By Dan Tealdi | www.kiteadventures.com
Photos by Rogerson Barroso
When your plane drops in for landing at the Fortaleza International airport, you will quickly realize just how beautiful the northeastern state of Ceara, Brazil, really is. Its endless white sand beaches bordered by beautiful blue water and the sprawling untouched sand dunes make it a kiter’s paradise.
You will also quickly realize that the natural terrain isn’t the only thing that is beautiful here. The culture and the people are special and unique as well. No matter where you go, whether it is the large metropolitan city of Fortaleza or the tiny fishing village of Icarai, you will observe the locals greeting each other with a smile and a hello.
There is a unique sense of national pride and happiness to be Brazilian – something that I greatly respect and that you just don’t find many places when traveling the world anymore. This unique sense of pride is prevalent all throughout Brazil and it seems to help define their sense of community and brings them together as a culture.
Since 2008, I have been frequenting Brazil on a regular basis for business and pleasure, but a particular trip I made in 2010 touched me in a special way. I am sharing it with you as I hope my experience will touch you as it did me.
It was a warm and beautiful mid-October day when I arrived at the Fortaleza International airport. As I stepped off the plane, I took in a deep breath and my face lit up with a big smile as the familiar scent in the air reinforced the fact that I had arrived in Brazil, my home away from home.
As I walked out of the terminal I noticed “Mr. Tealdi” spelled on a white arrival card being held by a taxi driver. As we made eye contact and acknowledged each other the gentlemen asked me in broken English with a Portuguese accent, “Hello, are you Mr. Tealdi?” I nodded my head and said, “Sim, Obrigado” (yes, thank you).
As he began to assist with my luggage and kite bags he introduced himself as Fernando. Fernando and I then made our way to his taxi enjoying small talk and proceeded to load the car for an approximately 90 minute drive through the back streets of Fortaleza, the fifth largest city in Brazil, to our ultimate destination of Paracuru, Brazil, a small fishing town approximately 50 miles northwest of the city.
Little did I know how this one taxi ride with Fernando would profoundly affect me when I learned how our sport can positively impact a community in ways I had never imagined.
As we made our way through Fortaleza, Fernando and I began to engage in conversation about kiteboarding and the pride and joy of his life, his son. “Mr. Tealdi I just want to thank you so much,” he said. Assuming he was referring to the use of his taxi service I replied with, “Your welcome Fernando, it’s my pleasure.”
Fernando continued to thank me again and said with a quivering voice, “I want to thank you for helping to bring kiteboarding to our community. Before kiteboarding kids here did not have much to look forward too.The towns were having problems with rising violence and crime and the kids’ outlet of choice was getting mixed up with the wrong crowds. There is less violence and crime here now because of kiteboarding. The availability of local jobs in the community has increased and the kids have opportunities again.”
I proceeded to ask Fernando about his son and whether or not kiteboarding had directly impacted his life. Fernando said, “Yes, kiteboarding has impacted our lives in a big way. My son is the love of my life, but because I work all day I can’t oversee what he does after school. My son is 15 years old and I know for a fact that if it wasn’t for kiteboarding coming here, my son would be involved in some kind of crime or gang. My son loves kiteboarding and now I can be confident knowing that my son is not getting into trouble at night when I am working because of his dream and the goals that he has set for kiteboarding. My son has a goal and dream to become the best kiteboarder in Brazil by the age of 21. He is currently only able to ride on a 2-line kite and uses very old equipment that does not work properly, but he has fully dedicated himself to the discipline and work ethic to accomplish this dream.”
It is difficult to translate through words and reveal the true sincerity and genuineness coming from Fernando’s voice at that particular moment — he practically had tears running down his face so it was an intense and special moment for me at the same time.
Listening to Fernando make that statement was extremely touching as it revealed to me that kiteboarding can be so much more than just a cool sport or recreational activity. Our beloved sport of kiteboarding has the ability to improve and positively impact entire communities not only in Brazil but all around the world. Fernando continued to mention how discipline and a strong work ethic would have been difficult for his son to learn on his own, given the way his local community was going before kiteboarding came to the area.
Through kiteboarding boys and girls like his son can have passion for something that is positive and productive in their lives. Fernando said, “I see my son setting personal goals for himself and I am so proud of him. I work this job as a taxi driver every day so I can support his dream of becoming the best kiter he can be. I don’t know how to thank you but my son is my life and he is very important to me.”
As we arrived at Paracuru, I asked Fernando not to think about how to thank me but rather I would like to thank him for sharing such a personal and genuine story about how kiteboarding had such a positive influence not only on his son, but an entire community.