For their Eco-ride series “The Green Wave”, Cabrinha ambassador Carine Camboulives and her husband Emmanuel Bouvet together with their two daughters traveled to two of the least visited regions of Colombia. They did so not only to ride amazing spots but to document some unique initiatives in the social and environmental field. From the harsh desert of the Caribbean coast where the native Indians are getting into kitesurfing to the rain forest of the Pacific coast where surfing has become a therapy to heal the trauma of the past, The Green Wave is taking us on a breathtaking journey. Carine visited the remote Wayúu tribe, living in the harsh conditions of the extreme North of Colombia, La Guajira. Documenting how kitesurfing helps the kids to survive and heal the trauma of the guerilla, staying inspired and busy to look beyond working for the cartels. Watch the film and read the interview with Carina below.
Carine, you and your family took a trip to Colombia and visited the windy north, a secluded area with one of the last indigenous tribes. What was your mission?
We have been dreaming of exploring Colombia for many years. Its music, its people, untouched waves and coastlines… but also its bad reputation including drugs, violence and kidnapping. When we started researching the places we wanted to go, we found out that they were the most vulnerable ones, where people had to live with conflicts and violence daily and still remain perfect fields for illegal activities to flow and rebels and paramilitary groups to hide. But since November 2012, the Farc (the oldest and largest group among Colombia’s left-wing rebels and one of the world’s richest guerrilla armies) and the government opened peace talks. In 2016, a peace agreement was signed by the president Juan Manuel Santos, who was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. The 50 years long civil war went to an end but the heavy cost of at least 220,000 lives and six million people displaced, was still palpable. We also found out that small initiatives emerged to help and heal those traumatic experiences. Two foundations particularly attired our attention. They had programs to help the community through sports. On the Pacific Coast with surfing and on the Caribbean Sea with kitesurfing! We wanted to document that and also see if we could bring some helpful equipment there.
The Wayuu took over the kiting business from foreigners who first brought kiting to the region. What effect does this have on the people and the area?
Martin Vega was a kitesurfing pionner for La Guarija Peninsula. He knew that the conditions would be perfect due to the constant flow of the trade winds from the northern hemisphere accelerating along the northeastern coast of Venezuela. He met Sophie Jackl, originally from Germany, and they started to explore that area. They fell in love with the village of Cabo De La Vela and its community, but the access was very limited; there was no water and no electricity and the drive in Jeeps was long and dustyto cross the desert and the rocky hills of this arid and harsh area. Secondly, this region is the territory of the Wayúu Tribe, the most unique and numerous of Colombia’s indigenous people. To give you an idea of their spirit and attachment to their land, the Wayúu have never been conquered by the Spanish, or ruled by the Colombian authority! For kids there, the future is simple: they become fishermen or help for goods transports, if they are lucky to not end up in contraband or working for the Narcos. For the Wayúu kids, watching those kites flying was a revelation! Two brothers, Betino 10 and Nelson Gomez 13, started to follow Martin step by step, and got completely hooked! Kitesurfing changed their destiny. Martin and Sophie realized the potential of those children decided to help them even more. They created a foundation: “Jouktai” (wind runners) to find support to train them and grant their wishes to become qualified kitesurfing instructors and athletes. But some elders were not happy to see the youth turning their back on their cultural traditions and chores. They also saw the financial potential of the kitesurf school and decided that kitesurfing should remain in the locals’ hands. After 7 years in Cabo, it was also a good timing for Martin and Sophie to go back to their base in Riohacha to take care of their school “Kite Addict Colombia” and find a family.
Your goal was to also raise awareness for waste management? What is the current situation in the areas you visited and what is done to improve it?
Around Cabo De La Vela, the landscape is arid and inhospitable. People live in Rancherias (lots with few huts) in extreme poverty in the middle of nowhere. A couple of goats seem to find a bit a food in the dry bushes loaded with plastic bags gone with the wind. There is no waste management and the constant wind propagates plastic pollution everywhere. In Cabo, we met Rodrigo who decided to manage himself the plastic and aluminum waste of the whole village. He told the kids he would pay them for plastic bottles and cans. Everyone got on it! He compacts them himself manually, saying it is like a meditation and transports the loads to the nearest facilities hours away. His single initiative cleaned the area and got the kids involved, aware of their own environment and inspired to be the change.
How do you see the future there, both for kiting and waste?
The kiting atmosphere in Cabo is so joyful. It seems that are all playing and teasing each other on the water, laughing, screaming, exchanging boards and kites. The oldest is in his 20s, the youngest must be 7 (not counting the babies and toddlers Béto is carrying on his shoulders jumping!) Growing up with the sport, it seems that they have no fears at all. I am also amazed to see girls involved which is such a different world from their culture and tradition of being home weaving bags and hammocks. The level will increase again for sure, allowing those kids to travel the world to compete and learn other languages. We are hoping that the tensions between the Wayúu tribe and the tourists will stay smooth and giving value to the waste, some recycling companies will hopefully get more involved in this area and help.
What is your next mission?
Our next mission will be in French Polynesia this June. It will document different projects about permaculture started by a surfer and marine biologist, and about ‘reforesting’ coral reefs with a team of young watermen.
This article first appeared on Cabrinha’s blog here: https://www.cabrinhakites.com/blogs/news/the-green-wave-kiting-in-columbia