Where do we start with this one? Well, I suppose from the beginning. So I got an email from Nev Hyman, founder and shaper for Firewire Surfboards inviting us to collaborate on a project. Naturally, when you get an email from this man you do whatever it takes to make it happen. So I told him that STSF would love to partner up and said any time you are ready. He mentioned that on April 23rd there was going to be a big celebration in Vanuatu for the NevHouse project and invited us out. NevHouse builds sustainable housing made out of recycled materials that takes five days to construct. The purpose of this particular project was to help the people of Enkatalei Village rebuild after the destruction from the cyclone of 2015. In addition to the finale of the project we would be helping host the the surf contest there for the local villagers. So needless to say this project was right up our alley and we were going to make it happen.
After lots of research and planning we decided that we could make some surfboard donations to the Vanuatu Surfing Association. We also decided to donate surfboards to the Fijian youth on our way back from Vanuatu on our way home. We eventually booked our tickets and hotels and were all set. We were stoked to have the support of Surfr App and Corey Hudson Artworks for this trip to the South Pacific.
A short time passed between the time we heard of the event from Nev, booked our tickets and boarded our planes. I packed up eight Firewire Surfboards, FCS gear and Sticky Bumps wax and flew out to LAX to meet up with Logan Kamen, longtime STSF volunteer and ambassador. Stoke was at an all time high as we were checking in our luggage in the line at Fiji Airways. We crossed security and went to our gate and I slept for about two hours before we boarded our plane. The flight to Fiji was 11 hours and I think I slept for about eight of those which was pretty darn good. After we touched down in Fiji we hopped another two and half hour plane ride over to Port Vila. We were pumped. As we were flying in you could see beautiful blue water and green land with palm trees everywhere which is exactly what feeds my soul. We hit the ground and went to wait for our luggage and boards. The luggage came but the boards didn’t. This was a heartbreaker. I spoke with the airline agent and they said the boardbags were too big for the small plane which seemed odd because I have been on smaller planes often and traveled with the same two boardbags. I was bummed. The story was that they were going to try and put them on the flight the next day. We accepted that and headed off to our hotel to get some coffee and to go for a surf.
Through Nev, we had been in contact with a representative of the Vanuatu Surfing Association named Simon who told us where to go to get boards and to get some waves. We paid our taxi and headed for the beach. The island is beautiful and the people are as well. Everyone speaks to you and greets you with a massive smile. They certainly make you feel welcome here on their island. We met up with a guy from the VSA named Brad who gave us some boards to use. He introduced us to the local kids and we all went out for a surf. The kids were all outgoing and super loud in the lineup when the bigger waves come. They would hoot and holler when you get a good one. The reefbreak we surfed was super fun and broke on super shallow, live reef. If you opened your eyes underwater you would see the most spectacular colors. It was epic. After the sesh we flagged down a bus and headed back to the hotel super happy that we got to surf with the kids. That was a pretty long day we had and we fell asleep early and slept like rocks.
The next day we went back to the beach and surfed with the crew and had a blast getting fun, ripable waves. On the day we were to leave the boards arrived! Thank you surf gods! We were stoked! Three days late but they were here and we could hand them over. We made our way out to the beach with them and finally one of the guys asked if he could open up the bag so we let him. He opened it up and got loud and so excited and was smiling ear to ear. He picked up every board and held it before he passed it off to the other kids to hold. It was a pretty magical moment seeing them get so excited about the new boards. This was also our first opportunity to give away one of the new Slater Designs boards. These SD boards are super special because we always wanted to be affiliated with Kelly Slater and now we have our logo on his boards. How cool is that? The VSA crew decided they would use these new boards as first place prize for the next four surf contests for the kids. Man, I want to win a new board:) The kids are going to be stoked!The evening faded and we packed up shop so we could head over to Tanna for the big event with NevHouse. Port Vila was good to us and a place we know we will return to one day.
I would like to send a massive thank you to JETBLUE airlines for allowing us to fly our boardbags for free out to California for this trip. You have been a lifesaver on several of our trips now. We cannot thank you enough for being an epic airline and believing in our mission!