The next generation of kitesurfers, surfers, bodyboarders out there called Dream Big. These guys are part of a group and aiming to be the next Mitu, Matchu or Airton? The project is run by two UK ex-pats, Amy and Karen who help the guys with English lessons, finding work, IKO qualifications and in return they have to “pay it forward” by supporting the younger kids in Cabo Verde. They are trying to raise money to send some of the team to GKA events as they performed brilliantly at the Cabo Verde stop. Check this out!
Cabo Verde is a magical place. Not only is it the birthplace of world champion Kitesurfers and the ‘spiritual home of strapless’, but it’s also one of the best watersports destinations in the world. But everyone who lives here, or spends time here, knows that the real magic of this place does not come from the trade winds, or the beaches, or the ocean – it comes from the people.
Cape Verdean people are, well, special. They live, work, and play in the ocean with a ‘no stress’ attitude that transpires into happiness, skill and a love for everything that they do.
From a very early age, the kids here in Sal develop an incredible connection to the ocean and whether it’s kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, skimboarding or paddleboarding, the talent, passion and commitment to their sport develops very quickly.
We have all experienced it – when you visit an island country like Cabo Verde, one of the enormous things that hit you is the level of local talent, and we’re all there, thinking to ourselves ‘how can this 10-year-old kitesurf better than me?’ However, such islands also present challenges and like a lot of other watersport fans who live here, it became frustrating for us that these young talented Cape Verdeans were not being offered the brand support or sponsorship opportunities that could help them to compete on the world stage, so we decided to try and help.
First, with a simple idea of lending equipment to local, talented kids from our surf school at the weekends. Depending on the swell, they’d borrow kiteboards, kites, surfboards, wetsuits, bodyboards and flippers, or snorkels. Then we progressed to giving English lessons to the older boys who were starting to work as kite instructors and beach boys, we taught a few of the younger kids the basics of kite and surf, and generally just supported the kids who needed a little extra in life.
Within no time, we were meeting every other week to chat with the older boys (a few of which are seriously talented kitesurfers, others are experienced bodyboarders, surfers and skimboarders). We’d have a bowl of rice together, and talk about what was needed to support them in their sport and what we could do to help them advance in life. Then we gave ourselves a name – ‘Dream Big’. And the members of the group became ‘Sonhadores’ (Dreamers). We started a Facebook page and decided to encourage tourists to leave second-hand equipment here on Sal that the kids could use, like wetsuits, harnesses, boards, wax, leashes and kites and people were terrific.
All types of people saw the value in helping kids to achieve their dreams, and equipment and donations started to come in thick and fast, but instead of just giving the equipment to the Dreamers, we thought it would be a better idea for them to learn from the generosity of others. So we set up a pay-it-forward system within the group. If someone receives a wetsuit, or a new kite, or a new flipper, then they pay that generosity forward to someone that they know who needs help too. Sometimes they pay it forward to someone in their family; sometimes it’s teaching a younger kid on the beach how to surf, or passing on some old equipment to someone else. A few weeks ago, a few Dreamers provided free surf and kite lessons to Castelos do Sol, a non-profit organisation in Santa Maria that includes schooling, clothes and food to children from more impoverished families whose parents are at work all day.
Through meeting regularly, Dream Big has somehow managed to create a ‘family’ of young surfers (from age 8 to 19) who are all willing to help one another. And things are starting to move progressively quicker as we grow. In the last year, two Dreamers secured sponsorship deals from Kitesurfing brands and using their English lessons on their Facebook pages they have learned to promote themselves, the brands, their country, and one another.
It is also an exciting time for Kitesurfing in Cape Verde! As you are probably aware, we had our first ever GKA competition here in Sal this year. What you may not be aware of is that three of our ‘Dreamers’ qualified for the main competition through a wildcard event held on the island for local talent.
The Dreamers, Arsenio Dias, Jordy Sanca and Berna managed to place pretty high in the overall competition and were ranked as world tour Kitesurfers at final scoring, which is unbelievable.
The unfortunate side to that beautiful story is that, despite helping with visa and passport applications, and raising money locally and online to support their travel expenses; the ‘Dreamers’ visas to travel to Morocco for the second leg of the tour did not arrive on time. And it is looking increasingly unlikely that we will be able to get them to Europe for the third leg. Why? Beauracracy between countries seems to be the only explanation. Probably nothing that a good immigration lawyer couldn’t fix, but without one, we have to accept the system and pray that paperwork gets stamped on time.
It’s frustrating for kids like Arsenio, Jordy and Berna because they can feel that their time is now. Things have finally fallen into place for them. They have the equipment, they have the financial support to travel, and their belief in themselves is at an all-time high, but because they are from an African country with bureaucracy issues in the way, they might have to accept that their dreams will not come true.
And what’s our biggest dream as an organisation? To set up and support a Dream Big Youth Club in Santa Maria, where every child who needs support to Dream Big will find it.
If you are planning a visit to Cabo Verde and would like to help the local Dreamers, remember to bring that old wetsuit with the hole in the back or a board that is just lying around in the garage. You could be giving it to the next world champion!
We accept donations at the Surfhub school, and we always make sure the equipment gets to those that truly deserve it. For more information on Dream Big, please click here.
By Jen TylerItalian/American Jen Tyler grew up in the chaos of Cairo, Egypt. It was on the beaches of the Red Sea where her love for the ocean, water sports and adventure grew. Jen previously managed Element Watersports, El Gouna but now she focusses her time on her love for kitesurfing, traveling and writing for IKSURF Magazine!