It’s Wednesday. Hump Day. For me, here in Nicaragua – it’s beach day.
With a cold Tona in hand I make my way across the hard packed sand towards the ocean. The sky is brilliant blue in color and scattered with a few big white fluffy clouds. On the horizon I can see the Costa Rican coast line.
My husband, Gordon and our Miniature Schnauzer Maggie are already engaged in a game of fetch. Maggie jumps over the crashing waves in search of her bright orange ball.
To my right four local guys are enjoying a game of their version of Nicaraguan street baseball. Back in the palapa our friend Paul watches over our stuff while waxing his surf board.
I wade into the warm Pacific waters that are just barely cool enough to be refreshing. I inhale the clean salt air. The heat of the afternoon sun on my skin feels good.
“Ahhh, it’s been too long since we’ve been to the beach, ” I say to Gordon. “And way too long since we’ve been to Playa Hermosa.”
After a quick rinse in the fresh water shower I make my way to a lounger to get comfortable with my book and work on my tan. Our friend Clint’s timing couldn’t have been better as he makes his way back from the beach bar with a round of cold refreshing Tonas.
As the sun starts to go down in a blazing orange ball we decide it’s time to pack up and take our short ride home. A shower, a change of clothes and dinner on San Juan bay seemed like a great way to end an already perfect day.
This Wednesday couldn’t have been more different than a Wednesday in my former life in Canada. Gone are the days of sitting at a desk in front of a computer for eight hours. Flips flops instead of heels? Much better!
As we finished our pasta dinners at an authentic Italian restaurant on the beach I felt a sense of calm. I was relaxed and satisfied. Tired, but not stressed.
I didn’t have to rush home to iron clothes for work the next day. I didn’t have to think about not wanting to wake up to the alarm clock in the morning.
I get to spend the next day and the next day and the next day…doing whatever I want to do…and for that…I’m grateful.
On Sunday afternoon the San Juan del Sur Youth weekend was approaching the grand finale of events – the Youth Surf Competition.
We had some free time left until the competition started and I noticed things got a little quiet on the beach. I thought that maybe the group was fatigued after all of the weekend activities, but when I took a closer look around at the young surfers I realized they were getting their game faces on. After all, there were 4 brand new Firewire surfboards on the line. To put things into perspective the value of one Firewire surfboard is equivalent to four months of the average Nicaraguan salary.
The best waves of the day were forecasted to start around four o’clock so we tried to relax and wait for the show to begin. Time seemed to drag in anticipation of the competition as the young athletes sat quietly gathering their thoughts.
Finally it was time to go! The contestants and coaches grabbed their boards and made their way to the water.
Just minutes had passed between quiet reflection time and kids riding their first waves of the heat. There was no lack of energy now. There was hardly a time when there wasn’t at least one surfer up riding a wave.
There were four heats in the competition:
- Juniors (14-16 years old)
- Groms (11-13 years old)
- Super Groms (10 & under)
- Girls (all ages)
All the kids saved their best rides of the day for the competition, but a few of them really stood out. The volunteers and competitors whistled and cheered from their places on the beach. Some rides were so spectacular we just looked at each other in surprise and admiration and at times almost forgot to cheer.
Once all heats were complete the pressure switched to the judge’s table. Cory and Kelly knew the significance of the Firewire boards to these kids. Kate from Chica Brava stands behind the judges with a look of trepidation on her face.
The young surfers paced back and forth trying to relieve some on their nervous energy. Looking at their faces you could tell, that for them, time was standing still.
Just when it seemed like the winners would be announced the draw started for the raffle. There were a dozen prizes to distribute amongst the spectators. The grand prize went to one of the young surfers. He won a beautiful Eberly board that was donated to help raise money for the weekend activities. For this one surfer the wait was over, but there were other competitors still waiting patiently to see if they too, would walk away with a new surfboard of heir own.
One by one the top four surfers for each heat were announced and we had another first for the Share the Stoke Foundation. The first board that they gave to a girl internationally was here in San Juan del Sur.
I’m still not sure how it happened, but I had the honor of presenting the board for the Super Grom (10 years and under) category. Gabriel was one happy 8 year old!
Our Junior winners Norlan and Sebastian were equally as excited to receive their Firewire boards and were happy to pose for photos and do some interviews.
The 1st Annual San Juan del Sur Youth weekend was a great event for everyone involved and I’m happy to report that the Share the Stoke team is already talking about next year’s event.
Please remember to vote for Share the Stoke Foundation on the Chase Community Giving contest on Facebook. The charities with the most votes are eligible to receive grants valued between $10 000 – $250 000.
I would like to give a big shout out to In Nica Now’s stand in photographer – Nicole Williams from Share the Stoke. These last three posts would not have been possible without your amazing photos. Thanks pal!
In our previous post we mentioned that we needed your help. After volunteering at a Share the Stoke event this past weekend, I witnesses first hand the difference that this foundation can make in kids lives and their community.
Share the Stoke Foundation (a non-profit dedicated to empowering at-risk youth through the sport of surfing) is one of 2500 charities that has been nominated to participate in the Chase Community Giving contest on Facebook. Up for grabs is $5 million in grants. Of the 2500 charities participating in the contest the 196 most voted for will receive grants ranging in value from $250,000 for first place down to $10,000 for 100 of the charities.
Cast your vote for
Share the Stoke Foundation
by clicking here!
If everyone flexes their social media muscle we’ll have an incredibly positive and exciting follow up post for you at at the end of September. Please take a few extra minutes to spread the word about this great organization via your Facebook account, email distribution lists at work and home, Tweet about it, share it on your blogs and Pinterest, Stumble Upon, Tumbler & Instagram accounts.
The 1st Annual San Juan del Sur Youth Weekend kicked off Saturday morning with a garbage clean up at San Juan Bay. Only kids that took part in the beach clean-up were eligible to participate in the weekend festivities. We had a great turn out and managed to collect over 260 pounds of garbage in only a couple of hours. This event also gave us some time to start building a camaraderie between the kids and volunteers.
Later that afternoon Cory and I had the privilege of escorting a group of 18 kids out on a fishing boat. Almost half of the group had never even been on a boat before. A few of the girls actually held onto each other and screamed when we went over some of the bigger rolling waves. The trip was much more fun and exciting than we had envisioned. Thank you Casa del Sur for putting your charter business on hold and taking us all out on your boat.
Sunday events took place at Playa Hermosa which just so happens to be where the TV show Survivor was filmed for two seasons. Our day started with swimming lessons. It may seem odd that a group of kids that live so close to the water need swimming lessons, but the sad fact is that most Nicaraguans don’t actually know how to swim – which results in multiple drownings every year.
Given the size of the waves the swimming lessons turned out to be more of a “How Not to Drown Class”. Fortunately it didn’t take long before the kids started to get comfortable in the water. Once that happened they had almost as much fun as the volunteers.
Next up were beginner surf lessons for the kids that felt comfortable in the waves. I noticed one of the girls that raised her hand indicating she didn’t know how to swim was taking surf lessons. She actually ended up entered the competition and with the coaching and encouragement of the Stoke girls she caught her first wave. It was hard to tell who was more excited – her or the Stoke girls – but in the end it was probably the Stoke girls.
Many of the kids were new to surfing, but managed to get up and ride their first waves ever. Volunteers whistling and shouting words of encouragement. The morning had an emotional effect on many of the volunteers, adult surfers and onlookers alike.
The experienced youth surfers took time to warm up for the afternoon competition – or in some cases just goofed off.
Susan, Nicole and Michelle from Share the Stoke collected two suitcases full of school supplies to give out to all of the kids that were at the beach on Sunday. The kids were super stoked! One of the volunteer teachers in town told me that she was just as happy to see the much needed supplies.
All that was left to do was prep the Firewire surfboards for the main event …. the Youth Surf Competition!
Half a dozen years ago Kelly Kingston attempted to sell one of her used surfboards on Craigslist. With no serious offers Kelly decided she’d prefer to give her surfboard away to a deserving kid, rather than sell it for less than it was worth. Kelly changed her ad to read “free to a kid who sends me an email explaining why they deserve to have my surfboard”.
We all learn from our experiences, but sometimes an experience can change our path in life.
As expected Kelly was bombarded with emails. But what Kelly didn’t expect was the genuine level of need within her community. This experience helped Kelly realize that she wanted to help kids in her community stay off the streets and in the water and with that Share the Stoke Foundation was born.
A year after giving away her 1st board Kelly and her partner Neily were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua enjoying a surf vacation. My friend Cory took the girls out surfing and they updated him on what was currently happening with Share the Stoke. They had spent the last year raising money, begging for donated boards and giving those boards away to kids in Florida. It didn’t take this trio long to come to the realization that Florida was not the only place with kids in need and at a crossroad in their young lives. With Cory’s help Kelly and Neily were able to find a deserving, up & coming surfer who would receive the first board in Nicaragua. Share the Stoke had gone international!
Fast forward a few years, 5 countries and 74 boards …
Kelly is back in San Juan del Sur with 6 of her friends sponsoring the 1st Annual “With A Little Stoke From My Friends” San Juan del Sur Youth Weekend. This is where I enter the story as an enthusiastic volunteer that ironically can’t surf and truthfully can barely swim.
The goal of this weekend was to ensure that all kids in the community could benefit from this event. In order to participate in the weekend activities the kids were required to help in the beach cleanup – we removed 260 pounds of garbage in just a few hours. Other scheduled activities included a fishing trip, beach volleyball and swim and surf lessons – all culminating into a youth surf tournament. Firewire surfboards were awarded as prizes to the top surfers in each age group.
Share the Stoke Foundation has been working very hard to increase the number of boards it provides to deserving kids each year. They have also been working very hard to find a board sponsor and luckily they’ve finally found one. Firewire has stepped up to the plate in a huge way by committing to donating 100 new boards in 2013, 200 new boards in 2014 and 300 shiny new boards in 2015! Now that Share the Stoke has the product, it’s time to focus on fundraising so they can distribute these boards to the children that deserve them.
Stay tuned for my follow up post that will describe how YOU can help! As a heads up I won’t be asking you to donate money – I’ll actually be asking you to do something that takes less time and effort than tying your shoes and costs absolutely nothing.
Your participation could result in Share the Stoke being awarded up to $250, 000 of grant money.
My post will be published on September 6th and will also include detailed stories and more awesome photos of the activities that took place this past weekend! (Photo credit for all event images goes to Nicole Williams.)
Please check out the official Share the Stoke site and help spread the word about this great organization by liking them on Facebook. Share the Stoke Foundation and I are counting on you to help make a difference in the lives of some really amazing kids!
Kudos to Share the Stoke Foundation and the volunteers that made this past weekend all possible! I’d also like to thank the team for allowing me to share in this very special event that had such a positive impact on so many children in my community.
Posted in Sights & Activities
Tags: 1st Annual San Juan del Sur Youth Weekend, beach clean up, Cory Dwyer, Firewire Surfboards, Hermosa Beach, Kelly Kingston, kids in need, Nicaragua, raising money, San Juan del Sur, san juan del sur nicaragua, Share the Stoke Foundation, surfboard give-aways, surfing, travel, vacation, youth surf tournament