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Breaking Boundaries | Surf | VANS

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(gentle music) – [Chris] If there is just one surfboard that could help just one kid, it would make all the difference in the world – [Narrator] The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago lies just of the coast of northeastern Venezuela

Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean – [Reporter] Trinidad and Tobago's economy has been characterized by a heavy dependency on oil and gas production – [Narrator] Trinidad's many ports and harbors are ideal for traffickers – [Reporter] Police say that drug smugglers are also moving firearms into the country – [Narrtor] The murder toll for 2018 is now 500

After the body of a man was discovered in Port of Spain with gunshot wounds (sirens blaring) – [Reporter] We have now reached a situation where we need youth centers in different communities To provide a safe and structured environment for at risk youths – Trinidad and Tobago has two very different sides On one end, you have a beautiful country that's filled with beautiful beaches and great people

On the other side, there is like, a lot of darkness also a lot of crime, a lot of poverty, a lot of suffering (sirens blaring) Surfing has literally been one of the biggest motivational tool for kids on the coast in Trinidad and Tobago It offers youth a space where they could go get creative They have an opportunity to also push themselves and experience something different Some of you are super young, and I know opportunities are really hard, surfing was my dream and it has gotten me, it has literally given me everything I have in my life

Surfing is literally, saving many youth lives in Trinidad and Tobago (soft music) We are in Balandra, this here is where I do a lot of the work with the kids, where we repair all the boards and where I do a lot of mentorship And cut around, but not exact and come out – [Man] Like right up there – Yeah, like right here too

(waves clashing) (reggae music) Back then, life in Trinidad was much more rural I grew up without any electricity or running water We would live off the land, we would fish and we we would dive Growing up here was a special time It gave me a lot of mental toughness

I lived on the coast, and on the coast you would see people of means having their beach houses and they would go home to eat chocolate cake, and I would stay on the beach to eat dry coconuts The first time I saw surfing, I was standing at the cliff in the back of my house and I saw these two guys get out into the ocean, and I saw one of them took off on a wave And I was just transfixed, like I never saw anything like that in my whole life And I would go look every afternoon, every chance that I get, to see if there was another surfer And I didn't see much of it, until I was 15

That's when I started, but that image stayed with me And my cousin, he somehow got a surfboard I spent a year in the back of the house, surfing I never thought about anything else, and the someone told me "Hey, there's a surfing competition" I was just fascinated "There is surfing competitions? "Really? "Riding waves? "You can compete doing that?" – [Announcer] It gonna be a good match of his life – I literally showed up to the contest, I didn't even know you had to wear like a rash guard

They said "Chris Dennis you're in red" over the little loud speakers and I was like "I don't have a red shirt" And I started asking everybody on the beach "Do you have a red shirt to lend me? "You have a red shirt to lend me?" It was classic, but I somehow won (laughs) And it kind of just steamrolled from there I got to travel a lot, and I got to compete and meet people on the road The education that I've gotten through surfing traveling, you know, you learn things that no college, no university, no school could teach you

Yeah, there were a lot of good times, of course there were a lot of hard times and they were just all experiences that embodied living (upbeat music) – I probably met Chris 12 years ago We were in Virginia Beach and we were hanging with Dylan Graves The waves were super tiny, but were getting to surf along the Yeti and Dylan's like "Hey man, my buddy Chris Dennis is coming, "from Trinidad, he's gonna surf with us "He's in the contest

" And I was like, what, there's waves in Trinidad? I don't even know where that is and I couldn't believe there was a pro surfer from there And Chris came down, just like a fired up grommet, lightning in a bottle You know, and he was just on every wave coming in all these peaks and we hit it off right away, he's just a full character – After competing and traveling and coming from such a rural area, it's always a cultural shock when you travel And I started to see things when I was on the road, that really affected the way I think

I started to realize that my community was in trouble in terms of this social problems we were having At first it started where I was just teaching one or two boys to surf, it wasn't anything planned And then as time go along, I started realizing that young youths, you know, there's issues in the homes, like a lot of poverty, a lot of, like dropping out of primary school and abuse, and just a lot of heavy situations Then I started just talking to them because my experiences on the road kinda gave me a little bit of knowledge where I can say something that would pertain to dreaming big, you know And before I knew it, I had like 18 boys at a time and surfing was the platform where I would've reached them

Then I realized hey, you know, some of them can't write, some of them can't formulate proper sentences And then I realized, shoot, I have a lot of surf magazines I can teach them to read one or two words in the magazine because I guess you got to get a bit creative, you know some people are not interested in algebra And that's how it kinda took off If you're getting educated from a surfing magazine, you can learn to read from a surfing magazine, that's a real good thing

Education is very important so what I've been doing is picking them up in their reading as, you know, trying to do it in an interesting way – I met Chris when I was around seven years old and I was watching people passing with surfboards and I was asking, can I get a ride? People would pass my street, some would watch me and they will go about their business and this one year I asked Chris and he took me out and I fell in love with it When I was younger, Chris, he was like a life mentor just because when I had no books or any money to go to school he would like, buy all and send me to school and keep me in the right track And I'm grateful for that – Anybody with any broken boards, or just, whatever hand me down things, the leashes, wax and stuff is welcome

So far, a few surfers have been generous offering some equipment and stuff and you know, their surfing has grown tremendously on some of the hand me down boards and we don't have like a lot of equipment So, equipment is a little bit of a challenge right now (gentle music) – So, the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation was started in 2012 with my brothers and I We just had a common passion for the ocean, everything it's provided us in our life and we really wanted to continue sharing that with the next generation So, we established support for youth water safety programs and really trying to get behind the merging surf cultures

One of the many initiates we've established was the Surfboard Drive We just kinda had this thought that, maybe people would have old surfboards in their garage that they're not using anymore and pass it forward to someone who may not have access to the equipment, to allow them to enjoy the ocean So, it's been incredible to see the journey We went to Jamaica, our second Board Drive was for South Africa, and now here we are at our third, in Trinidad and Tobago Here we got the Rental truck and we're really to load it up, Positive Vibe Warriors in the house, advance surf and yeah, we're raising some surfboards for the kids down in Trinidad and Tobago

We're here from three to six, come say hi, share some stoke, you guys are an epic community and can't wait to hang out so, see you in a bit This project was a great meeting of the minds, and it's been a series of hands that it's touched whether people, all over the East Coast or the West Coast donated boards And that to me is really the most awesome thing about the Board Drive Was that, it really just was a tool to facilitate a vision from an inspired member of the community to help give back to others within the community that share the same experiences that he had growing up And that's a really valuable cause because, having the boards is one thing, but the boards are only a vehicle for someone to access the learning tools of the ocean

So, it's step one, it really takes a member like Chris in the community, to put the boards in use and it's been a great thing to see it all come together here – [Man With Hat] Let's save that one, then – Then one is twenty, this one right here – I have a list of names from all the villages and what I'm doing, because I know everyone, I have a really good idea of what they would like, so I'm basically sorting through all the boards, hand picking, basically individually each board for every person – No, I'm not on vacation

I'm actually on the Northeast Coast of Trinidad for a special assignment Come on! This is a huge week, for Trinidad and Tobago surfing There are several great initiatives that are happening, not limited to the distribution of 200 surfboards That's a remarkable time for surfing in T&T – It's huge, one of the biggest problems we've had in Trinidad and Tobago was access to equipment and, you know, thanks to Vans, the Surf Brand and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation from California, we've done a collaboration and they were able to collect over 200 surfboards on the East and West Coast of America

Surfing is growing, it's growing quickly in Trinidad and a lot of those boards will be used to also introduce new people to the sport – These guys are fired up (reggae music) – [Man] Oh yeah (clapping) (people chattering) – Groms are charging right here First day surfing, Trinidad

Guys, just got their boards and just immediately, just couldn't contain themselves, just ran to the water and started riding waves It's just so natural When you're seeing that, it's just amazing (laughs) First day surfing, gotta love it – [Kid] I feel like a bird in the sky

– [Child] I'm gliding on the water – [Kid] I end up dropping in and I feel it how the wave curving and how it pulling back – When I first started working on this project, the Board Drive, I literally had people laugh at me They thought I was crazy, and we being a little dot in the Caribbean I started thinking, why would these big, international athletes, why would they want to come to my island? For me, personally, you know I got really, I got really emotional because when I was growing up we had nothing

And surfing was an escape The Board Drive was in a way, I didn't want the kids to go through what I went through The surfboards, it's more than surfboards, it's more than a board drive to us, you know? It's a human thing If we share and really care for each other, a lot of our problems would be solvable So, it means the world

(gentle music) (soft music) – [Dane] I love the fact that we met Chris at a time when he was doing the tour, struggling to make it And then coming back here, seeing the kids that he's working with and I'm so proud of Chris for all he's done here for the kids – [Chris] The Board Drive, I'll start off with, it created a platform, for where youths can now have access to equipment Before we would be scrambling for surfboards, then came the Board Drive and we just had this influx of equipment And somebody came up to me and told me, in one of the communities, up in the northwest they say there's been no youths hanging around on the blocks when you look out into the ocean there all out there

And in my opinion, it's been the single most important thing as far as our sport is concerned, surfing, to happen in Trinidad and Tobago You know, the Board Drive has been one of the most positive things that I have seen in my lifetime (gentle music) The Board Drive has opened also personally many other avenues, you know, from me setting up an NGO Waves for Hope (people chattering) to getting the opportunity to do a course in surf therapy with Waves for Change an organization out of South Africa I came back even more inspired to Trinidad, and now having the tools of structure and having more knowledge about therapy and stuff has just, opened these doors for me that I could never imagine (gentle music)

Source: Youtube

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