Cleaning the stream: Pure Drift brings drinkable water to poor communities

In San Miguel, a quiet fishing village in Baja California, Mexico, a little boy patiently waits for something to grab on to his bait. It's well known that patience is the key in fishing but hours goes by and nothing happens. The little boy refuses to give up. A group of fishermen arrives back to the village. One of them walks over to the boy and gives him a small fish they had caught during their trip. His face lights up and a huge smile spreads from one ear to the other. You could see on his face that it meant a lot to him.

“I've never seen a kid so happy with a fish. It was like he got a new iPad or a new Playstation,” SMC student Andres Renella said.

“As soon as you travel and you see how simple people live about a lot of stuff, it just kind of humbles you and brings you back to earth,” Corey Eichenberger added.

What began as a desire to travel back to his hometown in Ecuador, suddenly evolved into a much bigger, and more important project when Renella and Eichenberger decided to start the non-profit organization called Pure Drift.

“I've always wanted to drive all the way south, from here to Ecuador, and surf along the way. It all began as a personal kind of thing, like mostly something that I wanted to do,” Renella said. But he soon realized that the trip could also be a “huge opportunity to give back.”

Both Renella and Eichenberger have travelled a lot and experienced villages that are not as lucky as many other places. “You get in touch with things that are pretty messed up. People that live right next to the ocean, right next to rivers, and they still get [water related] diseases that can be prevented,” Renella said. And that is how he came up with the idea for Pure Drift.

He wanted to bring someone on board, someone that would really care about the project and someone that would be nice to be around, and even though he didn't know Eichenberger very well, he knew that he would be the perfect partner.

Eichenberger loved the idea. “He sends me a text like, 'Hey bro, you got plans next year around this time? do you want to drive to Ecuador and give out water filters on the way?' That was pretty much that's all it said and my response was just yes. It was an insane opportunity and here we are planning it out," Eichenberger said.

To test out the filters, they went on a trip down to Mexico last month. “There was this little fishing village and we asked if we could do a demo and give them a free water filter and they were super happy and yeah, they loved it. It went all great,” Eichenberger said.

The feeling of giving something back was the best part according to Renella. “We go to their spots, we go to their towns and little villages, and we enjoy just being there and we surf their waves so we're basically just giving something in return out of the amount of things we get," she said.

The filters are an attachment to a bucket that comes with a hose and the actual filter. “They are not regular filter, not like the ones you will find at Bed Bath and Beyond. These will last for either five years or a thousand gallons, so whatever comes first,” Renella said.

Eichenberger also explained that you can put any water in there, except salt water, and it will come out perfectly clean and healthy to drink.

The next big step for Pure Drift will be the trip to Ecuador next year. They will start in September and then travel for 3-4 months, giving out 20-25 filters on the way. “Our main goal is to travel from Los angeles to Ecuador and give out as many filters as we can. But before that I think we are going to do a few more smaller trips,” Renella said.

“We are going to hit schools, communities, surf communities, pretty much just anyone that needs water,” Eichenberger added.

So far everything has been paid out of their own pockets, but to help raise money for the upcoming trip they are going to organize some local events. “We are going to have an art show, we want to have a few beach cleanups, we want to have a surf contest and we are going to start a Kickstarter as well,” Renella said. "Whatever we can get we will be more than happy to accept it.”

They are currently in the process of becoming a legal non-profit organization but it is pricey and a process that takes a long time. “For this trip to Ecuador, we have to raise $11000 and so we started this whole project a year before we are going to leave because we want to do it right,” Renella said.

Pure Drift requires a lot of work and dedication but that is not something Renella or Eichenberger sees as negative. Both of them would drop everything to be able to, if possible, continue doing this for years.

The ultimate dream would be to continue helping communities in other places like Australia, Europe and Africa, but right now they are just focusing on closer locations. “We just trying to take it one step at the time, but if we can keep doing it then for sure, I'm down with it,” Renella said.

They are both sure of the fact that there is a strong connection between being a surfer and starting the Pure Drift project.

Caring about the water, our earth and the environment is something Eichenberger feels is in his nature. “I think as surfer, it's kind of programmed into you as a kid.”

Renella also believes that there is a strong connection but that their motivation and drive is also based on their personalities, adding that “The way things turned out it's because who we are, who Corey is and who I am. What we are doing is basically just giving all we have, and I only speak for myself but I think I can speak for Corey as well, that's just who we are.”