF is the most at risk of being impacted by amplified sound. The SRF's visitors spend a lot of money to meditate on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific.


The promoters are telling potential sponsors that there will be 4 "Supporting Sponsors" and multiple lesser sponsors. The supporting slots cost $25,000 each.

4 x $25,000 = $100,000

Contributing sponsorship cost $2,500 each.

8* x $2,500 = $20,000

Friends of the event cost $1,500 each.

12* x $1,500 = $18,000

There is a huge gap between the prize money and the anticipated revenue. No word on entry fees so far, and that is another revenue source. Possibly, another huge revenue source is the street fair that they will run in parallel with the contest. The promoter is telling potential sponsors that:

Previous street fairs in Encinitas have been embraced by the community and have drawn 400+ vendors, and more than 100,000 shoppers over a two-day period.
No mention that contests at Swamis are controversial and it makes it sound like Encinitas is going to get another street fair. At what point do the residents experience street fair fatigue? Lets say the street fair booths go for $200 for the duration of the event and she gets a quarter of previous street fairs.

100 x $200= $20,000

I'd like to know if the promoters are thinking they are going to pull in $150,000+ on this contest and how much of that is going to go to administrative expenses? I wouldn't care or even think to make a point of that if the event was not going to be entirely based on the use of public property (at the bro deal cost of $300 a day) and being sold as a charitable endeavor. After subtracting operational costs we are still talking about many tens of thousands left over for the contest promoters to pay themselves a juicy salary.


The promoters say exactly how much will go to paying the contest winners and use some weasel words to describe how much goes to charity. They say "net proceeds" will go to charity. That can mean, "what ever we decide" will go to charity if the promoters decide to dish out a healthy salary. (Preemptive response: Once this event got marketed as a charity event to the public, these issues became relevant.)

It doesn't look like the promoters want the surf community to know how much they are going to rake in for themselves.*

The promotional material does give some specifics on the charities they claim are involved. It indicates that some organizations will be present at the event. It seems like it implies that Surfrider has already signed on and supports the contest, but read carefully:

One of Surfrider's missions is to promote the right of low-impact, free and open access to the world's waves and beaches for all people. SURFRIDER acts to preserve this right of access. Contests at Swamis reduces access to waves and I'm certain some SR members might be asking for membership refunds if SR has endorsed contests at Swamis.

The charity list might be baloney*. The documentation also states, "The Women’s World Longboard Championships has partnered with the City of Encinitas, the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Merchants Association to produce the event." It turns out that City HAS NOT partnered with with the WWLB. That is good. It would be really bad for the City to partner with this event because the promoters don't seem to have done all their homework*. The result might be that this event could really flop so bad that sponsors might go after the partners for refunds, particularly the city.


What is also missing from the documentation is info on ASP sanctioning. This is a commercial event so we'd think the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) would be involved. How many WLB world champions can we have at one time? Will the ASP allow the WWLB winner to claim the title of world champion in conflict with an ASP sanctioned world champion?*


There are legit charity surf events. The Surfing for a Cure contest has been run for years and is well accepted in La Jolla. They surf it at a beach break and don't make a severe impact on accessibility and ALL proceeds go to the UCSD cancer center. None of the money goes to administrators. The Surf for a Cure events are put on by volunteers who want to help, not get paid. Because the event was designed to help a cause it is a 100% volunteer event.

They don't piggyback a cause onto a commercial operation.

Revenue Now Projected at $200,000


  1. your points make too much sense....The public will not understand the post.

    Maybe tell them they'll be getting more free stuff from the government and they will start jumping on your bandwagon.

  2. Dan don't surf. This is his way of buying friends.
    Lets hope Maggie isn't in on it too.

  3. These are all very good points.Thanks for doing the legwork to expose all of this information about the proposed surf contest at Swami's.

    Often the organizations behind the "charities" are the biggest beneficiaries of their fundraising efforts. In the case of many sporting events, they are done with opaque taxpayer subsidies (street closures, police and paramedic support, etc).

  4. We get it. We get it. Keep Swami's for the Swami Surf Mafia and JP and his posse. Enough already will you. You are beating a dead horse.

  5. There is no Swamis surf mafia and JP doesn't have a posse.

  6. @7:53 You do realize you are a guest don't you? You do realize the owner of the blog is the only one required to make decisions on what to write. If the man feels passion or is even just mildly interested in surfing, I guess he can write about it every day. There are millions of blogs to read. Please don't have to force yourself to stop here and feel compelled to instruct the owner of the blog. Oh, and it is also acceptable to not be interested am just silently click away.

  7. you can voice your opinions on this at council meetings before the start of the regular session. citizens have 3 minutes to speak on whatever topic they want, so if you are seriously against this, go speak tonight at council, fill out a speaker slip and be there by 6.

  8. Anon9:58- If JP doesn't want comments on this blog then he should close the comments section.
    Signed Anon7:53

  9. How does J.P get to keep Swamis to himself exactly? Is he having a contest too?

  10. anonymous 753,

    This was my post.

    The horse is just getting into the gate, and it looks like a long race if people still think JP's position is based on selfish interest. That is amazingly ironic and one can't help but wonder why people are attacking those who think differently.

    Instead of attacking JP and spreading propaganda about a surf posse, please describe why the contest benefits outweigh the costs.

    We are also looking for submissions on this and any other Leucadia relevant topics. Consider submitting a post about your hometown.

  11. The city needs to charge $2000 a day minimum for use of Swamis.


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