San Diegans Try to Save Liberia Surf Shop After Ebola

Daniel Hopkins and Sean Brody opened the Kwepuhna surf retreat in Robertsport, Liberia

Two La Jolla surfers are on a mission to save a small town in Liberia from Ebola.

Daniel Hopkins and Sean Brody opened the first surfing retreat in a town called Robertsport.

After two years in Liberia, they saw a lot of success. But now, they say the Ebola outbreak threatens to end it all.

“With Ebola, things have changed substantially. Things are a lot more chaotic,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins watched the business he helped create in Liberia nearly collapse after the outbreak.

“We went out there and saw a lot of opportunity within the community. We had great waves but we also saw opportunity to help the local people and bring tourism to Liberia and use surfing as the catalyst,” he said.

Hopkins and Brody created “Kwepuhna,” a place where travelers could stay, catch waves, spearfish and explore the rain forests while employing a staff of 15 local Liberians.

“Things picked up and towards the end, there was hardly a day went by that we didn’t have people staying with us,” Hopkins said.

After two years, the San Diego surfer said he fell in love with the country and its people.

“Liberia, it’s one of the poorest countries, but the amount of sharing the people exhibit is mind-blowing,” he said. “How they share what little they have but share it regardless.”

However, since the outbreak, the travelers have stopped coming. Hopkins was forced to leave Liberia and return to La Jolla, but he said can’t forget the home he left behind.

“You know when you spend that much time with people, they become your family,” he said. “What I do have control over is raising awareness to see that they don’t suffer through this.”

He has launched a GoFundMe page to raise money to keep his staff on the payroll as they ride out the crisis. His goal is to raise $25,000, roughly a six-month salary for his staff of 15. Hopkins hopes to one day come back to the place he calls his second home.

“If we don’t step up and help, we are only going to see the picture get worse,” he said.

As of Oct. 25, more than 2,705 people in Liberia have died from Ebola, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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