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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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

The New Firewire/STSF/FCS Boards Are Here!

The excitement levels were high as we have been in anticipation of the new boards since March of 2012.  It was so fun to be in collaboration with Firewire and FCS on this mission.  It feels so great to have the boards in our hot little hands now but they won’t be here for long.  We are shipping them out with us to Costa Rica and Panama in just seven days.  We will be having three separate “Let’s Surf” beach days.  These days include a beach cleanup, surf lessons, an expression session, BBQ and surfboard giveaways.  We have to hand it to our STSF surf ambassadors though.  They are the ones who step up and help us organize the beach days and help us place the boards with the kids who are contributors to their communities.  If you would like to become a STSF surf ambassador please send an email to info@sharethestokefoundation.com.Image

This is Gabriel, one of interns. We call him the Stokeographer! He is always stoked to help us get photos and video footage of the kids that we give surfboards to. I am not sure I have ever seen a more stoked grom. We love having people who are inspiring be on our team. A big thanks goes out to Gabriel for all of his hard work over these last few months. We cannot wait to take him on a stoke mission this summer. We know just how powerful they can be.
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