This blog is written by Kelly Kingston, STSF Founder
This was such a busy trip that it has taken me a week to recover and get this thing going. This trip kind of started off on the wrong foot…you could say. Two weeks before the trip my buddy and travel partner for this trip, Missy, also a Jetblue employee, called to tell me that Jetblue doesn’t allow surfboards to and from Lima now. At first I thought no way so I did the researching and calling and found this information to be true. For you surfers out there…they also don’t allow them to Haiti and some places in the D.R. Needless to say I was pretty devastated by this fact. Now with the new information I saw only three choices. 1. Ship the boards directly to Peru and keep the same flights. 2. Buy new tickets on another airline and take the boards OR 3. Just say screw the kids in Peru and go and do the events we have planned but without making our usual donation to the surf clubs. Of course option three was out so I crunched the numbers of two airline tickets and three board bags which came out to be around $2,200 so I decided to ship them.
I was excited to hear that the boards had arrived and that my guy was going to pick them up. I was relieved…until I got a message from him saying that we owe $1,800 in order for them to release the boards. My original thought was no way, there must be some kind of huge mistake. We were confident that we could talk to the officials and tell them the boards were to be donated and they would free them up. This didn’t happen. We have now been in communication with an NGO about the possibility of them helping us get them out at a drastically reduced rate. This has been going on now for two weeks. My hope was that we would be able to get them out in time to donate them to the kids while we were there. I know when we do get them there will be a big celebration here and in Peru as well. Once I let go of the results of what would happen I was able to become present and be with the kids in Peru whole-heartedly.
So my travel companions were Logan Kamen and Missy Diamond, both very impactful humans for the foundation and the kids we work with. We all met at the Fort Lauderdale airport and then headed off to Lima where we would sleep on the floor that evening before our 6 am flight to Trujillo. We had all been to Chicama before so we were all excited to see our friends and catch up with what has been going on with the kids. Eventually we made our way to Puerto Malabrigo and as soon as we could see the beach those picture perfect lefts kept on coming one after the other. We were stoked to say the least. We grabbed some coffee and then paddled out for a sesh. Sets were a little over head high which was perfect for Chicama. This place really is hard to wrap your brain around. You can get rides that are literally two and a half minutes long.
That night we had a meeting at 7pm with the Chicama Surf Team. We were excited to see the girls and meet the new chicas they had recruited. First, we met Reesy, a Peace Corp volunteer who would be helping us make the event happen. She came highly recommended by Carlhey Bolz, the heart and soul and creator of the Chicama Surf Team. When we rolled up the girls had created the best welcome ever. Each chica held up a letter for their welcome sign. I have never felt so much love and knew for a fact right then and there that the work we are doing there really matters. When we continue to keep showing up for these girls they know they matter and they mean something to us.
Our meeting with them was to chat with them about having them be a large part of executing our event that weekend for all the local kids. We wanted to empower them by having them take ownership and play vital roles in it. We all divied up tasks for everyone and decided for Saturday’s events that the chicas would be in charge of the beach cleanup by passing out the bags and escorting groups of children down the beach to help facilitate picking up proper garbage as opposed to things that are natural. We also decided that they would help out with the surf lessons when it came time for that.
After the meeting we were exhausted. I was up waaay past my bedtime. Now that I have a 9 month old I make sure I go to bed early so I can party with her at 6 am☺ The next morning we had set up a surf session with the girls so we met them down at “El Hombre”, a section of the point break known for its super fast section and hollowness. When we got there they were all down on the beach stretching. We joined them and then paddled out. We were stoked to see that the girls had improved. Each time we come they get better and better. This is no surprise because now the team is meeting three days a week for practice. After shredding we headed back to the hotel to get geared up for the beach cleanup and surf lessons.
In the past we have had 75-100 kids show up for our event, which is definitely one of our biggest events of the year. Before we knew it there were 85 kids running around waiting for directions for the cleanup. We kicked it off and the girls were awesome little leaders. All the kids worked so hard and picked up so much trash. The work ethic of these little groms was something for us to take note of.
After about an hour we started circling all the kids up for the surf lessons. A circle of 85 kids is a giant circle. Luis, coach of the Chicama Girls Surf Team led the instruction. It is pretty funny to watch all the kids pop up at once. Soon enough we had five instructors in the water, the Chicama Girls Surf Team instructing the surfers when and which instructor to go to. Each kid got three waves then the next kid would go. I think it probably took two hours to get all the kids surfing, including a few of them going more than once. After the lessons were done we all headed up the hill to Zorro’s place for the epic BBQ for our participants and volunteers.
After everyone got their food we got ours and holy moly was it delicious. Later that night all the surf school coaches met and formed the heats for the contest the following day. By the time we finished it was 10pm.
The next morning we met over at a beached boat down by the contest site. Part of our impact with the girls was to have an art project with them and create a piece that they would be proud of. Gabriela, one of the girls on the team, had made a present for me that was a super cool image she drew of the Chicama Point. I was stoked to receive it and even more stoked that it would be going on the boat!! We prepped the boat by covering up a section with white paint. You would think that would be easy but sometimes in other countries they use other means than what we are used to. In Peru the paint comes in bags. So we had to mix it in a bucket with water to dilute it then spread it on. Eventually the boys painted the boat with their hands because the paint roller was taking off sections of wood off the old boat. It was a pretty messy gig.
We finished up and headed back to the hotel to sort out the prizes for the contest. Grom Social really pulled through and ended up donating enough gear for us to stoke out all the kids. There were a bunch of other folks who also sent us with cool gear for the groms. Thank you!
I knew this event was going to be crazy. There were so many things we were trying to accomplish while the event was going on like motivational talks with the girls and getting the painting finished. The contest had four divisions, two boys and two girls. All of the participants had to be part of one of the three surf schools in order to compete, which was different and cool too because all of the kids were super supportive of each other. The feeling for the day was team work for sure.
Reesy and I were in charge of heats while Logan, Angel (Reesy’s boyfriend) and Missy were part of the judges corner. Reesy and I killed it getting all the groms ready with their jerseys on while the other heat was in the water. We were like a well oiled machine but there is no way we could have pulled this event off without her. She is an epic human!
When all of the girl heats were over we decided to facilitate the motivational talks for the girls. First off, we awarded two of the girls framed plaques acknowledging them for their improving skills in the water as well as being with the team since its inception since 2013. I said a few words to them before presenting them. They seemed stoked for sure. Sometimes it is hard to tell if they are excited because their culture it to be humble and I find they show very little emotion. One of the other things I wanted to relay to them was something that I never received as a kid, which was that no one told me that I could be anything I wanted or that I could go anywhere or do anything. I grew up in a small mindset kind of family who never saw very far past what was right in front of us. Fortunately, for me along the way I found confidence that I could go anywhere and do anything. So I told the girls how proud I was of them and that they can be anyone they choose and that they can go anywhere they just have to have a passion and a desire. They looked at me straight faced. I hope that they really heard my words.
Reesy took over the talk about how we portray ourselves and self confidence while I headed back over to the contest to get the next heat going. One of the biggest bummers about this talk was that some of the girls from the other surf teams declined our invitation to sit in on the talks. Initially there was only the Chicama Girls Surf Team. Then for whatever reason some of the girls decided to go off and be part of new surf teams. There are lots of politics within each of the surf teams there, which I find to be silly. All I can think is gosh it is surfing…why can’t we just all get along, but I suppose life outside of surfing is like this as well. So because of politics, the other girls missed something that could have benefitted them, which is a total bummer.
After the chats the chicas took to the painting of the boat and by dark it was finished just at last light. The contest too finished just as the sun had sunk. We literally did the awards while the light from the sun was turning to black. All in all it was a great day. We packed in so much into this one day. The best part of the events were all of the families that came down to the beach and hung out all day watching the kids surf. These are people that turn their backs to the ocean except for these two days a year that we put on the event. One of our core values are community and this weekend we created community through surfing. What could be better?
The rest of the trip was spent surfing and spending time with the surf team. Missy had the cool idea to meet with them over dinner and talk about pearls and how each one is formed over time, rare and very precious…like them! She had brought some pearls, string and clasps and we all spent the evening talking about how each one of us is important and creating cool necklaces for ourselves and anyone else we wanted to give one to. It was so much fun hanging with them.
Our other highlight other than riding epic waves together happened about 20 minutes before it was time for us to leave.
One of the security guards at Chicama came to get us and tell us some of the girls were there to see us. I was stoked because I had thought we had said out last goodbyes the night before☺ Yaricsa, Luis and David showed up. Yaricsa is one of the new recruits who we had just gotten to know. She had some gifts for us. She gave each one of a special gift. I got an epic piece of art with a long heart-felt writing about what surfing has given her so far. I was so touched that she took the time to create something so epic for me. She also gave some gifts that Belen, another one of the new girls, had sent with her to give. My gift was another piece of art. It was a surfer on a wave. I made up in my mind that it was me surfing. I loved it. Then Randa showed up with gifts too. I got a cool feather earring which I put in right away as well as a stuffed animal that said Te Amo ( I love you) on it. I knew instantly of the perfect 9 month old who was going to love it. Then Luis gave us his gifts. It was an epic goodbye. We all hugged and I told them all that I loved them. We all packed up the van and said goodbye to all the Chicama staff. Soon enough we were headed out. On the way I saw Randa and David sitting on a bench. I frantically waved and felt this sadness. A sadness that only came from the epic goodbye we just had and knowing how important we are to them and them to us. A little farther down the road on the way out-of-town I saw Luis on a motorcycle with Yaricsa on the back. Again, I was waving frantically and putting my hand up to the window trying to send a message that said my heart is full and it is all because of you. They kept getting closer and closer and honking and finally our driver pulled over and Yaricsa pulls out one last stuffed animal for Missy. This was by far the most eventful goodbye we have ever seen. It was that moment when I realized how significant they are to me. Thank you Chicama for providing a love that is unique and keeps on getting stronger with time.