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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The Heart of Haiti

This is written through the eyes of our favorite STSF blogger, Melissa Diamond.

One purpose of Share the Stoke Foundation is to impact the places we go for the better, and while we hope we did this in Kabik Beach, Haiti, they left our own souls transformed and affected more than we imagined possible.

This Share the Stoke project was significant because it marked many firsts for the foundation- the most obvious being it was our first trip to Haiti. Jetblue was the first airline to sponsor a trip by waiving the fee of transporting the surfboards we donated. Traveling with surfboards is cumbersome and costly, and after spending thousands of dollars over the years to get the boards to the countries they are donated, it is huge to have an airline’s support! This was also the first trip where a family of four was part of the team. The head of the family, JoAnna Alidu, played a key role as our French speaking connection and organized much of the trip. Most importantly, this trip kicked off the opening of the very first surfing school/club in Haiti, and it was an honor for Share the Stoke Foundation to be a part of history.

We arrived early on Friday, October 10th and were met by Christophe of Surf Haiti. The journey south to Jacmel, the most consistent surf spot in Haiti, commenced with twisting turns through narrow, tattered streets of Port-Au-Prince where the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake was still felt. photo 2

IMG_4448Wildly painted buses filled with people swerved around us and the turquoise ocean peeked between villages of black plastic bags and rubble. The two hour plus drive brought us out of busy city streets to a rollercoaster ride up and down white mountains where goats sidestepped along tethered to trees in the lush Haitian countryside.photo 4

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Finally, we reached the town of Jacmel and then from there drove on to Kabik Beach, the location of the surf club. When we arrived at the Haiti Surf Guesthouse we met Joan Mamique, our host for the trip who played a large part in the opening of the surf school. He led us into town where we met many of the kids involved in the surf school. They worked tirelessly around the freshly erected surf school and cleaned up trash and cleared the beach for the grand opening that was to take place the next day.photo 2

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photo 5We were impressed with the determination in the kids who worked. I told one of the kids, Alex, how it was great to see them all working together to make the school look so nice, he responded saying, “We are proud of this, and we must take care of it and make it nice because it is for all of us.”

The next day we met the kids down at the beach near the surf school and organized a soccer game. A soccer club in Florida, Royal Palm Beach Strikers, donated soccer balls and mesh jerseys for the kids and the game was intense.IMG_4541

IMG_4542 The close game went on and on and afterwards the kids laughed and cooled off in the bright Caribbean sea. They seemed to live the phrase, ‘work hard to play hard.’

We all planned meeting again later that evening for the ‘leash cutting’ ceremony for the grand opening of the new surf school and the board donations. On the way to the ceremony, a funeral procession stopped us. We pulled to the side of the road while a parade of nicely dressed people passed. A band and a man playing a huge tuba walked past, and we learned that the funeral would last 5 days! We even saw the president of the surf school, Manu walking with hundreds of others.

At the surf school locals and kids mingled in excitement. New plants were bought to decorate the school and refreshments were offered to those in attendance.

Before the ‘leash cutting’ proud leaders in the community and the surf school spoke about the significance of the new school building and what it meant to the local kids to have a place to call their own. Kelly was then invited to speak about Share the Stoke. She shared about how surfing had taught her so much and how she wanted the kids to learn valuable life lessons from the sport and share it with others as well.

Then, they selected the youngest kid in the surf club to cut the leash. Everyone standing around the surf school cheered in unison sharing the happiness and joy of the moment. Next, we awarded five Firewire surfboards to five kids. photo 1photo 2

photo 3One by one, the kids held their new boards in their grip, full of pride and excitement. Joan spoke to the kids about how to care for the boards and would even teach them ding repair over the next months with new ding repair kits from Phix Doctor.

After the ceremony, the party moved to a reggae bar down the street for a celebration of the surf school inauguration. The guys set up a projector and everyone piled around a white sheet screen to watch a film of the kids surfing. We all laughed and cheered at wipe-outs and heroic rides of the kids all around us.

The next day, Sunday, waves arrived and the celebration continued with all the kids in the water. We had never seen kids that stoked on surfing for so long. The kids were literally in the water for hours practicing and getting pushed into the surf.Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 8.59.56 AM

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Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 9.06.12 AM The older locals helped the younger locals, and the love and encouragement they offered to each other was inspiring.

Manu, the president of the surf school, got a fresh ding on his new board when he surfed over a shallow reef and made unwelcome contact. He was upset, as anyone could understand, but would be able to use the Phix Doctor ding repair kit to mend the wound after the board dried out in a few days. Thanks Phix Doctor, those kits donated will go to good use! We all stayed in the water until the sun went down not wanting the fun to end and the week to begin.

We couldn’t help but notice in a country known for such poverty, the people in Kabik Beach were rich in so many ways. The people were so loving with open hearts to each other and to us, and the area was filled with an abundance of natural resources- the sea full of lobster and fish, the hills ripe with banana trees, passion fruit trees, mango trees, papaya trees, and hummingbirds to punctuate the red hibiscus flowers. The people of Haiti give their love so easily and accept love so easily that we are already thinking about making a return to Share the Stoke and support the future of surfing in that land of promise.photo 5