The Little Islands with Big HeartsOctober 15, 2016
Bocas del Toro, Panama is not a big place when it comes to the amount of land it has or population, but it has big beautiful beaches, big waves, big vividly colored reefs and is home to some of the biggest hearts on the planet. Numerous publications have reported on the many charitable things that happen on the archipelago that sits in the tranquil turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. From improving the community park and playground in the center of Isla Colon, to building schools in small remote villages, and making sure the elderly residents at the Asilo are well fed and taken care of, the community of Bocas del Toro is very giving. And it does not stop with the adults, now even the kids are involved and one of them is mixing his love of the waves with his compassionate heart.
Kai Gale Grani is only 12 years old, but the direction his life is taking gives us a good clue about the kind of person he will grow up to be. Kai started surfing with his dad, Paki Gale, and his brother Teo when he was just a small boy. Living with great surf in his front yard only deepened his love for the sea and being out on the waves. He has grown into an incredible surfer who has represented Panama and his home of Bocas del Toro in many surf competitions. His last big event was in September when he was selected for the Panamanian team to compete in the ISA World Junior Surf Championship. He made the journey with the rest of the team to Portugal to compete, but surfing was not the only thing Kai would be doing while he was in the water so far away.
Flashback to a few surf competitions ago, and in comes Bastian with an idea for the surfers to give back to their community. He told the group about the Waved Foundation which has the surfers and sponsors pledge for each wave that they ride while competing. The Waved Foundation is an organization started by a surfer as a way to help the schools in Panama. The group raises money in order to assist schools with infrastructure, curriculum like books all the way down to school supplies for the students.
Kai along with his best surf and travel buddy, Isauro Elizondo from Santa Catalina and Samuel Pupo from Brazil, jumped on board, literally, with the Waved Foundation and supported their cause all the way across the world in the seas around Azores, Portugal. They competed against young men who were years older and inches taller than them but the amazing spirit, giving hearts, and bravery of the boys was able to make some money for needy schools in Panama, with Boa Surfboards, a Panamanian surf shaper, giving the Waved Foundation $1 US dollar for each wave they rode.
Kai Gale Grani told me that they are still not sure exactly how much money they made for the foundation, but he had fun while he was helping, and he gained a lot of experience. “It was an honor to be part of the Waved Foundation and I hope I can keep on helping this foundation get money for the schools in Panama” he said in his last email to me. The adventure was great for Kai, the waves were big and the competition fierce, but he also let me know how happy he was to be home. Even with all of the places he has surfed, including Bali, Costa Rica, California, Portugal and the East Coast of Panama, Bocas del Toro is still his favorite place to surf. According to him, “Bocas is special to me because I was born here so I know all the spots really well, and how to surf them. I also love to surf here because the water is very warm and it is not as crowded as some of the beaches. Plus, my family and friends all surf here, so that is why I love Bocas so much!”
Next time you are out at one of our magical beaches watching the groms ride the waves know that they are practicing because the better they get the more they can give in return! Bocas del Toro, Panama and all of its residents young and old will make your heart smile with its generous spirit and welcoming soul. You have to experience for yourself!