Pura Vida Chicas

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.IMG_7103IMG_7105

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.FullSizeRenderIMG_7140IMG_7158 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. IMG_7184IMG_7202IMG_7222 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.IMG_7395IMG_7428The 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.

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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!

 

 

Bocas We LOVE YOU

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.IMG_6183

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.FullSizeRender

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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.IMG_6249
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!13495552_10154417991265466_8330902722047452743_o
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. IMG_6306
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.IMG_631713517618_10154417990910466_1994780188904255868_o

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.IMG_6339
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. IMG_6353
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.13576804_10208888039898918_5275870004107035175_o
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.IMG_6358
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.IMG_6438

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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.IMG_6392

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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.IMG_6477
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.

Barra de la Cruz…Mexico

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. IMG_5369

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!IMG_5380  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.FullSizeRender copy 3

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. IMG_5390While 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.IMG_5409IMG_5420

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.IMG_5517IMG_5522IMG_5588 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.IMG_5576 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.

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!

Vanuatu Part Two // Tanna

As I sit here on a plane headed from Vanuatu to Fiji my heart is full. I mean the fullest it has ever been. I will try and describe how it all happened. Two days ago we left Port Vila and headed to Tanna Island to take part in a celebration with the people of Tanna and other NevHouse contributors. I wasn’t so sure of what to expect but I knew it would be an experience of a lifetime and one that may never come my way again. While waiting for the flight to Tanna a lot of people with the same itinerary started showing up and we just started introducing ourselves. It was there that I met Nev Hyman for the first time. He was just as gregarious as I had imagined him to be and full of life.   Soon enough I realized that we were in the company of some really great people. We met investors, shareholders, journalists, optometrists, solar experts, inventors, board of directors, architects and a photographer whose photos I have seen many times all over social media and in magazines named Ted Grambeau. Surf Journal called Ted “the master of surf photography” in 2009. Here is something to feast your eyes upon by Ted.Mark mathews  Teahupoo in to the AbyssPhoto by Ted Grambeau Photography

When we landed in Tanna, there were probably 20 or so 4×4 trucks waiting to drive us to Enkatalei Village, a bumpy hour or so drive. We ended up in the back of one of the 4×4’s with Ted. We started off and soon we were away from the airport and things just got more and more pretty.

With each kilometer passed the scenery became more lush and super green. It is hard to imagine that after the cyclone in 2015 that the entire island turned brown and that all the leaves were gone from the trees. About 45 minutes into our trip we started seeing lots of people in brightly colored garb walking in the same direction. I certainly didn’t realize they were headed to the same ceremony as us.IMG_4250 Later I found out that some of the people had walked from the other side of the island, some for at least a day to get there. Ponder that for a minute. We started seeing little huts and people coming out of them to greet us with magnificent smiles and frantic waves. Their outfits were made from local plants and trees from their villages. It was surreal.

Each minute that passed materialized into something greater than the last. We pulled into this huge clearing where there must have been two thousand people. I kept saying “where are we”? I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We jumped out of the truck and started following the masses and were greeted with a flower lei as a welcome. IMG_4256IMG_4261We were corralled onto another area that was open this time with even more people we saw than when we pulled up. It was overwhelming. About as soon as we took a seat the villagers started this massive circular dance where the men came out first then the women and children encompassed them. They sang, chanted and danced followed by running holding hands. Each tribe had 200 people in this dance. I will save you from doing the math and tell you this was a giant circle with 2400 people. While they jumped you could literally feel the ground beneath your feet shake. You could feel it through your entire body. This went on for the good part of thirty minutes.   Afterwards I was so jolted and I am not sure I have ever felt so alive.IMG_7605IMG_7652IMG_7615

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At the end of the dancing a series of men started bringing out, one by one, a live pig, root crops, kava plants and woven mats (the pillars of life in Vanuatu). I was puzzled but had a really bad feeling that something bad was going to happen to them. A translator came out into the middle of the circle and explained in English what this celebration was about. We learned that there were 12 tribes on the island who have agreed to work together as one for the betterment of the island. The gifts that each tribe brought were an offering and a a gesture to confirm their commitment of tribal unity.  It was powerful considering that these tribes had never seen each other before this great day. I won’t go into the details of the sacrifice other than to say I didn’t watch but being ringside you really could not escape it.

The Prime Minister of Vanuatu, the Tanna governor, Nev and Ken the NevHouse architect all made speeches this day. All of this was geared toward the work being done by NevHouse, which is quite remarkable how far they have come in just four years since its inception.  We got to take a tour inside the NevHouse and it was really nicely made but more important than that is the fact that it can withstand a category 5 cyclone. This means that if another cyclone ravages Tanna again, the people can take refuge in these houses built from recycled plastics. I had a chance to speak with Nev about the construction of these houses and realized that the NevHouses have the ability to clean up the planet. Nevhouse purchases recycled plastics and makes their new materials for the houses. So what if laypersons knew that if they could be paid for the plastics they use? I believe that people all over the world would be incentivized to keep their homes, streets, beaches and everywhere clean. People who cannot find the money for food would now have an occupation and a way to access the some of the basic necessities. In many places we travel I see dirty beaches, dirty towns. I see people throw an empty water bottle to the ground after they finish it. This could be a thing of the past. How cool is that? I see so many positives to the NevHouse project. It is absolutely brilliant.

The rest of the day was spent with another Kastom dance with different people. This time the people were dressed more conservative despite the bright colored attire.FullSizeRender Another highlight was being able to tour the NevHouse hospital run on solar power. It was built for everyone on the entire island, despite it being in Enkatalei Village. If you can make your way there, you were welcome.FullSizeRender-2

Later that day we met up with Simon from the Vanuatu Surfing Association over at the beach where the inaugural Tommy Tanna Nev Cup contest was happening.  The kids where strutting their stuff out in the water.  They are pretty good surfers considering they have only been surfing for a few months.2016-04-23_DSC6753Photo by Ted Grambeau Photography

At the end for the awards ceremony  Nev was talking about how cool this day was and he got a bit emotional, I was thinking thank god I am not the only one.  It is magical what he has created here with the local people and especially cool that he started the Tommy Tanna Surf Club there.  FullSizeRender copy 4IMG_4473IMG_4483The next day we ventured back over to the village to drop off some surfboards that Nev had brought with him. We were told to go back to the nakamal (the meeting spot for the people) and ask for the chief and tell him we were there to donate the boards to their people. So we did that and the chief had left for Port Vila so we gave them to the kids and for them to tell the chief.IMG_4546.JPG The kids were keen to surf so we walked down the path with them leading to the surf. IMG_4557When we got close enough you could see that a lot of the kids were already in the water surfing on their Firewire Surfboards. It was awesome.IMG_4589 We then asked if we could borrow a board so we could join them. As I was paddling out I had a strong sense of just how magical this moment was. We were in this far off land, surfing fun waves with the Tanna locals with a backdrop of the most lush, tropical setting. I was taking it all in and almost overcome with tears because of what I was getting to experience and how most people will never have this epic experience. I was grateful.

As the sun was starting to drop we packed it up and made our way back up the hill. The hill was pretty hectic so I kept making little stops to take a breather then some local girls caught up to me. We introduced ourselves. They didn’t speak much English but they kept saying “God is good, all the time”. Then I would join them and we kept repeating it. They were so sweet. One girl kept pouring out her water on the back of my legs because I was tracking mud up the backs and she wanted me to be clean. I kept thanking her but felt bad because she was using all her water for my legs.   It was a moment I will remember forever.IMG_4643

Soon enough we found our way to the truck and hopped in the back and headed off in the direction of the volcano. We were told it was the most active volcano in the world and it would erupt every four minutes. I was pretty excited to see this. On the drive out all the kids and people would run to the road to smile and wave goodbye to us.FullSizeRender copy 2FullSizeRender_1 copyIMG_4689 It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I felt overcome with love. They loved us and we loved them. It was a bittersweet drive.

Once we started getting closet to Mt. Yasur we finally caught a glimps of the volcano and holy moly it was pretty cool. You could see the smoke billowing out of the crater from afar.FullSizeRender-2 copy I was anxious to get there quick. The drive in was something out of Jurassic Park or another planet and every twist and turn got more and more exciting.IMG_4708IMG_4724 We made it to the top finally and walked the last bit in the dark with flashlights. As we were walking up we heard a huge boom then lava jolted up into the sky. I was freaking out. Once at the summit you could see into the bottom and see the lava. Sure enough about every five minutes or so there was a loud boom and lava would go flying up into the air. It was amazing to see and to feel it too. It made for an epic end to our time on Tanna.2016-04-24_TED5705Photo by Ted Grambeau Photography

Tanna is probably the most welcoming place I have ever been. The people are so full of love and willing to open their hearts to you if you do the same. Tanna was an experience of a lifetime!

Vanuatu Part One // Port Vila

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.IMG_4102 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! IMG_4165Three 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!FullSizeRender_1FullSizeRender copyThe 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!