Parents always say that they don’t have favorites among their kids. I’m not a parent so I figure when it come to the boardriders, I’m allowed. There’s a little group of friends: Reiner, Ana, Jordani and Sjvaira who are just awesome. They wanted some photos of themselves surfing to show their families. So yesterday morning I went down with the camera to play surf-photog.
When we started to doing free surf lessons for local kids back in 2007, we thought “What could possibly go wrong?” A lot of people warned us that the politics of charity can quickly spin round and bite you in the butt. So we decided that from the word go we would keep it simple and have only one goal: Just be there. Every week come rain or shine, busy or quiet, 1 kid or 30, we’d just be available for any kids who wanted to surf.
But sure enough it got complicated. We’d have 5 boards and 20 kids, so who gets to surf? Then we had a lot of boards donated but the kids, being kids, broke almost all of them over the subsequent 12 months. We couldn’t expect the kids parents to pay so how could we instill some sort of accountability?
Then things got really tricky. We had some older kids show up from pretty rough backgrounds. They were tough kids and a lot of the younger boardriders would get bullied by them. However, we thought that these were probably exactly the kind of kids that needed something positive, like surfing, in their lives. On the other hand, some of the more innocent kids were afraid to show up and hang out with them. Then things started going missing from the surf school. Boards, t-shirts, caps…
Stick to the plan, we thought, just be available for kids who want to surf (and maybe lock stuff up).
2 years down the line and I still think the club was the best thing we’ve ever done. The bad kids stopped showing up when we made a good school attendance record a requirement for the club. We don’t see them around the beach anymore which, in spite of everything, makes me kind of sad. There were moments when I saw them riding waves and their stoney expressions just melted away. I hope they don’t forget that.
Of all the other kids some have gone on to be permanent fixtures out in the Guiones line up. Always smiling, always respectful and surfing better everyday.
The other kids came back and brought friends with them too. Wobbling nervously along in the white water. Patiently deciphering my hopeless Spanish.
As we go into our third year, I’m feeling pretty positive. As Gem and I open up two new arms of the business, Al is going to takes over running the club and we’re co-ordinating more with the schools and the Surfing Nosara foundation. Plus we’re all a little older and wiser but I still have to work on my Spanish!