Well Peru was incredible…as usual. On this trip was myself, Gabriel (the first STSF intern), Jeanine from Domical Waverider Surf Camp and her husband Andrew, Kerri Smith, STSF Board Member and lawyer extraordinaire and my biggest supporters, Neily and Anela.
This trip was already set to be one for the books based on the fact that I got to bring my almost four year old on a Share The Stoke mission for the first time. I was so excited to see how she would participate. It was pretty cool to watch and I will go into more of that later.
Like most times traveling to Chicama, we usually end up with an overnight in the Lima airport. Well finally this year, after all the years sleeping on the floor at the airport, I discovered there was a hotel attached to the airport that you could walk to. GAME CHANGER! No more floors, no more guarding bags while you sleep and no more security guards harassing you for sleeping on the floor and blocking walkways.
Leading up to this trip, Gabriel spearheaded a wetsuit drive with Nomad Surf Shop, a local surf shop in Florida who have always been very supportive of STSF. With their help and few posts to social media we were able to score over 50 wetsuits for the kids. This is critical for them as the water hovers in the 50’s for many months of the year.
Once we arrived we went straight out for a surf despite being supremely tired from waking up at 4am to catch a flight. The waves were super fun which was great because after that sesh it got super small for the rest of the trip except for the day we left.
That evening the Chicama Surf Team showed up and surprised us with a huge welcome that included a small kid on the team jumping out of a giant gift box and flossing. It was unreal.
It was interesting to see how the team has morphed over the years. Some years they would have all girls on the team. One year they had one boy with them. This year they had a few girls and a few boys. We got introductions from all of them. They are so cute and seem to be truly happy to be on the surf team.
My kid, Anela, was a bit overwhelmed by the whole scene at first with the kid popping out of giant box and firework type noise makers going off. I think she was confused about what could be going on. As time passed on that evening with the kids she became more and more interested in them and playing with them. They were all very interested in her as I don’t think they get to see, much less spend time with many light skin babies rolling through Puerto Malabrigo.
We had a few down days before the big event so we spent them riding tiny waves, playing with dogs on the beach, swimming, eating and socializing with the kids and other people we met on the trip and organizing all of the gear and supplies that we brought for the kids and Peruvian families.
What I was starting to notice about Anela was that she wanted to be a part of all the organizing and getting stuff together for the kids. She really loved helping and spending time with me doing what I love which is of course a heart melter.
This year we had two special guests show up to support our event and help out. One was Natalie from Groundswell and one was a local from Huanchaco named Javi. STSF and Groundswell have partnered up in the past to donate boards to the Groundswell programs in Huanchaco, Peru and in Cuba. Javi runs his own surf club in Huanchaco and inspires the youth there. We all had a nice lunch together before we made our way down the beach to do our giant beach cleanup. After it was all said and done we had a solid group of kids show up. Not bad for a late Friday afternoon. This year was the cleanest we have ever seen the beach and the kids were amping on getting out there to see how much garbage they could find.
After the cleanup was done we circled the kids up while Javi led the kids through stretching and surf lessons. The Chicama locals volunteered to help and pushed the kids into the waves. Also, we witnessed a record number of locals showing up and giving back to this event this year. It is a good sign and a good direction we are heading. I suppose the next step is to have them do this at least a few times before we show up and do our big event.
The kids surfing were doing awesome. You always get several kids who really show promise and the desire to keep going. Likely we will see them next year shredding when we return. After the kids got their last waves we ran up on the hill where we passed out a meal for the participants and a little gift we had for them. Of course Anela was elbow deep in the doling out of goodies. It was a great day!
Later that night we had a movie night for the kids and locals at Chicama Surf Resort. It was about the protection of the waves in Peru and how some had been destroyed. It was pretty good and informative of what can happen to our precious resources if people don’t become stewards and fight for them. At the end Jeanine spoke about pollution, plastics and how to start introducing ways to eliminate the use for plastics. She even brought some bamboo straws for each of the kids to start using.
The next day was contest day. This day is always the best as we get to watch the kids showcase their skills. They always show up big too as there is a lot on the line. We had three divisions all competing for brand new Firewire Surfboards and gear from FCS and Sticky Bumps. Andrew, Myself and Gabriel all got to be judges. Of course, Anela had to be in the mix too. She would shout out which color was up and riding…a perfect job for a person with young eyes.
Neily, Kerri and Jeanine all worked to run the contest smoothly and organized prizes and make sure everyone had water or food if they needed. At the end of the day everyone was stoked. Every kid that competed got stoked out with some really great stuff and as a thank you we were all greeted with Chicama doing its finest sunset we had seen the whole trip.
The next day the waves came up a bit and we surfed in the morning and flew out that night. It was a successful trip. We donated 12 surfboards to the locals, 50 wetsuits, booties, shirts, boardshorts, hats, gear, etc. to the people of Chicama. We would like to send out a massive thank you to everyone who helped support this trip by donating gear, wetsuits, made a donation, volunteered their time or sent us good vibes on our mission.
One last note…I am so grateful to have been able to take my kid to Peru on a stoke mission. Peru has always been one of our most favorite places and when we go we feel like we are at home. I loved seeing her mix it up with the locals. I was so proud of her for getting right in there and telling me every time that she wanted to be a part of something that we were doing. It was exciting to see how confident she was helping out. Her vibe was like hey I’m Anela…I’m with Share The Stoke Foundation and we are here to make a difference!
I am so thankful to the kids of Peru who loved on her and played with her and treated her like family. Until next year…stay tubed my friends!
After some relaxation the whole crew went to surf and it was one of the most beautiful breaks we have ever seen. Every surf sesh on Veymandoo required a 20 minute boat ride to a nearby break.
Of the 12 boards we brought for the kids, four boards will be used on Veymandoo. One board went directly to Shaafi, a local kid who has been progressing rapidly and shows a serious desire to shred. Another board went to the island school and two boards will be kept at the host house. Kids who participated in the program will be allowed to use the boards.
Home for a day now and what a whirlwind! This past stoke mission was to Costa Rica. Last July a gentleman that we partnered with in 2013 asked us to do an impact trip to a different place in Costa Rica with a new group. Having worked with him in the past we were stoked to do it. We organized with the leader of the group and we booked our tickets about three or four months before the trip. As time passed the trip grew closer and closer and I reached out to the organizer about a week before the trip asking for details. Long story short…she mentioned that she is no longer running the organization and it has closed. My first instinct was anger at the fact that we now had very few days to organize something else while we are there. It is always our first priority to keep our commitments with our sponsors so we needed to find a different group to make an impact with. I remembered back to 2015 when we worked with Chicas Con Proposito in Dominical. I reached out to Jeanine, co-founder of the group and told her our circumstances and asked if she would be able to organize something in such short notice with her girls. Thankfully she was so eager to help. We were grateful.
My partner for this trip was Matthew, STSF extraordinaire. Before the trip he and I brainstormed potential sponsors for this epic adventure and ended up finding some great ones. We had Southern Coast Enterprises, Bruce Celinski and Brendan Leen. Southern Coast Enterprises are known for their craftsmanship in roofing and waterproofing with competitive prices and are based in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Bruce Celinski is a Fort Lauderdale architect that specializes in high-end custom homes and commercial projects for private clients and quality builders. Brendan Leen is a local life guard based in Boca Raton who believes in our mission. With their support as well as Jetblue jumping on board with free transport of the surfboards,we were able to make a bunch of children happy.
Matthew and I arrived in Costa and spent a horrendous two hours getting through immigration and renting a car. After an hour drive we finally made it to some beautiful country scenery. Finally, I felt like I could relax. We arrived just at dark to Mavi Surf Hotel, which Jeanine had set us up at. They have been close friends and took complete care of us at their hotel. Mavi Surf Hotel is probably the cleanest hotel I have been in and I have spent a lot of time traveling and seeing lots of lodging options. They are also a short walk to open barrels galore. Aside from the epic hotel…Max and Barbara (the owners) were so nice and wanted to make our stay amazing. Every request we had they would always come through. Max even shreds in the water and we got several sessions in together.
The second day in Costa we surfed in the morning and scored perfect offshore barrels with some size. We were so happy! After checking the swell charts and talking to the locals we decided to take our chances on Pavones since we had a few days before the event. We got there and surfed some overhead nuggets that had a little wind on it. The next morning we surfed Pavones sister and had so much fun. I actually got my chancletas stolen on the beach and I was bummed until I really thought about it. I thought…jeez if you have to take someones shoes you probably really need them. I figured they needed them worse than me. I proceeded to go barefoot for the next four days until I borrowed Matthews for the flight home. Makes you appreciate shoes…especially if you have ginger feet like me.
The next few days we spent surfing and heading back to our beloved Mavi Hotel. Saturday came and we made our way over to Dominicalito for the project. We rolled up and soon after all the chicas started showing up. I recalled their faces from the last time we were with them. These girls are super timid and not very reluctant to give you their trust. I remembered some of their stories and understand why. After a bit they warmed up to us. Next the girls hit the water. I really couldn’t believe how much they have improved. The girls are standing up on almost every wave. I saw a few of them paddle into the waves themselves and catch and ride them. That always makes us so happy. We ended up donating some of the boards to the chicas and then also finding a few boys to give them to. We actually went to their houses to find them and make the donations. It was pretty fun watching the reactions. One kid was super stoked just smiling ear to ear and one kid seemed like we just told him his cat died. The other donation went to a set of three brothers who couldn’t stop smiling. It was great.The next day we headed to the airport bright and early and made our way back to South Florida. Without the support of Jetbue, Southern Coast Enterprises, Bruce Celinski, Mavi Hotel, Dominical WaveRider and Brendan Leen we would not have been able to make the impact we did. Thanks to all of those generous supporters who help us keep stoking out children all over the globe. Remember if you would like to help us keep kids off the street you can make a donation HERE.
All I can say is wow! Peru gets better every time we go there. Our trip included Gabriel Mccorry, the original intern for STSF, Matthew DeMayo who has been on several trips now with us and Carlhey Bolz, the Peace Corp volunteer who helped start the Chicama Girls Surf Team.
We arrived in Peru after a 2am flight with a connection through Lima. I was so excited to show some new people a place that I have come to love. I was also very excited to get to wear a wetsuit, a jacket and real shoes. The Florida heat gets old!
The drive to Chicama is pretty surreal. The anticipation of getting to the iconic wave is almost unbearable. I spend the entire drive wondering what it will look like as soon as we come up the hill and get our first peek of the ocean. That, coupled with scenery you might find on the moon, you stay pretty entertained.
Our first day was spent surfing then getting a massive and warm welcome by the Chicama Girls Surf Team. In 2013 we helped start a girls surf team for some of the chicas who we thought might be interested in learning to surf. Since then they have grown by leaps and bounds. They started out getting pushed into waves and now they can all catch waves on their own. They are also super unified and look after each other and the team. They are truly an inspiration to us.
Saturday was the first day of our event. We were told to cut the event off at 100 kids because we couldn’t feed more than 100. I always hope the kids turn up and get really nervous before the event. We had the girls surf team there to help us and take a leadership role in helping us execute a killer day for the kids. We ended up cutting it off with 105 kids. I was blown away! We put them into bigger groups and led a massive beach cleanup. I am always surprised at how hard these kids work and how much trash they pickup. They just keep coming back for new bags until they are all gone. It is so cool. After the cleanup we had all the kids circle up for surf lessons. This is the part of the day that usually takes the longest with the number of kids we work with. All of the kids were so stoked to get their waves. The smiles were endless and we were pumped for them. Soon after the kids chowed down on some tasty BBQ. As they got their food the girls surf team passed out the swag we had gotten donated from local companies by us in Florida. This trip we had donations from Camila Swimwear, Corey Hudson, Casual Starfish, Ron Jon Surf School, Blue Water School of Surfing and Grom Social. It was a great day.
Usually on the Sunday of our trip we put on a surf contest for the kids who are surfing pretty well. This time around we had about 50 kids come to compete. Each division winner would receive a new Firewire Surfboard with FCS gear and Sticky Bumps wax. It took us about seven hours to get it done but by the end we had the three surfboard winners and all the runners up. The kids were so happy to win boards and we were happy to give them away.
Our Monday turned out to be an epic day for great reason. We had decided that we wanted to do something special for the girls surf team so we decided to take them on a field trip to surf a new break and then to take them to Huaca El Brujo, an archaeological site built by the Moche sometime between AD 1 and 600.
We told them to be at our hotel at 630am for a 7am departure. This was certainly not the day to be running on Peruvian time (usually an hour late). As soon as they came, the bus came for all of us and we started packing the boards in which ended up taking quite a while to get them organized well enough to fit 10 people. On the way to Huanchaco we all played music and sang in anticipation. To get to Huanchaco it took us an hour. None of the girls we brought had ever been here which seems odd to us Americans being that it is only an hour away. This made the trip that much cooler and meaningful for them.
After we arrived we unpacked the bus and got all our gear ready for our surf session. There were some overhead sets for sure and some of the girls were intimidated but they all paddled out into the waves. Only a few of the girls made it out back for the set waves. Since most of them stayed inside I paddled in to be with them while Matthew was out there with Gabby, one of the top surfers on the team. At one point I got out and was walking up the beach when I looked out the back and saw Gabby on seriously the wave of the day. It was well over her head and she was high-lining down the face. I was blown away. I was so proud of her. It was like seeing my own kid catch a wave like that. I felt like my heart was going to explode!
After our sesh we took them to lunch. It was really fun interacting and getting to spend quality time with them. We all ate chicken plates and lomo saltado, a Peruvian dish that I had many times. Soon enough we headed to El Brujo to check out the ruins. The part about this leg of our field trip that was so cool was because the girls got to see the actual mummy of Seniora de Cao, a high-ranking ruler of the Chicama district that was found only 10 years ago. She was discovered wrapped in many layers of cloth, highly tattooed, found with ceremonial items as well as weapons and jewelry. I think for young girls to see that women are leaders, especially in the Chicama district, must give them a sense of confidence and pride. To be there to witness this day was and will be a memory that I will hold on to for a lifetime. What a gift it is to be able to give the girls our time and love. I am honored!
The rest of the trip we were able to donate the rest of the surfboards for a total of 12, surf, relax, eat some rally good food and have a sad goodbye with our friends at Chicama. It was an amazing time and it is more clear now than ever that we need to keep coming back to Chicama. Our work there has been great but we are not done and the girls need someone to count on and we can do that for them. We are blessed to receive their love!
Bocas del Toro has always been one of our favorite spots to go and stoke out kids. There was never a doubt that we would return in 2016. This year with me I had Tim Frater and Brion from Firewire Surfboards, our surfboard sponsor. This was the first time we have had a representative from one of our sponsors go on a stoke mission with us. I was stoked!
Tim and I met up with Brion at a hotel in Panama City. We had an over nighter and were to fly out the next morning bright and early to head to Bocas. The flight was an hour and our STSF ambassador, Juan David was there to pick us up. Juan David is owner of Mono Loco Surf School and we have always worked together to bring love and hope to local kids in Bocas. He has a huge heart for helping kids and it never stops when we leave. He is constantly stoking kids out all year long with surfboards so they can shred.
As soon as we landed we were keen to surf so we did that. We surfed Careneros, my favorite wave there. The waves were not huge but they certainly kept us entertained. Other than the surfing we did, we got the opportunity to go over to Bahia Roja and see the work that Give and Surf has been doing. Over the years they have done many projects on Bastimentos dealing with education (building two schools), community development and their youth surfing program.
Last year we donated surfboards to some of the kids in their program who showed promise and a skill for surfing. We are certainly proud to partner up with Give and Surf who is making a major impact in this corner of the world.
Another highlight from our trip is the surf contest we hosted with some other really amazing sponsors. The format was three kids on a team, an A surfer, a B surfer and a beginner. The idea was to get the kids to rally behind their friends and try and help them win a surfboard so they can take their surfing to the next level. This turned out to be a very cool format and helps kids motivate each other and for them to support each other in surfing.
The day turned out to be perfect for the contest. We were posted up at Paki Point right out in front of Tiger Tail.
The waves were not huge but perfect for all three levels of surfers. We ended up having five teams in the contest. Give and Surf brought two teams, the island of Careneros had a team and there were two teams from Isla Colon. This was a pretty good representation of the local youth surfers!
Brion, Tim and I were judges. I think this is the best job because you have to stay focused and you get to see all of the kids waves. After a few hours and lots of surfing we had the teams placed. We started out the awards by donating another two surfboards to the Give and Surf crew. This is a good fit as they take the kids surfing twice a week and need quality boards for them to ride.
Next we started in with the fourth place team who got a used board as well as third place. Second and first place teams received brand new Firewire Surfboards with FCS gear and Sticky Bumps wax. The kids were pumped! Everyone was pumped! We donated some of the new Slater Design boards which was pretty exciting too! It was a great day all around.
Later that day we made provisions for our trip on Sunday to Kusapin. Kusapin is an hour boat ride from Bocas into indigenous Ngobe Bugle land.
It is one of the coolest places I had visited so I was super excited to go back. Last year when we were there we donated surfboards and we also taught two boys how to surf. It was one of those experiences that you have and realize while you are there that you are so lucky to be able to do what you do and just hope that the kids will stick with it.
The morning of the boat ride the weather was perfect. The sun was shining and all was perfect. We high tailed it at 7 at the dock and about an hour later we were stepping off the boat and onto the dock at Kusapin.
We paid our fee to be there and for the rooms for the night. The rooms were basic accomodations…meaning a room and a bed with a sheet. That was it.
But the real beauty was the fact that these basic rooms were over the water in the bay. It was a nice view for sure.
We unloaded our stuff and locked it up and headed off across the peninsula to the other side for a surf. As soon as we walked up you could see the wind was offshore and the waves looked fun.
The water there is a nice crystal blue that is certainly pleasing to the eye. We all paddled out. About ten minutes into our session I saw two young boys standing on the beach with boards. I was wondering if it was the two boys we had taught to surf last year. Then I saw them paddling out and soon enough they were right beside us on their Firewire Surfboards we donated last year. It really was like a dream come true. They had kept on surfing and in fact were out in some pretty good sized waves. I was so stoked! There is nothing better than seeing the fruits of your labor growing and getting better. That is GOLD! We caught up with them and got waves with them and hooted and hollered. It was a fun sesh.
We went back later in the day for another sesh and just like before the kids appeared on the beach and in the lineup with us. I loved it. We had a quick sesh before we donated two more more boards. One of the smaller kids got the smallest board we brought.
He was begging us to give him the board. I have a feeling that next year he will be shredding just like the bigger boys. That whole day with the kids was amazing. It was so good to see the familiar faces and spend time with them on the beach opening coconuts and taking selfies.
We headed back across to the lodging spot. I threw up my hammock on the beams. I was determined to sleep in it right by the water.
We all ate dinner and enjoyed it. We had no electric so once the sun went down we used flashlights. That made for an easier decision to go to bed. I think I was in the hammock by 8 or so. The first hour was great until the rain started. I kept dry but the roof we were under was tin and it sounded like a war zone off and on all night. I think the locals we were with slept pretty well but us city slickers tossed and turned. I was stoked on the hammock and can’t wait to use it again!
The next day we woke and went for our last surf there and to say goodbye to the kids. The waves were bigger and PUMPING! One of the kids made it out and caught a few. It was so epic to see him charging solid, overhead, top to bottom, barreling waves. Crazy in a year how good they got!
And just like that we were back on the mainland packing up to go home. Brion left that afternoon and us the next day. We barely made our flight because of delays from our first flight. We ended up having to throw out our empty boardbags in the trash and I even had to beg and plead and cry in order for them to help us get on the flight. It was ridiculous! But we made it on with plenty of time to spare and I got to hold my baby girl Anela right on time! If you ever get a chance to go to Bocas del Toro please check out Mono Loco Surf School for all your needs and make sure to order the pulled pork sandwhich at the Hungry Monkey.
This is our third year going to Mexico and teaming up with the AHAVA Project with local Mexican, big wave surfer Coco Nogales. He and I touched base earlier in the year about how this year the project was going to be bigger and better. He said he would be inviting 35 kids this year and the event would span over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He asked how many boards I could bring and I committed Share The Stoke Foundation to donating 10 to the project.
The flight was from Miami through Mexico City and on to Huatulco. We met up with Coco at the gas station across the street from the airport and we caravanned to Barra de la Cruz, about thirty minutes or so away. We pulled off the main road to a small road that went from pavement to dirt. Soon enough we realized we were in the middle of nowhere based on no real hotels, only cabanas and no cell signal at all.
As soon as we unloaded the boards into the cabana we headed down to the beach for a surf. Right as we came over the hill we could see there was a small swell and the waves were glassy. This was a perfect way to wash off the travel funk. Later that night we had a meeting with all the volunteers and kids about the weekend activities. It was so cool to see a bunch of familiar faces and the kids were still riding Firewire Surfboards that we had donated in 2013. It was epic! After that we headed back to the cabana to get some sleep. While we were winding down we noticed some scorpions in our room. This didn’t sit well. And with the fact that our fan wasn’t working properly we decided to sleep in the car. Yeah, yeah I know that seems crazy but with being in the middle of nowhere we decided getting stung by scorpions would not pan out too well. It was a long, hot night.
The next day we met down at the beach at 630a to get started. The kids surfed, exercised and cleaned the beach. Beginner surfers got pushed into waves and the better surfers were absolutely shredding the point. While we were there we learned that this place used to be a super hot spot. They actually had a Rip Curl event here in 2006 and didn’t name the location, instead said “somewhere in Mexico”. Between some hurricanes and the people diverting the river so they could put a restaurant on the beach, the sand shifted and it hasn’t been barreling in years. It was still certainly good enough for all of us to have a field day on the right hand point.
Saturday was more of the same except for we all camped on the beach that night. It was pretty great. We got approval from the town to camp. Usually it is off limits for everyone so we felt pretty stoked to be able to sleep under the stars. The boys had a massive bonfire complete with smores and some good ole amigos singing and playing the guitar.
Sunday started out with beach yoga and some surfing. After that we donated the surfboards. The kids were pumped. There were three different areas of kids that got boards. Some went to the Barra kids, some went to the Puerto kids and some went to the San Agustin kids. It was great to spread the love amongst different communities. We are so stoked to be able to donate free surfboards to kids in communities like these where there are so many other negative options for these kids to choose. We love that they have chosen surfing and they are good surfers. They absolutely rip, even the tiny tots. I guess when you have perfect waves in your backyard it is fairly easy to be a solid surfer.
After the event we headed to Puerto Escondido to get a couple of waves before we headed back to Florida. We surfed the point which was firing. Zicatela was off its rocker and pumping. There were only a few guys out. They were riding massive guns and a few were towing in. It was heavy. You could literally feel the waves through your body when they detonated on the shore. Just watching it do its thing made my heart race. It was a sight to see. Soon enough we rushed back to the airport to make our flight and were home with loved ones with new tales to tell.