Well Peru was incredible…as usual. On this trip was myself, Gabriel (the first STSF intern), Jeanine from Domical Waverider Surf Camp and her husband Andrew, Kerri Smith, STSF Board Member and lawyer extraordinaire and my biggest supporters, Neily and Anela.
This trip was already set to be one for the books based on the fact that I got to bring my almost four year old on a Share The Stoke mission for the first time. I was so excited to see how she would participate. It was pretty cool to watch and I will go into more of that later.
Like most times traveling to Chicama, we usually end up with an overnight in the Lima airport. Well finally this year, after all the years sleeping on the floor at the airport, I discovered there was a hotel attached to the airport that you could walk to. GAME CHANGER! No more floors, no more guarding bags while you sleep and no more security guards harassing you for sleeping on the floor and blocking walkways.
Leading up to this trip, Gabriel spearheaded a wetsuit drive with Nomad Surf Shop, a local surf shop in Florida who have always been very supportive of STSF. With their help and few posts to social media we were able to score over 50 wetsuits for the kids. This is critical for them as the water hovers in the 50’s for many months of the year.
Once we arrived we went straight out for a surf despite being supremely tired from waking up at 4am to catch a flight. The waves were super fun which was great because after that sesh it got super small for the rest of the trip except for the day we left.
That evening the Chicama Surf Team showed up and surprised us with a huge welcome that included a small kid on the team jumping out of a giant gift box and flossing. It was unreal.
It was interesting to see how the team has morphed over the years. Some years they would have all girls on the team. One year they had one boy with them. This year they had a few girls and a few boys. We got introductions from all of them. They are so cute and seem to be truly happy to be on the surf team.
My kid, Anela, was a bit overwhelmed by the whole scene at first with the kid popping out of giant box and firework type noise makers going off. I think she was confused about what could be going on. As time passed on that evening with the kids she became more and more interested in them and playing with them. They were all very interested in her as I don’t think they get to see, much less spend time with many light skin babies rolling through Puerto Malabrigo.
We had a few down days before the big event so we spent them riding tiny waves, playing with dogs on the beach, swimming, eating and socializing with the kids and other people we met on the trip and organizing all of the gear and supplies that we brought for the kids and Peruvian families.
What I was starting to notice about Anela was that she wanted to be a part of all the organizing and getting stuff together for the kids. She really loved helping and spending time with me doing what I love which is of course a heart melter.
This year we had two special guests show up to support our event and help out. One was Natalie from Groundswell and one was a local from Huanchaco named Javi. STSF and Groundswell have partnered up in the past to donate boards to the Groundswell programs in Huanchaco, Peru and in Cuba. Javi runs his own surf club in Huanchaco and inspires the youth there. We all had a nice lunch together before we made our way down the beach to do our giant beach cleanup. After it was all said and done we had a solid group of kids show up. Not bad for a late Friday afternoon. This year was the cleanest we have ever seen the beach and the kids were amping on getting out there to see how much garbage they could find.
After the cleanup was done we circled the kids up while Javi led the kids through stretching and surf lessons. The Chicama locals volunteered to help and pushed the kids into the waves. Also, we witnessed a record number of locals showing up and giving back to this event this year. It is a good sign and a good direction we are heading. I suppose the next step is to have them do this at least a few times before we show up and do our big event.
The kids surfing were doing awesome. You always get several kids who really show promise and the desire to keep going. Likely we will see them next year shredding when we return. After the kids got their last waves we ran up on the hill where we passed out a meal for the participants and a little gift we had for them. Of course Anela was elbow deep in the doling out of goodies. It was a great day!
Later that night we had a movie night for the kids and locals at Chicama Surf Resort. It was about the protection of the waves in Peru and how some had been destroyed. It was pretty good and informative of what can happen to our precious resources if people don’t become stewards and fight for them. At the end Jeanine spoke about pollution, plastics and how to start introducing ways to eliminate the use for plastics. She even brought some bamboo straws for each of the kids to start using.
The next day was contest day. This day is always the best as we get to watch the kids showcase their skills. They always show up big too as there is a lot on the line. We had three divisions all competing for brand new Firewire Surfboards and gear from FCS and Sticky Bumps. Andrew, Myself and Gabriel all got to be judges. Of course, Anela had to be in the mix too. She would shout out which color was up and riding…a perfect job for a person with young eyes.
Neily, Kerri and Jeanine all worked to run the contest smoothly and organized prizes and make sure everyone had water or food if they needed. At the end of the day everyone was stoked. Every kid that competed got stoked out with some really great stuff and as a thank you we were all greeted with Chicama doing its finest sunset we had seen the whole trip.
The next day the waves came up a bit and we surfed in the morning and flew out that night. It was a successful trip. We donated 12 surfboards to the locals, 50 wetsuits, booties, shirts, boardshorts, hats, gear, etc. to the people of Chicama. We would like to send out a massive thank you to everyone who helped support this trip by donating gear, wetsuits, made a donation, volunteered their time or sent us good vibes on our mission.
One last note…I am so grateful to have been able to take my kid to Peru on a stoke mission. Peru has always been one of our most favorite places and when we go we feel like we are at home. I loved seeing her mix it up with the locals. I was so proud of her for getting right in there and telling me every time that she wanted to be a part of something that we were doing. It was exciting to see how confident she was helping out. Her vibe was like hey I’m Anela…I’m with Share The Stoke Foundation and we are here to make a difference!
I am so thankful to the kids of Peru who loved on her and played with her and treated her like family. Until next year…stay tubed my friends!
After some relaxation the whole crew went to surf and it was one of the most beautiful breaks we have ever seen. Every surf sesh on Veymandoo required a 20 minute boat ride to a nearby break.
Of the 12 boards we brought for the kids, four boards will be used on Veymandoo. One board went directly to Shaafi, a local kid who has been progressing rapidly and shows a serious desire to shred. Another board went to the island school and two boards will be kept at the host house. Kids who participated in the program will be allowed to use the boards.
All I can say is wow. What a whirlwind of a trip…before, during and after the stoke mission. We have had this trip booked for a long time and as fate would have it we had a massive storm barreling towards florida right before the trip. So I decided to invite my friend and local meteorologist, James Wieland on this trip. He warned me that should there be a storm during that time he would have to last minute cancel. I never thought that we could have such tragic timing. Days leading up to us leaving things were looking really bad with Hurrican Irma. By the day we left we were in the cone and it was looking like a catastrophic impact. Needless to say James had to cancel his trip. He was so bummed and I was so bummed for him. Timing couldn’t have been worse. He even had gone around town and collected a bunch of gear for us to donate to the kids in Peru and personally made really cool t-shirts for our girls Chicama Surf Team. Beside myself, the other team memebers on this trip were Matthew De Mayo and Jeanine Haddad of Domical Waveriders, a successful surf camp located in Dominical, Costa Rica. Jeanine also helps run Chicas Con Proposito there which is where we met her. They use surfing as a means to create moral values and purpose for the local girls around Domincal.
The getting to Peru is always fun for us because we choose to fly at night so that we can have a half day to surf when we get there. That means spending about nine hours trying to sleep on the floor in Lima. Usually we arrive pretty sleep deprived. That is okay because as soon as we land we are greeted by the amazing Chicama Resort staff to take care of us. When we arrived it was flat so we got organized and met up with the girls from the Chicama Surf Team. Over the years we have spent lots of time with them and have come to love them and accept them as family. They decorated the lounge area at the hotel and made a welcoming cake for us. They are awesome.
Over the next couple of days leading up to our big event, we spent it with the girls, surfing and getting everything ready for the event. We also used that time to freak out about the storm and hope that our families made the right call of evacuating for Irma.
Because the waves were supposed to be big and pumping on contest day we decided to cancel it. Safety is always our number one policy and risking kids lives defeats our purpose. After it was all said and done we were able to have a beach cleanup for over 100 kids and a tasty BBQ for each of them. We also were able to push the kids in the white water so they could grab some waves. We made sure that each kid that showed up to all of our events had a cool take home prize from one of our amazing sponsors.
For this trip we had Crowd Control, Reef, Rogue Wave Surf Boutique, Nomad Surf Shop, Curms, Jungle Mamma Sunscreen, Susan & Michael Zellea @ Sue Z and Upbeat Customs, Bear Shark Action, Peter Glenn Sport in WPB, Ron Jon Surf School, Future 6 Helping Hand, Slater Designs, Firewire Surfboards, FCS, Chicama Surf Resort and Sticky Bumps.
Our highlights from the trip include surfing with the kids and watching the Chicama girls go above and beyond making us feel loved. One night they made us a giant bowl of ceviche. Another night they made us Chicha and brought chocolate. Chicha is this purple corn drink that you add cinnamon and cloves to. It is quite tasty. Another night they made us lomo saltado. The other highlight was catching pumping waves from the point to the hotel. If you know Chicama…that is a very long ride. We are running a Chicama raffle right now for a week stay at the resort. Click HERE to enter. It for sure is a dream trip. Thanks to everyone who made a difference for us so that we could make a difference for others. We are all in this together.
As for the hurricane…all we lost were a bunch of trees. Everything and everyone we love was safe. We are blessed. While we are fortunate that we came out unscathed some did not. Let us all send positive vibes and love in their direction during this sad time. Thanks for reading. We love you!
Home for a day now and what a whirlwind! This past stoke mission was to Costa Rica. Last July a gentleman that we partnered with in 2013 asked us to do an impact trip to a different place in Costa Rica with a new group. Having worked with him in the past we were stoked to do it. We organized with the leader of the group and we booked our tickets about three or four months before the trip. As time passed the trip grew closer and closer and I reached out to the organizer about a week before the trip asking for details. Long story short…she mentioned that she is no longer running the organization and it has closed. My first instinct was anger at the fact that we now had very few days to organize something else while we are there. It is always our first priority to keep our commitments with our sponsors so we needed to find a different group to make an impact with. I remembered back to 2015 when we worked with Chicas Con Proposito in Dominical. I reached out to Jeanine, co-founder of the group and told her our circumstances and asked if she would be able to organize something in such short notice with her girls. Thankfully she was so eager to help. We were grateful.
My partner for this trip was Matthew, STSF extraordinaire. Before the trip he and I brainstormed potential sponsors for this epic adventure and ended up finding some great ones. We had Southern Coast Enterprises, Bruce Celinski and Brendan Leen. Southern Coast Enterprises are known for their craftsmanship in roofing and waterproofing with competitive prices and are based in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Bruce Celinski is a Fort Lauderdale architect that specializes in high-end custom homes and commercial projects for private clients and quality builders. Brendan Leen is a local life guard based in Boca Raton who believes in our mission. With their support as well as Jetblue jumping on board with free transport of the surfboards,we were able to make a bunch of children happy.
Matthew and I arrived in Costa and spent a horrendous two hours getting through immigration and renting a car. After an hour drive we finally made it to some beautiful country scenery. Finally, I felt like I could relax. We arrived just at dark to Mavi Surf Hotel, which Jeanine had set us up at. They have been close friends and took complete care of us at their hotel. Mavi Surf Hotel is probably the cleanest hotel I have been in and I have spent a lot of time traveling and seeing lots of lodging options. They are also a short walk to open barrels galore. Aside from the epic hotel…Max and Barbara (the owners) were so nice and wanted to make our stay amazing. Every request we had they would always come through. Max even shreds in the water and we got several sessions in together.
The second day in Costa we surfed in the morning and scored perfect offshore barrels with some size. We were so happy! After checking the swell charts and talking to the locals we decided to take our chances on Pavones since we had a few days before the event. We got there and surfed some overhead nuggets that had a little wind on it. The next morning we surfed Pavones sister and had so much fun. I actually got my chancletas stolen on the beach and I was bummed until I really thought about it. I thought…jeez if you have to take someones shoes you probably really need them. I figured they needed them worse than me. I proceeded to go barefoot for the next four days until I borrowed Matthews for the flight home. Makes you appreciate shoes…especially if you have ginger feet like me.
The next few days we spent surfing and heading back to our beloved Mavi Hotel. Saturday came and we made our way over to Dominicalito for the project. We rolled up and soon after all the chicas started showing up. I recalled their faces from the last time we were with them. These girls are super timid and not very reluctant to give you their trust. I remembered some of their stories and understand why. After a bit they warmed up to us. Next the girls hit the water. I really couldn’t believe how much they have improved. The girls are standing up on almost every wave. I saw a few of them paddle into the waves themselves and catch and ride them. That always makes us so happy. We ended up donating some of the boards to the chicas and then also finding a few boys to give them to. We actually went to their houses to find them and make the donations. It was pretty fun watching the reactions. One kid was super stoked just smiling ear to ear and one kid seemed like we just told him his cat died. The other donation went to a set of three brothers who couldn’t stop smiling. It was great.The next day we headed to the airport bright and early and made our way back to South Florida. Without the support of Jetbue, Southern Coast Enterprises, Bruce Celinski, Mavi Hotel, Dominical WaveRider and Brendan Leen we would not have been able to make the impact we did. Thanks to all of those generous supporters who help us keep stoking out children all over the globe. Remember if you would like to help us keep kids off the street you can make a donation HERE.
Today was a great day! We got to spend time with the kids at Valpo Surf Project (VSP) at Con Con Beach in Chile. About two years ago an intern from their organization reached out to me to see if they could partner up with us and get us to donate some boards for their program. I told him I couldn’t that year but to keep reaching out to me because we wanted to work with them. So after few years and a few emails back and forth we bought some plane tickets and made a plan.
We were really excited to come down to Chile to meet the crew and find out more about their project. After meeting Chelsea and Claudio at the airport for our transfer to Valparaiso we made our way to the VSP offices to see where the magic happens. There we met Jon, one of the founders of the VSP. We talked a little and agreeed to meet up later for a dinner at a secret spot. We were excited.
We got to our hotel, took a ten minute breather and headed out to sightsee and grab some coffee and lunch. The area surrounding our hotel was super cool. The park area was called Victoria Square. It was pretty clear it was the local hang out spot. It was very vibrant and alive. We bought a couple of souvenirs and headed to the hotel to meet up with Jon and Claudio to head to the secret spot.
On the walk we met Wiley, another one of the founders of VSP. He is a super nice lad from Maine. On the way up to dinner they warned us about the steep incline. By the time we arrived I was certainly huffing and puffing but the view was out of this world. We went up to the top floor and you could basically get a panorama of the city. It was stunning. Over dinner we talked story and compared Florida waves to Jersey and Maine waves. I really love to hear about people’s home break.
That evening we learned more about how VSP came to be and how far they have come. What I like about their story is that it is similar to how we started STSF. In 2008 These guys all took time off to travel around South America and surf. They spent some good chunks of time in different places and one was in Valparaiso. They noticed that there were not many kids in the water and the ones that were came from effluent families. This inspired them to step up and see to it that more kids had a chance to utilize the ocean which spans the entire length of the country. They decided to use three things as their core disciplines. The waves themselves, teaching the English language and teaching the importance of taking care of the environment. With this foundation they have impacted over 300 kids in four neighborhoods near Valparaiso and they continue to grow. We were so stoked to hear about all the great stuff they have done and to be able to partner with them. They are the perfect match for us to make a donation to and we look forward to hearing stories about the kids shredding on the Firewire’s.
The next day we got picked up from the hotel and driven to Con Con Beach where they usually do their surfing with the kids. It was quite a beautiful drive along the coast. We passed a few surf spots before we got to the event site. We beat all the kids who would be showing up later in the van. As soon as they arrived they all piled out and ran up to us to greet us with a kiss on the cheek. It was very sweet and they all made sure to say hello. We let the kids open up the board bags for fun. It is always fun to see how they react to the Firewire Surfboards. There was one kid who fell in instant love with the Cornice board. I think I caught him giving it a kiss. Clearly he was marking this one for himself. He actually never let it out of his hands after that. I loved his perseverance. The VSP guys gave demos on how to put on the traction pads, the FCS fins and the Sticky Bumps Wax. After the boards were ready we all got suited up, stretched and made our way to the water. When I got in I thought I was going to die…well not really but it was so cold. It was so cold that my feet hurt and actually by the end of the sesh my right toe was numb. Dang I am such a Florida surfer. The kids were going for it on the new boards. It definitely took them some time getting used to because they are more familiar with the soft tops. There was one girl in particular who was significantly better than everyone else. I was so stoked to see her ripping on the Firewire. It always feels good seeing the kids having so much fun on the boards we bring all over the world. It was a great day complete with some Chilean empanadas and a jugo de maracuya.
Our trip to Chile was short and sweet and left me wanting more. It is a beautiful country and the people we met there were super friendly and loving. We will definitely be back. Thanks for the love Chile.
We have seen a lot of Colombia over the years, well actually we probably have not even scratched the surface, but we have been there four times now. This time we returned to the Santa Marta area that we love. My travel partner for this trip was Matthew De Mayo who seems to be scoring on a lot of stoke missions with us lately.
This trip would be a quick one so that means that once we got there we were off and running doing our thing. We got picked up at the airport by Marcos, a local surfer from Santa Marta. He would be our translator for the entire trip. The drive from Barranquilla to the Mendihuaca Resort was about two and half hours but stopping for some cold coconuts rounded out the ride. We got settled in that night and started getting boards ready for the event the next day. This event had special meaning to us and the locals there because it was dedicated to Santi Gil, Colombia’s first indigenous surfer who was recently killed in a motorcycle accident. Santi was a well respected surfer and an icon to the sport of surfing in Colombia. After his death, Carlos Jimenez, our trip coordinator, decided to change the event to dedicate it in Santi’s memory and to expose other indigenous kids to the great sport of surfing. We were stoked to get to be a part of teaching these kids the sport.
The kids that showed up were from the Arhuaca tribe, one of four native to this region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains. They were accompanied by Yesid, a chief of the tribe. Yesid was huge in stature and just being in his presence you could feel a magnificent energy. I felt like he knew everything I was thinking. It was quite odd actually. The kids were also super sage. They were stoic and would show very little emotion. Eventually as the day went on they would open up and smile and joke with each other.
First off Marcos showed them the surfboards and how to put on the traction pads, fins and leashes. They would watch intently and then try it for themselves. It was really cool watching how they react with what they were being taught.
In all reality I was wishing that they would teach us what they knew. I felt like they had all this wisdom about the world and its meaning! After the how to with the equipment, Lore, a Palomino local and one of our hosts jumped in and started talking about the paddle and pop up. Soon enough it was time to get the boys in the water. First, we had them get on the boards out in the water and paddle to get them used to it. We would take out two at a time and then switch to get the other two out there. The kids were clearly having fun because they were smiling ear to ear and running up and down the beach.
Finally it was time to get these boys on some real waves. Matthew and Marcos took the two out and would push them into the waves. I was in the water filming with the Gopro with the hopes that they would stand up and get the ride of their lives. Each of them got several waves on their bellies and their smiles were unreal. It was so amazing to see them having such a good time out in the water together with us regular people. Colombia’s indigenous are way more connected to the earth than us so I imagine them catching waves and harnessing mother nature was pretty remarkable. After a few hours in the water we frolicked in the caves and the boys jumped off massive boulders into the water. It was a pretty special day.
That night we packed our bags for a trek into the mountains to a place called El Encanto. It is where a group of Wiwa’s live up in the Sierra Nevada’s. It is where Marcelo and Santi grew up. This was the part of the trip I was super excited about. That night I am not sure that I slept.
We met our driver at noon in Guachaca. We ended up with 11 people going up in the 4×4. I was lucky enough (or cursed) to be able to sit in the front seat and get an amazing view. I had been warned that our driver was very good but was missing one hand and a few fingers on the good hand. Nevertheless, he was a great driver. We made our way up fine. At one point we got out to take some pictures and I started filming when the truck started back down the mountain. Right at that moment it was pretty steep and the driver had the truck on three wheels at one point. I always say I am in the right place at the right time.
Soon enough, well not soon enough for me we got to El Encanto. I really hate driving in the mountains in the mud with steep drop offs on either side. I get really nervous. But here I am to tell about it. When we pulled in to El Encanto all the Wiwa’s came out of the thatched roof huts to see what all the fuss was about. It was a little nerve wracking as their demeanor is to never smile and just to stare. But we were with a Mamo so I knew we had the blessing to be there.
The first thing we did when we got there was to go visit Santi’s gravesite. His sister Isabella said some words and then we all put a coin on the grave and did some gesturing with our hands over the grave as if to wipe off the negative energy and cleanse ourselves. I don’t know exactly what it meant but that is what I made up. I shed some tears as well as the some of the others. The grave was up about the village and it was as if he was buried there as to see over the community.
Next on our agenda was to find sleeping quarters and get dinner going because as soon as daylight was gone there would be no lights. The ladies made a killer feast while we set up the hammocks in a tin roof, open-air enclosure. It would be enough to shield us from the rain. Before dinner we went to the river and had a bath and cooled off. I was hoping that being up in the mountains would be much cooler but it seemed just as hot! We were in the river long enough to see a kid try to mount a donkey and then get thrown through the air after mounting it and then to see a man appear from nowhere while walking a pig back to the village. It was surreal.
Dinner was amazing. We had chicken and rice, plantains and potatoes. It was perfect and so flavorful. The chicas nailed it! As it was getting dark we were invited over to Marcelo’s parents for a blessing. We all went and then we were given a piece of white string tied around our left wrist. It was for protection and considering we would be trekking through the jungle early the next morning I was grateful to have it.
Literally as we all stepped back into the place where we would be sleeping it started down pouring. It seems coincidental that as soon as we got in the rain started. Was it the bracelets already protecting us? We all spent a few minutes getting ready for the hike in the morning. We would be leaving at 4am so that we could beat the heat. To me it seemed crazy to make a hike like that through the mountains in the dark but hey, I’m just a gringa who never hikes. I’m not sure how much sleep I got that night. With the rain pounding on the tin roof and the lightening happening all around, coupled with the fact that a bunch of ladies started cooking at 3am right next to us, I woke up less than rested.
By 4:20am we were off on foot. Literally one minute into the hike we had to cross a river. So we all unlaced our shoes and took our socks off as to preserve them. Little did I know that when I put them back on I was supposed to dry my feet completely so that my socks didn’t get wet. That was a big mistake.
We were originally told it was an hour hike to the village we were setting off for. Later we learned there was something called Wiwa time. Wiwa time is a fraction of what us regular folk use to measure speed. In this case the hike took four hours instead of the one. The hike there was intense. The terrain was vertical in many places and pushed me to the limit. I have been out of commission for two weeks leading up to this trip with a strained MCL so I had basically been on my back resting to let the injury heal so to say I was out of shape was an understatement.
Despite going in the dark it was so hot. We were able to see the sun rise which was gorgeous and you could hear the sounds of the jungle which was really beautiful. About two hours into the hike I started to feel blisters on both feet. This was not good because I knew if I was feeling them already I was doomed for the walk back. Finally, we made it to this little house thing and everybody sat down. It used to be the school for the village. There were old desks and pigs, goats, chickens and cats hanging around. I was thinking to myself is this really what we just hiked four hours to see… a four hour hike that almost killed me! Then everybody got up and said we have another 20 minutes to go to get to the village. I put my shoes back on and started off. Soon enough we got to an area of overgrown brush about shoulder height to walk through. We went through and on the other side was an abandoned village with not a soul around. It was quite eerie. We were taken to an area where you could see the remnants of a burned hut. Then they started telling us about the lightening strike two years ago that took out 11 people while they were having a spiritual ceremony. I remembered the story from two years ago. It happened right before we came the first time. Here is a link about it.
In one of the nearest huts there were 11 caskets with the members of the tribe that parrished there. One was actually cracked open and you could see the skull inside. It was not for the faint of heart. As I realized the magnitude of what we were witnessing and seeing I started looking around and taking it all in. All of the huts still had stuff in them. I saw machetes laying around and you could tell the people left that village in a hurry. I read that it is custom for them to abandon the village with an act of nature like that, which they did and all fled up higher into the mountains. What a story and what an experience to be there where it all happened!
We all stopped and sat and had snacks. Right where we sat there was a orange tree with oranges and a cacao tree full of cacao so we all feasted on the goodies we found. I chowed down on the peanut butter I brought and passed it around for the others. Little did I know that I was being eaten alive by these sand creatures as well as hosting a couple of ticks for the journey back.
We had all run out of water on the way there which was not good but luckily the trip coordinator had told me to buy some water filtration systems and bring them for the trip. Luckily I listened. We were able to access the river and filter the water and fill up all our bottles. There is no way we could have made it back in the hot sun without water.
The walk back was the toughest thing I have ever experienced. I have never pushed my body like that before. At certain points I started feeling dizzy but I kept telling myself it wasn’t happening and kept trying to do the whole mind over matter thing and wish it away. I was able to. My saving grace was coming to a river and taking off my shirt and soaking it and draping on my back for the remainder of the hike. We had to stop probably ten times for rest on the way back. I was spent. We all were. Finally, we started to smell the sweet smell of cow poo and I had never been so happy to smell it. It meant we were getting close. Soon enough we were at the river we had crossed at the very start of the trip. We all took off our shoes and laid in the river to cool while filtering more water to drink. It was sweet victory. There were times during the hike that I literally thought I might die. That I was going to have a heart attack. But here I am!
We had a couple of hours to chill before the truck came to get us. This time I think we had 14 people going back which was pretty dangerous. Not to mention the roads were already wet from the last nights rain and the looming threat of rain heading our way in the distance. I basically had to close my eyes the entire ride down the mountain. I was so scared. At one point it was a sheer cliff on the left side of the road and a vertical descent in the mud down. I think we slid 10 feet down before getting traction. Ugh. I am not sure I need that much adventure in my life. Actually I know I don’t.
We had an incredible time up in the mountains. I feel so special to have been able to go up and spent a night there with the Wiwa’s. There way of life is so different from ours. I mean night and day. I feel I am always searching for something out of the ordinary and this certainly met my standards.
The next day we literally did nothing. I ate, had coffee, slept, watched tv and relaxed. It was brilliant. The next day we left for home. It was an amazing adventure. We got to teach new indigenous kids to surf and spend time with our little friend Marcelo and crew. We are so blessed to get to do this work and to see such amazing places. Please, if you get the chance check out this area of Colombia. There is a charm to is that you can feel and can experience.
All I can say is wow! Peru gets better every time we go there. Our trip included Gabriel Mccorry, the original intern for STSF, Matthew DeMayo who has been on several trips now with us and Carlhey Bolz, the Peace Corp volunteer who helped start the Chicama Girls Surf Team.
We arrived in Peru after a 2am flight with a connection through Lima. I was so excited to show some new people a place that I have come to love. I was also very excited to get to wear a wetsuit, a jacket and real shoes. The Florida heat gets old!
The drive to Chicama is pretty surreal. The anticipation of getting to the iconic wave is almost unbearable. I spend the entire drive wondering what it will look like as soon as we come up the hill and get our first peek of the ocean. That, coupled with scenery you might find on the moon, you stay pretty entertained.
Our first day was spent surfing then getting a massive and warm welcome by the Chicama Girls Surf Team. In 2013 we helped start a girls surf team for some of the chicas who we thought might be interested in learning to surf. Since then they have grown by leaps and bounds. They started out getting pushed into waves and now they can all catch waves on their own. They are also super unified and look after each other and the team. They are truly an inspiration to us.
Saturday was the first day of our event. We were told to cut the event off at 100 kids because we couldn’t feed more than 100. I always hope the kids turn up and get really nervous before the event. We had the girls surf team there to help us and take a leadership role in helping us execute a killer day for the kids. We ended up cutting it off with 105 kids. I was blown away! We put them into bigger groups and led a massive beach cleanup. I am always surprised at how hard these kids work and how much trash they pickup. They just keep coming back for new bags until they are all gone. It is so cool. After the cleanup we had all the kids circle up for surf lessons. This is the part of the day that usually takes the longest with the number of kids we work with. All of the kids were so stoked to get their waves. The smiles were endless and we were pumped for them. Soon after the kids chowed down on some tasty BBQ. As they got their food the girls surf team passed out the swag we had gotten donated from local companies by us in Florida. This trip we had donations from Camila Swimwear, Corey Hudson, Casual Starfish, Ron Jon Surf School, Blue Water School of Surfing and Grom Social. It was a great day.
Usually on the Sunday of our trip we put on a surf contest for the kids who are surfing pretty well. This time around we had about 50 kids come to compete. Each division winner would receive a new Firewire Surfboard with FCS gear and Sticky Bumps wax. It took us about seven hours to get it done but by the end we had the three surfboard winners and all the runners up. The kids were so happy to win boards and we were happy to give them away.
Our Monday turned out to be an epic day for great reason. We had decided that we wanted to do something special for the girls surf team so we decided to take them on a field trip to surf a new break and then to take them to Huaca El Brujo, an archaeological site built by the Moche sometime between AD 1 and 600.
We told them to be at our hotel at 630am for a 7am departure. This was certainly not the day to be running on Peruvian time (usually an hour late). As soon as they came, the bus came for all of us and we started packing the boards in which ended up taking quite a while to get them organized well enough to fit 10 people. On the way to Huanchaco we all played music and sang in anticipation. To get to Huanchaco it took us an hour. None of the girls we brought had ever been here which seems odd to us Americans being that it is only an hour away. This made the trip that much cooler and meaningful for them.
After we arrived we unpacked the bus and got all our gear ready for our surf session. There were some overhead sets for sure and some of the girls were intimidated but they all paddled out into the waves. Only a few of the girls made it out back for the set waves. Since most of them stayed inside I paddled in to be with them while Matthew was out there with Gabby, one of the top surfers on the team. At one point I got out and was walking up the beach when I looked out the back and saw Gabby on seriously the wave of the day. It was well over her head and she was high-lining down the face. I was blown away. I was so proud of her. It was like seeing my own kid catch a wave like that. I felt like my heart was going to explode!
After our sesh we took them to lunch. It was really fun interacting and getting to spend quality time with them. We all ate chicken plates and lomo saltado, a Peruvian dish that I had many times. Soon enough we headed to El Brujo to check out the ruins. The part about this leg of our field trip that was so cool was because the girls got to see the actual mummy of Seniora de Cao, a high-ranking ruler of the Chicama district that was found only 10 years ago. She was discovered wrapped in many layers of cloth, highly tattooed, found with ceremonial items as well as weapons and jewelry. I think for young girls to see that women are leaders, especially in the Chicama district, must give them a sense of confidence and pride. To be there to witness this day was and will be a memory that I will hold on to for a lifetime. What a gift it is to be able to give the girls our time and love. I am honored!
The rest of the trip we were able to donate the rest of the surfboards for a total of 12, surf, relax, eat some rally good food and have a sad goodbye with our friends at Chicama. It was an amazing time and it is more clear now than ever that we need to keep coming back to Chicama. Our work there has been great but we are not done and the girls need someone to count on and we can do that for them. We are blessed to receive their love!
Bocas del Toro has always been one of our favorite spots to go and stoke out kids. There was never a doubt that we would return in 2016. This year with me I had Tim Frater and Brion from Firewire Surfboards, our surfboard sponsor. This was the first time we have had a representative from one of our sponsors go on a stoke mission with us. I was stoked!
Tim and I met up with Brion at a hotel in Panama City. We had an over nighter and were to fly out the next morning bright and early to head to Bocas. The flight was an hour and our STSF ambassador, Juan David was there to pick us up. Juan David is owner of Mono Loco Surf School and we have always worked together to bring love and hope to local kids in Bocas. He has a huge heart for helping kids and it never stops when we leave. He is constantly stoking kids out all year long with surfboards so they can shred.
As soon as we landed we were keen to surf so we did that. We surfed Careneros, my favorite wave there. The waves were not huge but they certainly kept us entertained. Other than the surfing we did, we got the opportunity to go over to Bahia Roja and see the work that Give and Surf has been doing. Over the years they have done many projects on Bastimentos dealing with education (building two schools), community development and their youth surfing program.
Last year we donated surfboards to some of the kids in their program who showed promise and a skill for surfing. We are certainly proud to partner up with Give and Surf who is making a major impact in this corner of the world.
Another highlight from our trip is the surf contest we hosted with some other really amazing sponsors. The format was three kids on a team, an A surfer, a B surfer and a beginner. The idea was to get the kids to rally behind their friends and try and help them win a surfboard so they can take their surfing to the next level. This turned out to be a very cool format and helps kids motivate each other and for them to support each other in surfing.
The day turned out to be perfect for the contest. We were posted up at Paki Point right out in front of Tiger Tail.
The waves were not huge but perfect for all three levels of surfers. We ended up having five teams in the contest. Give and Surf brought two teams, the island of Careneros had a team and there were two teams from Isla Colon. This was a pretty good representation of the local youth surfers!
Brion, Tim and I were judges. I think this is the best job because you have to stay focused and you get to see all of the kids waves. After a few hours and lots of surfing we had the teams placed. We started out the awards by donating another two surfboards to the Give and Surf crew. This is a good fit as they take the kids surfing twice a week and need quality boards for them to ride.
Next we started in with the fourth place team who got a used board as well as third place. Second and first place teams received brand new Firewire Surfboards with FCS gear and Sticky Bumps wax. The kids were pumped! Everyone was pumped! We donated some of the new Slater Design boards which was pretty exciting too! It was a great day all around.
Later that day we made provisions for our trip on Sunday to Kusapin. Kusapin is an hour boat ride from Bocas into indigenous Ngobe Bugle land.
It is one of the coolest places I had visited so I was super excited to go back. Last year when we were there we donated surfboards and we also taught two boys how to surf. It was one of those experiences that you have and realize while you are there that you are so lucky to be able to do what you do and just hope that the kids will stick with it.
The morning of the boat ride the weather was perfect. The sun was shining and all was perfect. We high tailed it at 7 at the dock and about an hour later we were stepping off the boat and onto the dock at Kusapin.
We paid our fee to be there and for the rooms for the night. The rooms were basic accomodations…meaning a room and a bed with a sheet. That was it.
But the real beauty was the fact that these basic rooms were over the water in the bay. It was a nice view for sure.
We unloaded our stuff and locked it up and headed off across the peninsula to the other side for a surf. As soon as we walked up you could see the wind was offshore and the waves looked fun.
The water there is a nice crystal blue that is certainly pleasing to the eye. We all paddled out. About ten minutes into our session I saw two young boys standing on the beach with boards. I was wondering if it was the two boys we had taught to surf last year. Then I saw them paddling out and soon enough they were right beside us on their Firewire Surfboards we donated last year. It really was like a dream come true. They had kept on surfing and in fact were out in some pretty good sized waves. I was so stoked! There is nothing better than seeing the fruits of your labor growing and getting better. That is GOLD! We caught up with them and got waves with them and hooted and hollered. It was a fun sesh.
We went back later in the day for another sesh and just like before the kids appeared on the beach and in the lineup with us. I loved it. We had a quick sesh before we donated two more more boards. One of the smaller kids got the smallest board we brought.
He was begging us to give him the board. I have a feeling that next year he will be shredding just like the bigger boys. That whole day with the kids was amazing. It was so good to see the familiar faces and spend time with them on the beach opening coconuts and taking selfies.
We headed back across to the lodging spot. I threw up my hammock on the beams. I was determined to sleep in it right by the water.
We all ate dinner and enjoyed it. We had no electric so once the sun went down we used flashlights. That made for an easier decision to go to bed. I think I was in the hammock by 8 or so. The first hour was great until the rain started. I kept dry but the roof we were under was tin and it sounded like a war zone off and on all night. I think the locals we were with slept pretty well but us city slickers tossed and turned. I was stoked on the hammock and can’t wait to use it again!
The next day we woke and went for our last surf there and to say goodbye to the kids. The waves were bigger and PUMPING! One of the kids made it out and caught a few. It was so epic to see him charging solid, overhead, top to bottom, barreling waves. Crazy in a year how good they got!
And just like that we were back on the mainland packing up to go home. Brion left that afternoon and us the next day. We barely made our flight because of delays from our first flight. We ended up having to throw out our empty boardbags in the trash and I even had to beg and plead and cry in order for them to help us get on the flight. It was ridiculous! But we made it on with plenty of time to spare and I got to hold my baby girl Anela right on time! If you ever get a chance to go to Bocas del Toro please check out Mono Loco Surf School for all your needs and make sure to order the pulled pork sandwhich at the Hungry Monkey.
This is our third year going to Mexico and teaming up with the AHAVA Project with local Mexican, big wave surfer Coco Nogales. He and I touched base earlier in the year about how this year the project was going to be bigger and better. He said he would be inviting 35 kids this year and the event would span over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He asked how many boards I could bring and I committed Share The Stoke Foundation to donating 10 to the project.
The flight was from Miami through Mexico City and on to Huatulco. We met up with Coco at the gas station across the street from the airport and we caravanned to Barra de la Cruz, about thirty minutes or so away. We pulled off the main road to a small road that went from pavement to dirt. Soon enough we realized we were in the middle of nowhere based on no real hotels, only cabanas and no cell signal at all.
As soon as we unloaded the boards into the cabana we headed down to the beach for a surf. Right as we came over the hill we could see there was a small swell and the waves were glassy. This was a perfect way to wash off the travel funk. Later that night we had a meeting with all the volunteers and kids about the weekend activities. It was so cool to see a bunch of familiar faces and the kids were still riding Firewire Surfboards that we had donated in 2013. It was epic! After that we headed back to the cabana to get some sleep. While we were winding down we noticed some scorpions in our room. This didn’t sit well. And with the fact that our fan wasn’t working properly we decided to sleep in the car. Yeah, yeah I know that seems crazy but with being in the middle of nowhere we decided getting stung by scorpions would not pan out too well. It was a long, hot night.
The next day we met down at the beach at 630a to get started. The kids surfed, exercised and cleaned the beach. Beginner surfers got pushed into waves and the better surfers were absolutely shredding the point. While we were there we learned that this place used to be a super hot spot. They actually had a Rip Curl event here in 2006 and didn’t name the location, instead said “somewhere in Mexico”. Between some hurricanes and the people diverting the river so they could put a restaurant on the beach, the sand shifted and it hasn’t been barreling in years. It was still certainly good enough for all of us to have a field day on the right hand point.
Saturday was more of the same except for we all camped on the beach that night. It was pretty great. We got approval from the town to camp. Usually it is off limits for everyone so we felt pretty stoked to be able to sleep under the stars. The boys had a massive bonfire complete with smores and some good ole amigos singing and playing the guitar.
Sunday started out with beach yoga and some surfing. After that we donated the surfboards. The kids were pumped. There were three different areas of kids that got boards. Some went to the Barra kids, some went to the Puerto kids and some went to the San Agustin kids. It was great to spread the love amongst different communities. We are so stoked to be able to donate free surfboards to kids in communities like these where there are so many other negative options for these kids to choose. We love that they have chosen surfing and they are good surfers. They absolutely rip, even the tiny tots. I guess when you have perfect waves in your backyard it is fairly easy to be a solid surfer.
After the event we headed to Puerto Escondido to get a couple of waves before we headed back to Florida. We surfed the point which was firing. Zicatela was off its rocker and pumping. There were only a few guys out. They were riding massive guns and a few were towing in. It was heavy. You could literally feel the waves through your body when they detonated on the shore. Just watching it do its thing made my heart race. It was a sight to see. Soon enough we rushed back to the airport to make our flight and were home with loved ones with new tales to tell.