Surf pro has a keen interest in H2O

When professional surfer Rob Machado rolled into the Corona del Mar High School gym Friday morning, he brought a message with him.

"World Water Day," he said after hopping off a skateboard. "We're here to honor what keeps us alive."

To mark the United Nations-designated day, the surfing superstar spoke at a CdM assembly about the importance of clean water, noting the lack of access to it in many parts of the world.

"We're spoiled. We live in Southern California. You can drink tap water here," he said. Recalling one of the many surf spots where he's taken note of a lack of drinking water, he added, "You do that in Bali and you might be in the hospital. It's a little sketchy."

Machado, his eponymous philanthropic foundation and Costa Mesa-based surf apparel company Hurley are partnering to tour school campuses where he can talk about water and give students a way to improve the dire conditions some people live under.

Soon, CdM will be one of the first campuses to receive three water bottle refill stations that serve a dual purpose.

Students can refill any container in an attempt to eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from campus.

"I had this realization one day," Machado said. "I took one of my kids to school, and I was looking at one of the old drinking fountains I drank out of as a kid."

His children told him everyone brought their own water to school instead of drinking from the fountains because of a terrible taste, he said.

"Let's try to eliminate plastic bottles from schools," he said. "It can't be that hard, right?"

But the stations are also indirect fundraisers for Hurley's clean-water program, dubbed H2O.

That's where CdM's H2O club steps in.

Run by senior Kevin Kassel, the club sells water bottles for the refill stations along with other H2O-branded items. The money goes toward buying compact water filters.

A volunteer courier takes one or more of those filters to locations that don't have easy access to clean water.

"So far, we've sent 50 water filters," Kevin said, with the goal to send 150 more this year.

Axel Eaton, a senior at Newport Harbor High School, was one of the first couriers on a surf trip to Peru.

Kevin asked him to slip a filter, smaller than a can of soda, into his luggage and hand it off to a contact there.

"It's weird to think you can do something this life-changing, but it's so easy to do it," Axel said.

He understood Kevin's motivations as soon as he saw the recipient's reaction.

"I saw someone's face light up as I was basically giving them pure water," he said.

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck

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