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.

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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.

Aaaaaahhhhhh Panama!

The crew left Costa Rica and were driven to the boarder of Panama. There we threw our luggage on our backs and dragged the board bags across an old and rusted train bridge that was loaded with moving planks and loose boards. It was definitely not for the faint of heart. There we hopped in a cab and drove to the water taxi to make our way to Bocas del Toro. IMG_7473

Once in Bocas we immediately made our way to Mono Loco Surf Camp where we found Joan, Melissa and Juan David. These three amazing folks are not only great surfers but totally committed to the kids in their community getting as many opportunities to surf as possible. These ambassadors of STSF made this entire Panama experience possible.

In advance of our arrival Joan and I worked together to set up the Share the Stoke Day. Joan hung up flyers all over town and ultimately got over 25 kids and 20 adults to City Beach for the huge clean up. In total we collected over 50 massive bags loaded with garbage, including large plastic pieces from boats that didn’t even fit into bags. These kids were so enthusiastic about picking up garbage and getting their beach clean. I smiled when I heard someone say this was more like an Easter egg hunt than a cleanup. IMG_7523

As soon as the cleanup was over a dozen of the kids ran over to a local man’s house to borrow some surfboards. Marlin moved to Panama over 40 years ago and pieces together old boards, fins, and leashes for the local kids to ride. He has a crew of kids he watches over at the beach. He teaches them surf etiquette, respect for the water, and respect for their friends and community. We had a great time teaching some of the new kids how to surf and watch some of the veterans go for it. IMG_7537It was particularly special to me to watch a couple of girls try surfing for the first time. Apparently they have been standing on the beach for months watching the boys surf. This time they rocked it!!! IMG_7529

After the open surf a few of the community leaders got together and finalized the list of kids who were recipients for the boards and we headed back to Mono Loco Surf Camp with the short list of kids.

Inside the walls of the camps the kids took a seat and quietly sat waiting for their “surprise”. IMG_7551As Joan and Juan David explained to the boys the importance of keeping their beaches clean, being leaders in their community, staying in school the boys listened intently. With deep emotion Juan David continued to explain to them that they would now have the opportunity to take their surfing to the next level.

One by one as the boards were distributed we all cried. These teenage boys, taught to be tough, couldn’t hide their emotion on this Thursday afternoon.IMG_7559IMG_7611 We were stoked to be able to give two boards to Marlin and his crew of 12 kids. Two days after we gave them the boards he told me the kids had decided that the kids had to take turns with the new boards. They each would get five rides and then switch. marlin1

On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we got the chance to watch these kids rip on their new boards. It was awesome. We will have pics to post soon of the kids ripping.

On Friday we distributed two more boards to kids on Bastimentos, one of the Afro Caribbean islands. These kids hiked us up and down a mud trail and through the jungle to surf with them at Wizards. We kept it local today!bastiboys1

I am so grateful to have met Juan David and Joan in Bocas. They are amazing ambassadors for Share The Stoke Foundation. These two are local leaders. They know that surfing has the possibility to positively shape kids’ lives and that Share the Stoke Foundation can support them in having this happen in their community. Juan David and Joan are contributing to the young leadership in their home. We will definitely be working with these two again. If you are heading to Bocas please check out their surf school.monoloco