“Biggest Donation of Sporting Equipment In The Country’s History”
The Positive Vibe Warriors just delivered over 200 surfboards to Trinidad and Tobago.
“I shouldn’t be here—I should have died when I was a baby,” Chris Dennis stated matter-of-factly early in our conversation. “There are a lot of ‘firsts’ in my story.”
Born into a poor family in a poor village on the forgotten northeast side of Trinidad, as an infant Chris developed a growth in his esophagus that, were it not for his mother feeding him milk one drop at a time, would have killed him.
“The slaves that were brought to Trinidad were rebellious and were able to maintain some of their culture from Africa,” Chris explains. “There was still a lot of Voodoo in the area where I was born. It’s called Obeah. My grandmother made my mom take me to a few healers, but that didn’t work.”
Miraculously, they eventually ended up in a hospital just hours before Chris would have died. A young British doctor fresh out of medical school was quick to diagnose Chris’s condition. It was the first such case in Trinidad.
Chris survived and ten years later got his first taste of surfing. He had a friend whose parents were house cleaners. One day they were working on a wealthy, white family’s beach house when Chris and his buddy unearthed an old 6’4” Channel Islands that had been broken and put back together.
Without the means to acquire a board of his own, or even an old surf mag, he spent the next few years reading about Duke Kahanamoku and other surfers in the old encyclopedias he did have access too. He was a vivacious reader, opening his mind to the wider world. But life on Trinidad was hand-to-mouth.
Chris and some very ready groms.
“I was attacked by a shark before I became a surfer,” he proudly said. “For my family, the ocean was a place to get food, that’s it. When I was very young I was already spear fishing and rock fishing.”
His first board came when a storm hit the island.
“It blew down a tree and there was this big splinter that sort of looked like a surfboard,” described Chris.
Like a surfy-er scene out of Robert Redford’s “The Natural,” armed with only a machete, he hacked the “blank” out of the tree and crafted a crude board.
“I don’t even know how big it was,” he said. “It didn’t have fins. But I finally had a surfboard.”
Everyone starts somewhere. Through sheer guts and determination, Chris embraced the journey to become a surfer wholeheartedly. Some years later he climbed to 144th on the QS and enjoyed a stint as a globe-trotting, aspiring pro surfer. He spent time living in Puerto Rico with Dylan Graves and his family. The dream was very real for Chris.
Leila Hurst and a much obliged carryon.
Cargo is precious.
Chris now dedicates a tremendous amount of his time and resources to helping Trinidad and Tobago’s next generation get into the ocean. Through Graves, this year Chris was connected with the Gudauskas brothers and their Positive Vibe Warrior Foundation (PVW). The idea of a surfboard drive for the islands was born.
“Chris is the man. He’s an absolutely incredible person and we are so lucky to have linked up with him,” told Dane Gudauskas after getting back from Trinidad last week.
Dane and Tanner were able to drop off over 200 surfboards, raised during their summer board drive. Chris could hardly contain himself.
Welcome to a real heart warmer.
Tanner, Dane, Dylan and a whole lotta love.
“I hope they don’t think I was crazy, but I had a notebook with every kid’s name, age, height and weight and what surfboard they were going to get,” said Chris. “I knew exactly who was getting what board and why they deserved to get their very own board.”
“This is our third board drive, and each one is special, but this was really unique because this area gets so little attention. It’s forgotten about,” said Dane. “This was the biggest donation of sporting equipment in the country’s history.”
Like previous board drives, Chris will use this windfall to help kids not just learn to surf, but as tools for dealing with social issues, including poverty, drugs, crime and domestic abuse. He’s been reading and learning more about how to council kids lately.
As a result of the board drive, Chris was connected with Waves For Change in South Africa—one of the beneficiaries of the PVW’s “Can’t Steal Our Vibe” board drive last year. In February, the group will be flying Chris from Trinidad to South Africa to work and train with them, so he can experience how their organization works and how they’re using surfing to heal their nation.
The donations in action.
“It’s so powerful. It’s more than surfboards. It’s a lot more,” marveled Dane. “It’s building these surf communities in ways that are so profound.”
Vans has produced a film about the PVW’s South Africa board drive that will be released worldwide on November 11. The trailer just dropped, and if it doesn’t give you chicken skin there’s something wrong with you. All proceeds will to Waves For Change…so buy a copy and support this greater good.
And true to Gudauskas form, they got more positivity and inspiration on tap. Vans is also going to be working on a video project that will document the journey of a few of the surfboards from the Trinidad board drive. They will be telling the story of the people that owned the boards prior and how they’ve effected the lives of the kids they were given to.
This is what surfing should be all about.
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