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San Bernardo del Viento /// Colombia /// December 2015

Our final destination for 2015 is San Bernardo del Viento, a small fishing village on ungoverned land along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The remote community sits at the mouth of the river Sinu, one of the longest waterways winding its way from the interior jungles of Colombia through cities and finally flushing into the Caribbean Sea. The ocean is a murky brown tint as the sediment rich river water hugs the shoreline as if nervous to leave the land. The river carries nutrients that are deposited on the beach making it possible for plants to grow where only sand exists.

All along San Bernardo del Viento’s miles of beach, you will find whole tree trunks from the jungle, seedlings from the mangroves, and just about every kind of plastic waste people have thrown into the river, from tooth brushes to diapers and old shoes. Local residents upcycle many of these unsolicited iteams that wash ashore.

If humans are fighting a civil war on plastics between environmentalists and the inconsiderate, this beach is a battle field.

Like the vast majority of Colombia, San Bernardo del Viento fell victim to a period of conflict due to drug violence and military strife. Some wealthier residents abandoned their homes never to return. Today these crumbling houses inhabited by bats and crabs are slowly sinking into the sand like their history is slowly fading into the past. San Bernardo del Viento is quietly entering a time of reparations although the conflict is still too fresh to speak openly about.

San Bernardo del Viento is a fishing community. The idea to bring surfing into the community as a tool for youth development and community empowerment wasn’t too far fetched as the kids are use to playing in the sea and often grab pieces of wood that wash to shore to use as bodyboards.

Grassroots ding repair workshops. Arriving to the surf club, we were informed that the vast majority of their quiver of surfboards needed to be repaired. With a repair kit in hand, we taught a class on how to repair surfboards.

Learning different stretches through play and imagination!

Nico getting some barrel time!

Fundacion Sinumar began in this light of reformation. Its founder, Dorkas, is 26 years old singer and and the daughter of a local fisherman. Growing up in San Bernardo del Viento, her parents taught her and her siblings the art of positive actions for oneself and others.

In Sinumar’s Photography Club, we took photos of the original and tried to see them in an extraordinary way. At the end of the class, we examined their photos and gave feedback.

As part of our month of workshops, we organized a Surf + Film Festival with the local community. Surf contests normal have an entry fee. Our surf festival did as well: 50 pieces of plastic per participants collected from the beach.

Each kid picked up 50 pieces of plastic that had washed up on their beach.

Going over the festival guidelines. Our surf festival shifted the tradition definition of surf contest. Our judges qualified the participants based on their surfing abilities but moreover on their values and their initiative helping out during the contest.

Santiago's epic "look at this!" smile.

As part of the surf festival, we invited participants for limonada (lemonade) and patacones (fried mashed plantain pancakes).

The rising tide of women's surfing in Colombia. San Bernardo del Viento has a rising group of surfer girls. Women in the village share the same story among a global sisterhood of discontinuing their education to stay in the house and raise children at an early age. Girls usually drop out of school at a young age and by their early twenties are mothers to at least three children. Surf clubs with a focus on girls are a playful and powerful way to break social norms and create new possibilities for women (given the right social constructions waiting for the girls on land after playing in the sea).

Dayiana learning how to shoot with a GoPro.

In every coastal community we work with, at the end of our stay, we always organize a community screening together with our local partner. This is an opportunity for participants to show their work to their family and friends, celebrate their local culture, and watch inspiring short films together as a community. We announced the winners of the surf festival at the beginning of the event and handed out prices. We left a surfboard for the local girls to use exclusively and with their permissions, boys who respect women’s rights in and out of the water.

Living without running water and electricity for one month, one really simplifies their lifestyle. Operating by candle light in the nights and drying our clothes in the Caribbean winds by day - a few of our simplified actions.

After dislocating my shoulder for the first time one year ago, pushing so many kids into waves for this month, brought back shooting pains. Rehabbing became a meditation in-between workshops and classes. Although I missed my own surf sessions, I could really focus on my classes with the kids.

Just beyond San Bernardo del Viento there is Isle Fuerte or Strong Island. We ventured here one morning to explore the spectacular Caribbean reefs.

Without fans in the scorching sun and at times suffocating humidity, we sought refuge in the Caribbean sea just footsteps from our cabaña.


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