GoPro’s latest video features Matador Ambassador Shon Bollock’s whitewater kayaking and volunteer mission to post-tsunami Japan.

The crew breaking down scattered pieces of styrofoam to use as insulation. Photo by Nick Calderone.

AFTER MONTHS OF PLANNING, Shon Bollock nearly cancelled his whitewater expedition to Japan in the wake of the 2011 Tsunami. His flight was scheduled to leave just a few weeks after the Tsunami hit, and there was still tremendous uncertainty, fears of areas still unsafe from radiation.

Then he realized that following through with the mission would be his – and his crew’s – own small contribution.

After arriving and running several new rivers, creeks, and waterfalls, he reached and his crew, the Shasta Boyz, reached the area hardest hit by the Tsunami (near Sendi), and worked with RQ. He recalled:

You see the photos, you see the video, but nothing can really paint the picture of destruction like being there.

We set up for a day of cleaning up styrofoam from a oyster packing plant destroyed by the tsunami. We spent probably 8+ hrs breaking up styrofoam and putting it into rice bags to be utilized for insulation.

Later in the day we were informed that the road we were cleaning up was on the way to the local elementary school. At the end of the day we got back to RQ and it really hit me how little we had done, a small drop in a large ocean of need. We returned our gear (boots, gloves, jackets) and outside RQ we were approached by an older Japanese woman who spoke very little English. She grabbed each one of our hands, looked us firmly in the eye and said “thank you.”

Just seeing foreigners out there volunteering was a huge gesture in her eyes, while in my mind all I could focus on was how miniscule our contribution was. It was empowering feeling that gratitude and interpreting the situation from another perspective, realizing that she saw people from around the world coming to help Japan in a time of need, even if it was for only a day. What I took away from that experience was that no matter how miniscule the donation or gesture every little bit helps Japan get closer to a fresh start.

We’ve been really proud of Shon and all the attention his work has been getting. His feature film Slippery When Wet – which has the Japan mission as its centerpiece – is currently nominated for Canoe and Kayak’s Film of the Year awards. For more information, please see ShastaBoyz.