Passion In Peru

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.IMG_7939.JPG

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.FullSizeRender.jpg

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. IMG_7949We 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. IMG_7963.JPGAfter 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.IMG_7976.JPG 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.IMG_8119.JPG

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. IMG_8148.JPGOn 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.IMG_8187.JPG 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!IMG_8164IMG_8198IMG_8203IMG_8217IMG_8232IMG_8245

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!

 

 

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Final Stop…FIJI!!!

Wow that was a blur…well kind of. We arrived from Vanuatu so pumped to see what Fiji had to offer and it did not disappoint! We spent a couple nights on Nadi where we met up with our local Fijian contact, Ian Muller. When I had asked Nev if he had a good contact in Fiji for us to work with he said Ian is the man! When I saw him for the first time I thought this guy is the real deal. By the real deal I mean he is as local as they come and proud of his roots to the Fijian culture and surfing. We chatted outside the Fiji Club Resort getting to know each other.IMG_0142 He told me about how surfing came to be in Fiji and his role in helping to get it started. Ian is the founder of Fiji Surf Co., the only surf shop in Fiji. Not only do they do surf tours and lessons, but they also do all sorts of other excursions too. So basically, if you need something epic to do on the island call Ian and sort it out. And we can vouch for the quality service because we spent two days on the boat with them out at Cloudbreak surfing epic waves.

While we were chatting he talked about the idea of donating the surfboards to the Vodo Ua Boardriders Surf Club. They are a group of surfers united to make the island better with beach cleanups and getting more people into the surf culture. He assured me this was the best way to donate the boards so that the most amount of kids get to use them. We agreed.

We decided to turn over the boards in a few days after we return from Malolo, a neighboring island that we would spend three days on. So we traveled to Malolo by boat. It was about an hour boat ride from the main island.IMG_0137 The ride over was bumpy but we didn’t care. The sun was soon to set and we were out in the deep blue sea to catch it go down. I felt blessed for this moment in time.FullSizeRender-2 The next few days were spent surfing. It was our time to get some surfing in so we did two sessions a day. Basically we woke at 4:45am, surfed for four hours, ate lunch, surfed for three hours, ate dinner and went to bed by 9:00pm. FullSizeRender_1FullSizeRenderIMG_0208IMG_4751 Our last day we hitched a ride back to the main island with the Fiji Surf Co. boats and met up with Ian, Sam and Anne from Sustainable Coastlines and headed over to Ian’s place for some relaxation before we headed to the airport later that night. Sustainable Coastlines is a charity that aims to inspire, educate and enable people to look after the places we love.

At Ian’s we met his family and played a few games of pool and some ping pong. Ian also concocted up some Kava as a farewell to us. The Kava didn’t taste like much, other than some rooty water. The effect was mild and made your mouth a bit numb. After a couple of shells of Kava Ian fired up the barbecue and Sam prepped the fish he had speared earlier in the day. We ate it sashimi style. It was yummy and so was Ian’s BBQ. This was one hell of a send off. It was so nice. As the sun was setting Logan and I handed over the boards for the Vodo Ua Boardriders Club.IMG_4854 We are proud to be able to work with such great people with big hearts looking to make a positive contribution to society. And just like that our time was up and we were due at the airport. As I sit here in LAX airport waiting to go to Florida I am so happy for all the experiences we had, all the amazing people we met and the idea that we can all work together for the greater good. Now get me home so that I may share my love with my family. I miss them so much!

Portugal Stoke Mission–Blog 1 of 3

This blog is written by Kelly Kingston, STSF founder.

Our Portugal stoke mission has been on the books since February. That was a good amount of time to plan something amazing. Once a year we try to take a “bigger” trip (somewhere other than Central or South America) so this year it was Europe, our first European stoke mission. One of my partners for this trip was Joan Bergmans, an epic human I met in Bocas del Toro on a stoke mission in 2013. Since then we have done several trips together stoking out kids. Through her, Kim Hanskamp, an Amsterdam based photographer and surfer jumped on board to document the journey.

Trips like these would not be possible without the help from the community, our friends and family. For this project we have Surfr App, a West Palm Beach based crew that have created an app that allows you to log your surf sessions and find cool food and lodging options while you are on the road.  You can download the app HERE.  Nomad Surf Shop has been a great support in many of our stoke missions including this one to Portugal.  They are as local as they come.   East Coast Customs jumped on to donate some skateboards to give out to the kids we met on our journey.  They make the coolest boards on the planet.  Our other sponsors include Casual Starfish, Corey Hudson Artworks, Moana Surf,  TomTom Bandit and The Spot Beachclub along with the other usual suspects Firewire Surfboards, FCS and Sticky Bumps Wax.

Like our Peru project, we decided to ship 15 surfboards to make getting to Portugal much easier not having to lug all those boardbags. We shipped the boards in plenty of time for them to clear customs and get them to where we needed to have them by a certain time. They did make it…not quite on time…but we managed to get them in time for what mattered which was the events with the kids.

Our first project was one I had set up with Nuno Azul, founder of Janga Wetsuits (wetsuits that I have been crazy about for a few years now because of their crazy colors and good vibe about them). Nuno put me in contact with Nuno Travao, leader of the Association of Bodyboarding in Figueira da Foz. Nuno T. was the one in charge of getting the right kids to us for the surf event. And that he did.

The day I arrived I headed straight for Figueria da Foz in a taxi to meet Joan and Kim at the camp spot. We had rented an RV to make driving and sleeping super easy and also to use it as a moving billboard so that we can use it to advertise who we are and who are sponsors are. It seems to work well.43Photo by Kim Hanskamp

It rained the whole way to the campsite. I was super bummed because our event would be taking place just a couple hours after I got there. But after I arrived and unpacked a few things the sky started to clear. We were stoked! Nuno A. from Janga came over and picked us up and took us to the event spot. Right away we started stickering up the surfboards with our sponsor stickers and suited up.IMG_9148 Kids started showing up one by one and we were introduced to them all by Nuno T. Soon enough we were down on the sand with the kids stretching and getting ready for some good vibes in the water. 12094998_1186736688008685_5408196666559623727_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp12068956_1186736638008690_4306971057991457365_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp

Only a few of the kids who showed knew how to surf already so it was really fun introducing this sport to some newbies. The kids took to the water like fishes and instantly started popping up and riding waves. You could literally see the lightbulbs turn on for them. It is the best part of the job!12109840_1186736898008664_4465886791606094093_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp 12141175_1186736994675321_5830156544400576089_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp

After our time in the water was done we donated two boards to individual kids. The kids that had already been surfing for a little bit. We donated five Firewire Surfboards for the school so that more kids can use the boards. Also donated were Janga Wetsuits and tons of Janga swag. It was a great day!11056547_1186933781322309_8341584724489934218_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp 12109986_1186735448008809_5066616861226027044_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp 12110016_1186735601342127_2381594027239704910_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp12094914_1186735304675490_4346063194776211121_oPhoto by Kim Hanskamp

Huge thanks go out to Nuno Azul and Nuno Trovao for organizing the day so that the kids would have a great time.

Nicaragua 2014-Follow Up Trip

Nicaragua has been one of our most favorite places in the world for years. We fell in love with southern Nicaragua many years ago. Until last year, we had never traveled to Northern Nicaragua and when we did, we fell in love all over again. Since our epic trip last year we have gotten many updates about the kids and their progress. The guys at El Coco Loco kept telling us how the kids surfing have really improved since we donated 10 new Firewire’s last year. Needless to say we were ecstatic to get there and see for ourselves.

Accompanying me on this trip is Kerri Smith, a friend of mine who was one of our sponsors for the South Africa stoke mission. She has been a supporter of STSF for several years. When my original traveling partner backed out of the trip, I knew I must get Kerri on board. I asked, she thought for about a nano second and said yes. I was stoked!

Saturday came and I picked Kerri up and we sped on off to the Miami airport. We made our flight with no problems. Even our boards made it to Nicaragua without a scratch. Our driver was waiting and soon enough all the kids boards were secured to the top of the van and we were headed towards Coco Loco. It was about a four-hour adventure full of several stops, erratic drivers and gorgeous views of the volcanoes. We were really hoping to catch a surf session before dark and between the rain squalls. Luckily, we arrived, grabbed a board and sped off to the surf.

Later that night we had our first epic meal of coconut curry, rice and vegetables accompanied by a delicious coffee cake with ice cream. photo 1-3Over dinner we talked a lot about how tomorrow would shake out. Because tomorrow was Sunday it forced us to have the smaller kids tournament since they would be heading to school on Monday. Once we agreed on everything and dialed in the plan we headed to our casitas and drifted off to sleep by 9:30.

Sunday morn came early. The sun is up already by 5:30am. We headed to the community area for some coffee and breakfast and soon enough the kids were here. I saw a lot of familiar faces. It is wild to see what a year can do to people. Young kids now seemed older and mature and some of the babies had turned into kids. The kids were all smiley and super stoked about the big day. After all they would be competing for a new surfboard. Most of the competitors have only been surfing for a year. They have learned to surf by using the library board system (LBS) that we set up last year. This is a program where kids can use the boards based on their performance in school and their community. Most of these kids are products of the LBS. It is awesome to know that systems and projects put into place last year are thriving and prosperous.

We all walked down to the point where the contest would go down. Kerri was chosen to be a judge while I captured the event on film. We had nine kids show up wanting to compete so we broke them up into two initial heats and then the top three and two from those heats move on to the finals where a winner would be crowned. IMG_3877The first heat kicked off and the kids were out of the gate ripping.IMG_3885 You can always see a kids potential as soon as they are up and riding on a wave and there were several kids with loads of talent. 10533093_1459344474335604_5824958166111168695_n10460679_1459342401002478_8103973840617386910_nDuring the finals I stepped away from behind the lens and grabbed the gopro and fins and swam out to get some action shots of the kids close up. It is always fun to be in the water with the kids yelling for them to GO! As the finals came to a close we all headed back up to Coco Loco for a delicious breakfast for all the kids and spectators of pancakes, fruit and passion-fruit juice. We also crowned the winner with a brand new Tomo Firewire. Luis was so stoked and the smiled proved it.10346112_1459344917668893_2481343539764177031_n Second and third place also got some boards. After the ceremony all the kids were sizing up their boards and the smiles were flowing.IMG_3966

As the buzz wore off we headed down for a surf to cool off.

We now had a couple of days before the next surf contest for the community. We spent those days surfing, sightseeing and relaxing.photo-121photo 1-4photo 2-6photo-120photo-122 It was so awesome every time we surfed we were usually surrounded by kids on Firewire boards, some from this year and most from last year. I remember one evening in particular that everyone had gotten out of the water except me which freaks me out a bit. I saw some locals surfing the point about 500 yards away. I decided to paddle down to surf with them to keep from surfing alone. I had never met these guys before but they were eager to share their waves with me. About thirty minutes before dark I saw a kid on the beach walking down with a board under his arm. Even from so far away I could see that it was a Tomo (futuristic Firewire shaped board) and I knew instantly that it was Luis who had won the juniors event. I was stoked. He paddled out and I paddled in to where he was so I could chat with him to see if he liked his new board. Needless to say, he loved it and his enthusiasm proved it. He caught wave after wave. It seems so easy for these kids to catch waves. They just paddle and go. I got a few waves and surfed until I couldn’t see and said goodbye to my surf buddy and headed back to camp.

One of the other highlights of our trip was a trip to Telica, an active volcano. Rumor had it that you could literally walk to the edge of the crater. I was pumped. We made the hour and a half trek to Leon where we sat and had a drink and bite to eat and checked emails for the first time of the trip. After we organized pickups for when we arrive in Miami we shut down the phones and jumped in a 4×4 customized to seat 10 people in the back along each window.photo-119 The first 45 minutes or so of the adventure was on a dirt road that seemed to me to be an old riverbed. As we slowly ascended the ride got bumpier and bumpy turned into super rocky and sometimes steeply inclined. All of us in the back seat were getting jostled around and were bumping into each other. It was pretty fun, especially the part like being packed in there like sardines sweating our behinds off. After an hour and a half we made it to the farm-house. When I say farm-house, my first instinct is to think of a super nice house sitting atop a large field with flowers and animals running freely. This was not that kind of setting but had a beauty in its own way. As soon as we pulled up the folks living there all came out to see us. There was probably at least 10-15 people living in what seemed to be a one or two room house of the very basic variety. There were several dogs barking loudly and a momma cat with some babies hanging around as well. We quickly made a pit stop to the out house to where on our way we noticed a large pig eating a sort of hodgepodge kind of meal in a bowl. This place was feral and I loved it. I appreciate the lack of sophistication and modernization that I find on almost all of the trips I go on. I love seeing how others live their lives. I appreciate the simplicity that I see or what I make up in my mind that life is like in Nicaragua. I wonder if they see it as simple or if life is a burden and super hard to make enough to support their basic needs. I feel a bit of envy as I see how they live with so little and they are happy. It is a reminder that things will never make me happy. For me it is experiences, fleeting moments that remind me that life is precious and to take nothing for granted. It is a reminder to seize every moment, laugh, make jokes and spend time with people who you love. Okay enough with all that☺ Our guide Freddy led the trek and we all followed suit. At times the hike was mellow and sometimes it got a little steep. We were all definitely huffing and puffing at times. As we came out of the trees and got pretty high up you could see in pretty much all directions except in the direction of the volcano because it was so high. We took some photos and oohed and ahhed.photo 2-5 We kept on and headed up the trail towards the big plume of steam that was being emitted from inside the huge crater. Soon enough we were right at the crater and it was a super eerie feeling. We knew this volcano was active and it was producing this loud noise from within.photo 4-2photo 3-3 To the bottom It was 130 meters I had heard someone say. You couldn’t really see the bottom too well because of all the steam. It was also hard to breathe from the sulfur in the air it was constantly producing. You could have literally jumped into it of you had wanted to. There were no guard rails. photo 5-3photo-118It was super scary. After we had our fill of the sulfuric air we trekked over to the side of it and posted up to catch the sunset. We sat around talking and laughing with our buddies from Paris, Kelly and Lorenzo, who were also staying at Coco Loco. Unfortunately, the sunrise didn’t produce anything to write home about. When it was pretty dark we walked back over to the crater to look inside to see if we could see any lava. We did!!! We were all super stoked. They had told us we probably wouldn’t see any because of the steam that is produced by water and heat combining. Because it is rainy season the volcano stays very steamy. We couldn’t see a ton of lava but we definitely saw several patches. Finally it was time to get back down to the farm-house.photo 1-5 Freddy asked if we had flashlights with us. Ooops! We didn’t bring any which made for a tricky descent down the volcano. Funny enough the only one that fell was Freddy☺ Before we knew it we arrived at the farmhouse where the whole family was hanging around ready to serve us a traditional Nica meal of rice, beans and egg.photo 2-7 I’m pretty sure that I was the only one who didn’t mind the meal:) It certainly wasn’t five star but it certainly filled our bellies. We made it back to Coco Loco around 9:30 pm which was the latest any of us had been up since we had arrived. It was our big night out☺

The next morning was the older boys contest. We had heard that the swell was supposed to be bigger that day so that is why we chose that day. Well, mother nature forgot to produce for the event. There were waves but it wasn’t ideal for a competition where a bunch of guys were ready to strut their stuff. We had about 25 guys compete. They were all pumped. Ben had told me they have been talking about the competition for about eight months now. I know that the competition is one of the things that is most important to them.photo 3-4photo 4-3 photo 5-4 Ben, Kerri and Earl were the judges of this event and were like old pros scoring the guys on their waves. I videoed the guys and tried to capture the moment that is so important to this community. By about noon the contest was over and we caught a ride back to Coco Loco where there was full on pancake feeding frenzy in full swing. The top four boys would get to pick which Firewire board they would receive and if any of them had won a board last year they could take a new one or keep their old one. If they took a new one they had to donate their old one to the surfboard library. Ben called out the boys starting with fourth place up to first. First place got first pick. They all grabbed the ones they wanted. They would pick them up and get a good feel before carefully selecting the perfect stick.IMG_4397 It is awesome seeing these guys get a new board, something that we can experience over and over again in the states but they will most likely never have that experience other than when we come to town. It feels nice to be able to give the gift of surfing. It is the essence of what we do. We love to reward good kids with amazing boards. All of the guys in the contest had to volunteer at the local high school for a minimum number of hours to earn their entry into the contest. They also had to show up and support the younger boys during their event as well. After spending a week there you get to know the guys and see how they are a gentle group. I watched them all surfing just having the best time hooting and hollering us into waves. Once again, this was an amazing trip full of adventure, barrels, love and making new friends. There is never a bad trip, they are always amazing and that is because we always meet the right people and are in the right place at the right time. Thank you Nicaragua for sharing your culture, love and plentiful waves. See you in 2015!

Peru and the Crew!

Peru is bueno! We just got back and we are so inspired by the people we met on our trip. Besides the people we were blown away by the fact that the Nothern part of Peru was so dry and desolate.photo-181photo-197 Talk about wide, open spaces. It was such a nice change from what we are used to. Prior to traveling we had teamed up with Chicama Surf Resort and Carlhey Bolz, a Peace Corp. ambassador for Peru. The crew for this trip was Melissa Diamond of Surf Sisters and Water Women based in Cocoa Beach and Joan Bergmans, co-owner of Mono Loco Surf School in Bocas del Toro, Panama and Kelly Kingston of STSF. We all met in Bocas del Toro this past January on our very first stoke mission. Since then STSF has gotten to work with Melissa a few times at some of our local surf events but haven’t seen Joan since January. We were all looking forward to the sweet reunion. This stoke mission was perfect because we had three of the most stoked women who love to share surfing on board to make it happen.

Soon after we arrived at the surf resort we were introduced to the key players and we had a meeting that evening with Carlhey Bolz from the Peace Corp, Rose Bolz, and Ralph and Junior from Chicama Surf Resort to discuss the big beach event for the kids. We came up with a solid plan and we were all stoked for the event to get started.

We were warned about the weather playing a major factor in the number of kids that would show up for the event. It gets really cold in Peru not to mention the water temp is about 64 degrees. We were also warned that the kids would probably not be on time and they would probably arrive at 12:30 not 12:00. We had expected a maximum of 30-40 kids for the event. When we woke up the sun was already out and shining bright. It was going to be a beautiful day.photo-199 Our crew went down to Malabriga Surf School to set up at 10:30 and there were already about 20 kids hanging around waiting for the event. We were stoked! They all greeted us with hugs and kisses.photo-188photo-189 We knew that this day was going to be amazing. We got our chores done and started up an impromptu soccer game with the kids who arrived early. It was pretty cool watching all the kids participate. We even started a little group for the girls who were a bit more shy to kick a ball around and interact.photo-182 Kids just kept on arriving and before we knew it we had 100 kids ready for the event. Trying to keep track and count all these little bodies was quite interesting but we figured out a system that would tell us which kids were there and participated in the beach cleanup. We made sure those kids were the first ones to enjoy a delicious BBQ after the clean-up. We had all of them working together, collecting trash, plastics and cans from Chicama’s Beach. photo-183 There is a major disconnect in Peru about keeping places free from trash. Some of our volunteers had to explain that it was okay to keep sticks, rocks and shells on the beach and that we had to put only items that are not natural in the bag for disposal. It is wild to watch people just take their trash and throw it out the window or on the beach. This is why it is important for us to get to educate the younger generation and explain to them the problems pollution and trash causes. We taught them to protect their playground and don’t destroy what they came to enjoy.

After the cleanup we decided to go ahead and have the kids enjoy the delicious BBQ. The guys who volunteered to cook did an amazing job. They had to keep calling out for people to go and get more chicken since we only planned on having 30-40 kids.photo-184 After an hour or so all the kids were full and ready to hit the water. We thought for sure we would lose some of the kids after the food but they all hung around for the best part of the day; the surf lessons. Junior Canchumanya Maxuca of Chicama Surf Resort led the kids through the surf theory, explaining to them about how to pop-up on your board.944266_683231958359163_1933922833_nGOPR1531 We had him in the center of a gigantic circle with kids everywhere so that he could easily be seen. Finally after the instruction it was time to get into the water with the kids. We had five instructors in the water and all the kids were lined up on the beach for their first lesson. It was a well-oiled machine. Each kid got at least two waves and then the next kid would run down for their two waves.Screen shot 2013-07-23 at 1.05.22 PMScreen shot 2013-07-23 at 1.03.25 PM The kids even tried to fool us and get back in line for more waves. We were on to them☺ We wish we could have given every kid 10 waves but we couldn’t. As you can see in the pics the kids didn’t have any wetsuits so they were in the cold water but didn’t care because they were surfing. It took over an hour and half to get all the kids surfing the waves and it was so awesome to see their faces and smiles. Some kids stood and some fell. Both were so entertaining to watch. After the surf lessons went down it was time to give out the Firewire Surfboards to the kids. The kids that were chosen were kids that were in school and leaders amongst their peers. We gave eight boards out to kids there and they were so stoked to finally have their own real surfboard.photo-192 _MG_2009We love stoking out kids with boards. We left the event feeling so amazing and grateful for the opportunity to get to work with these kids. They were AWESOME! We were exhausted that night but at the same time stoked that we would get to surf with them the next day.

We met back over at the surf school at 10 am on Sunday. The kids were swarming and happy to see us again. It was a super nasty day out and cold. Luckily we had brought five wetsuits to donate to the kids and they definitely needed them. Some of the suits were way too big for the kids but they made it work. It was pretty cute. If you are traveling to Chicama any time soon or ever for that matter, please take wetsuits with you to donate. The cold water keeps kids out of the water there. After all the kids got suited up in the wetsuits it was time for a fun surf. The kids that we gave boards to had obviously surfed before and showed us their moves. _MG_2197_MG_2158_MG_2105_MG_2256Some would go out to the big break and catch some of the bombs while others would stay in close with us and let us help them get into waves. It was so fun to be in the water with them as they were all trying to impress us and do their best. After a couple of hours the kids got cold so we went on back to the surf school to warm up. Getting to surf with the kids is always the highlight of every trip.

The rest of the trip we spent surfing and spending time in town. It was pretty awesome and we felt like celebrities. Everywhere we went we knew someone and would huddle in the street and talk story. We always seemed to run into the kids while we were out and they always greeted us with kisses on the cheek.photo-195 We all felt so at home and were treated like family at the Chicama Surf Resort. Before we had even left we were planning our 2014 stoke mission back. The last day we were all a bit sad knowing that we had to catch a plane at midnight that night so we decided to get a last evening surf session on. On our 20 minute walk to the point Kelly managed to stubb her toe on a rock and break it. There were no tears shed just some painful grimaces. Being that we were so far away from the resort the only way to get back was to paddle out and catch a ride back down. Our plan was to all catch rides down so that we could help her out of the water and get a ride up. We were in the lineup for about 30 mins when Kelly disappeared. After we all met on the beach she talked about catching the longest ride of her life on her stomach. She was stoked! We called for help and a rickshaw came barreling down the beach to get her.photo-194 They loaded her up and hauled her off to the doctor to get some help with the toe. Talk about going out in style. We caught a few more waves and then went and packed it all up to close out our Peru stoke mission. If one word could describe the trip I think it would have to be FAMILY.photo-196 Before we knew it we were back home.

More love from Colombia

The second leg of our Colombia impact for our 100 Board Project took place in a sleepy little town called San Bernardo del Viento. SBDV is about a six hour drive south from Cartagena. About a year ago a man named Miguel Hernandez reached out to Share The Stoke Foundation to see about getting some boards for the kids in that area. Naturally, we want to help the people who reach out for support. Over the span of about a year we planned an impact mission. Miguel has been heavily involved with the children in this area of Colombia for many years. He runs a program called Guardianes de Naturaleza. It is a comprehensive education program that teaches young people to preserve their environment and become conservation leaders. They mainly work in critical coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves and tropical dry forest. We thought this is the perfect match for us to team up with them. Not only are we interested in getting kids in the water surfing but also to protect our oceans and surrounding areas.
We had a small snaffu with customs and our donation surfboards getting stuck. We ended up having to rent surfboards to take with us to SBDV instead of taking our own. There is much more to the story but ultimately we did get the boards out and get them to the kids of SBDV. After we packed the car me, Miguel and Nestor, a local Colombian and friend of Miguel made the long journey to the Caribbean town. nestorI was really sad that it got dark on us because there was so much to see on the drive. I love adventure and we were having lots of it. photo-63

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photo-91We made it to SBDV where we picked up Vidal Bautista, a community leader who is involved with Guardianes de Naturaleza and making sure the children in the area have activities to keep them occupied. We drove another mile or so where we ended up at this huge compound kind of place right on the ocean. photo-64Again, I was really sad it was dark because I knew the beauty of where we were. Vidal welcomed us and showed us to our rooms and I quickly put my things down and went back outside to take in the windy, salty air. I could see the ocean and see the waves and was very excited to see them during the daylight hours. After a bit of planning we decided to get some sleep. The next day we woke up and had some coffee. photo-65

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photo-69They all made fun of me for wanting milk with my coffee. They laughed every time I asked for the leche. We had arepas to eat which are a fried, corn meal delight filled with an egg. They grew on me (since then I have made them three times in Florida trying to figure out how to get that stupid egg into the arepa).

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Nestor and I spent a couple of hours that morning working on his English and me working on my Spanish. It was great and I think I learned more Spanish in those two hours than I have my whole life. Finally we decided to get moving and went for a two-mile walk down the beach to Miguel’s beach hut where we enjoyed coconuts and just hung around. photo-70

photo-72I even got into the water and caught a couple of waves. The waves were not huge or anything but they were fun and totally rippable. Miguel’s place was so rustic and so perfect. This would be an ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle that I sometimes trap myself in. I was getting ancy because I knew that when we got back to the compound we would have about 20-30 kids there waiting on us to learn the sport of surfing. As we were approaching I could see all of the people hanging out waiting for us. When we walked up I was introduced to the crowd. There were probably 25 kids and many of their dads there for the surf instruction. After the meet and greet Nestor, Miguel and I sat down for a nice meal while we put on a surf DVD for the kids to see. photo-73This was the kids first introduction to surfing. They had never seen or heard of it before. The kids were quietly watching and I was eager to get started. Miguel first talked with them and introduced Share The Stoke Foundation. Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 11.46.59 AMFrom there I took the reigns and chatted while Miguel translated to them in Spanish. After going over proper care of a surfboard, water safety and the amazing things surfing can bring it was time to get down to the mechanics. We all gathered around in a circle on the sand. We were all on our bellies, even the dads, paddling and practicing our pop-ups and ride. Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 11.38.32 AMWe did this a few times before we headed out to the ocean. Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 11.40.36 AMThere were some sizable waves on the outside so for safety reasons we stayed close to shore. We took the kids one by one to the surf. It was quite interesting giving lessons to these kids. Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 11.43.01 AM

Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 11.45.07 AMBecause they had never seen the sport before they didn’t know how to get on the board or lay on it or any of it. It was so cool. When I realized the impact of what we were doing here I was blown away. We had just introduced the amazing sport of surfing to a place on earth that had never seen it before. It still blows me away. A couple of the kids were pretty good right off the bat. No one got any super long rides but they got to their feet quickly. We surfed until the sun left the sky. I am clear based on all of the smiles that the kids were super happy. photo-75We created the Club de Surfistas del Viento. The kids were stoked to become part of the club. DSC_0326 (1 of 1)Local man, Vidal will keep the surfboards at his house and the kids can come by on a daily basis and check them out to go and surf on. It is a first come first serve basis. After their session they will return the board back to Vidal. We are very stoked to have this program running with the help of Vidal making sure all the kids get a chance to use the boards. Thanks STSFDSC_0180 (1 of 1)

Valeria BravoAnother key person in this program is Cesar Nisperuza. He is the teacher at the local school. He is totally on board of getting the kids involved in surfing. He has agreed to show surfing DVD’s to them at the school. We went to bed that night feeling so inspired and touched by the kids and the parents that came out to the surf event.
The next day we hopped in a boat and headed over to Isla Fuerte. This a small island where Miguel knew lots of people. photo-71

We met up with Raul, a friend of Miguel’s. He was like the mayor of the place. photo-79He knew everyone and they all seemed to adore him. He is friendly, happy and outgoing. We placed our order for lunch. I opted for the lobster, they boys wanted fish. We then walked around the little island looking at things. photo-88photo-82

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photo-77It was quaint and very cool and lots to see. I loved the fact that there were no cars on this island. photo-9Soon after our walk we got on the boat and went up to the point where there is the lore of this perfect left hand reef break. I was excited to get into the water and surf. Obviously I like to surf everywhere so the option to have a new wave is always enticing. We pulled up and Raul was saying “should have been here last week”, words a surfer never wants to hear. He was saying it’s too small. I was thinking buddy you don’t know Florida. I jumped off the boat and went and got about 20 perfect lefts over shallow reef. They were small but they were perfect. I would hate to see that wave on a big swell. You can see the teeth just under the surface just waiting to gnash you up. I was stoked on the waves and got back in the boat! Nestor was getting sea sick so it was time to get to dry land. Soon after we got back lunch was served and oh my goodness was it amazing. photo-78We sat, ate and I listened to them all speak spanish catching about every third word but I didn’t care. I felt so immersed in the culture and their life and I was loving every minute and every experience. We hugged Raul and his crew and we hopped back on the boat and made the 45 min ride back to SBDV. When we arrived there was about 30 minutes of light left so I decided to grab the board and go get a couple more waves. As I was out there taking in all of the scenery I noticed two boys on the shore playing around. I paddled in and asked them if they wanted to surf. They said yes! I took them out and pushed them into some waves. Then they started pushing each other into the waves. I left and went and sat and watched them surf until you could no longer see. They came up the beach and they were smiling ear to ear. photo-80This is what surfing is about! Smiles and milking every last bit of daylight out of the day to get one more wave. The guys decided that we would have a bonfire later so they all went and collected wood. Later on with a few of the kids we lit it up and sat around. It was pretty awesome sitting there in another part of the world with local people who I had not known before the trip. We had bonded and created a magical few days for the kids and for us. I felt so good.photo-81
The next day was our departure day and we all seemed a bit down knowing that we were leaving this magical place. photo-10We slowly made our way back to Cartagena making many stops along the way as if to prolong our adventure. photo-83photo-86

photo-84I think the drive took us about ten hours. We finally made our way to a hostel where I would post up for the night. Me, Miguel and Nestor all said our thank you’s and goodbyes. They left and I went to bed. The next morning I woke up sad to leave but super stoked to get back asap!photo-92 Colombia was amazing! I cannot wait to go back and see the kids ripping on the surfboards. Thank you Colombia!

CHOCO, CHOCO, CHOCO!

Wow!  I suppose that word could sum it all up.  We made our way to the Choco region of Colombia where we caught a boat ride over to El Cantil Ecolodge.  Memo, the owner of El Cantil was ready and stoked for our visit.  We had met Memo from a gentleman named Ryan Butta.  Ryan had reached out to Firewire about a year ago asking for some support with surfboards for this area of Colombia.  Naturally, we were eager to jump on this adventure and make this happen for the kids of Termales town. 

We were blown away by the beauty of this area.  I think I must have said oh my god it’s so beautiful here dozens of times.  The beauty is endless.  We stayed in a killer bungalow perched between the jungle and the ocean.  photo-45The bungalows were quaint but well equipped with beds with mosquito nets, a bathroom and kerosene lanterns for when the sun went down.  I slept so peacefully and would wake up naturally to the sound of either the rain, the birds or the ocean.  It was pure bliss.

Our first full day we walked an hour to the town Termales to get a feel for the area we would be impacting the following day.  We met some of the local people and spent some time looking around.  I was so impressed with how this little town was so clean.  You could tell that they valued their homes.  After looking around for a bit we visited this cool cave littered with bats that would fly right at you.  They would get so close that you could feel them fly past your face.  In the same area there was a natural warm spring.  We got in and played around a bit before we headed back on our trek to El Cantil.  Like most evenings, us and the other guests had a big dinner and sat around and chatted.  The food here was fresh, healthy and delicious.

We woke the next day and I could feel the excitement of knowing that in a few hours we would be impacting kids with surfboards in an area of the world that is often forgotten about.  Getting surfing equipment in Choco is practically non-existent.  Memo and Tello had quite a list for us with kids names, ages, attitudes and surfing experience.  photo-46Screen shot 2013-03-04 at 1.13.58 PM
Tello is an employee of El Cantil who volunteered to be the mentor of all the kids in town that get surfboards.  photo-44This is a big responsibility and he took it on as if he was being called to do it.  Tello lives in the town Termales and knows all the kids so he was a big help in deciding who should receive a board.  After an hour or more of discussion we all agreed we had picked the right kids.  We spent the next hour getting the boards ready putting the traction pads and fins on.

Finally the time had come to go stoke out the groms.  photo-38We all boarded a boat and were in town in 20 minutes where all the kids came out to greet us.  You could see the excitement all over their faces.  We spent about an hour talking to the kids about the importance of community and taking care of one another.  Screen shot 2013-03-01 at 7.22.49 PMWe also formed the Surfing Club of Choco while we were there.  These groms that agreed to be in the club are part of the 5th area in the Surfing Federation of Colombia.  photo-39

The Surfing Club of Choco will now be able to compete in contests against kids in other regions of Colombia.  They were stoked to be in this club and to “be on the map”.  Finally, we awarded the boards to some of the kids who are positive members of their communities.  photo-41We look for kids who are in school, have a good attitude and are interested in surfing.  This trip was unique because there were a few recipients who deserved boards so some of the kids get to share a board between them.  There were a handful of girls who were awarded a board only to be used by the girls.  Because the boys never let the girls borrow their boards because of a shortage of boards, we declared the board with the pink traction pad to be a “girls only” board.  Any boy seen on this board would have to report to Tello.  photo-42We got to surf with the kids after the board distributions and some of them RIP!  This one kid named Jeifer was killing it out there.  He would paddle out farther than all the other kids and would snag wave after wave.   We got lots of cool footage of this grom shredding.   We even saw the chicas standing up and riding.  It was a beautiful day capped off with an amazing sunset.

Our time in Choco was running out and we were sad but very excited about the next leg of our trip to impact more groms.  Finally, our time was up and we got on the boat and headed back to the port.  On the ride back all I kept thinking about was how good it feels to make an impact and just how easy it is and an overwhelming sense of wanting to share all of the amazing things I just witnessed with everyone.  Choco we cannot wait to return!  THANK YOU!