Reflections Between Waves

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This Surfer Finds Meaning Between Waves & Doing Good

BY GRIFFIN HULKOWER

Give and Surf Panama Bocas del Toro Griffin surf

Finding Common Ground: Reflections Between Waves in Bocas Del Toro 

One of the main reasons that I chose to come to Bocas was the close proximity of good waves and good vibes. My gap year is feeling triumphant as I continue to have great experiences on the road. With regards to the “giving” aspect of Give and Surf, I have helped out at escuelita (the Give and Surf school) and have been a part of the Surf Outreach Mentorship Program as well. Neil Christiansen has teamed up with Juan David Issac of Mono Loco Surf School to make it possible for local kids in the community of Bahia Roja to surf three times a week. With boards donated by other organizations, Mono Loco, and travelers passing the torch on to the next wave of rippers, we have the foundation of a great program (including enthusiastic volunteers).

SEE ALSO: Behind Give And Surf: Why I Chose To Be An Ambassador

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The first day of the program, I was plucked from my dock at 9:00 a.m. island time to be greeted by the kids. Introductions came through a few ‘holas’ over the sounds of the boat engine. We pitter-pattered across the surf to Mono Loco. Neil and Juan David allocated about an hour to properly introduce the group, program, safety, and surfing etiquette. The first session was heaps of fun. All of the kids varied in abilities from having surfed once or twice – to more – to never. My partner was one of the most experienced ones, so I felt less guilty about taking waves for myself, only after he caught one. Enselmo and I spoke briefly between waves. I would either offer tips or make small talk. After the session I reflected on the experience; the initial thoughts rotated around my awkward conversations in rusty Spanish and how reserved the kids seemed to be.

Give and Surf Panama Bocas del Toro Griffin volunteer

Since that first session I have grown to understand the reservations I encountered with some of the indigenous people on Bocas. I learned that a great deal of rich gringos have taken advantage of those we work with, whether it be in pursuit of a development project or as their employer. I understand now that even though you come with great intentions and are willing to give, it does not mean that the people you intend to help are going to greet you with open arms and immediate gratitude. It takes time to build relationships especially when someone has been wronged in the past. After being here for over a week now, I feel like I am settling in. I know more names and faces, and continue to learn about so many people I come across, especially the group of surfers.

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I think that people tend to idealize the notion of volunteering as bringing forth some great epiphany. This seems to be true in some cases, but I feel my experience has been much more subtle. Totally immersed in nature, surfing allows you to share something with those around you. I am able to settle on common liquid with kids from completely different socio-economic statuses and social norms. In times of grief and turbulent waters I found relief in surfing. I was able to be present and appreciate what is in front of me, despite an underlying discontentment with my situation. Now, to see these kids completely hooked and wanting more, I am faithful that this group is tapping into the same relief from life’s harsh reality. The drive to give yourself to the sport is extremely powerful. The hunger for improvement is only temporarily quenched and returns anew, perhaps stronger.

Words do injustice to fully convey the experience of surfing. Therefore, sharing it with someone else gives your specific relationship something unique, a feeling that is understood, something beneath the surface that is pure joy. As long as surfing is passed on, joy will follow. Neil, the other volunteers, the kids, every surfer, and I will continue the sport as long as possible. In a world that is in a constant flux, we are graced with the experience and its eternal existence. Surfing is an eternal force. It brings happiness, wisdom, relief and opportunity. Something this rich will never die.

Yew!

Learn more about Give and Surf programs & volunteer opportunities in Bocas del Toro.

Make a tax-deductible donation through our Fuel The Future fundraiser.

2017-06-12T03:36:25+00:00
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3 pointer for the WIN! Complimentary hoop by @anniieflanigan #giveandsurfShaka 🤙 Love ❤️ with Volunteer @motaymiller! #shakaforlife #giveandsurfShow and tell with Henri in Bahia Roja! He chose a Panama pride song to celebrate today being Bocas Day! #felizdiadebocas #giveandsurfPlease take a literal 5 seconds to help us win up to $10,000 by voting for Emilie Street's, @emjstreet, #MyGivingStory entitled Gap Year volunteer Shane @shane.br0wn showing the kids from Bahia Roja how it’s done! Shane spent his first month getting his TEFL certificate and then led our ESL programs in Bahia Roja and Bahia Honda for the rest of his stay! Thanks for everything Shane we hope to see you back in Panama some day! 
#panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanksEducation with Give & Surf also includes introducing our students to healthy foods and table manners as our little ones develop their fine motor skills! 🍴#giveandsurf 🍴Adalberto landing the big 🐟 with the Flanigan Family yesterday! 
On behalf of the whole Give & Surf team we wish you, @anniieflanigan, the most amazing start to this next chapter of your life. Thank you for the laughs, good times, and support of education for all those you met in 🇵🇦! #giveandsurf✈️ high thanks to recent gap year volunteer Shane aka @shane.br0wn! Two 👍🏼's up for this awesome edit showing the beauty of Panama and our programs! #giveandsurfDeveloping fine motor skills, such as handling small objects, is a way for children to practice using their hands and fingers, which in turn builds the strength and coordination critical for writing skills. “When you're a preschooler or toddler, your attention comes out in a different way,” Pizzolongo. 
Ian, making the most of this motor skills activity! #giveandsurfPlaygrounding around in Bahia Honda on a Wednesday! #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanks #gratitudeCurrent Volunteer Annie aka @anniieflanigan brought her spearing skills to Bocas and is showing the boys, Eddie Jones, @party_over_here7, and Tom Pelgrum, @bastimentosalive. how to get it done Stuart, Florida style! 🐟🐟 #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanks #gratitudeMileidi aka the classroom DIVA! 
She love her dolls, laughing, and snacks! #giveandsurf

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