FOR his dedication and support to working with at-risk youth in rural communities in Trinidad, pro surfer Chris Dennis captured the 2021 Aloha Award.
The Aloha Award recognises individuals in the global surfing community who, in addition to cultivating and sharing their joy of surfing with others, have gone the extra mile to give back through acts of kindness outside the water.
Dennis will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Namotu Island in Fiji – a world-class surfing destination with easy access to Fiji’s premier surf breaks.
Also, the sponsor of the Aloha Award will also make a US$5,000 donation to Dennis’ non-profit organisation Waves of Hope – Surf Therapy Trinidad.
Growing up in rural Rampanalgas, Dennis discovered surfing as a teenager before dedicating himself to the sport and going on to become a professional surfer.
Through competing and travelling the world with surfing, Dennis opted to introduce surfing as a means of recreation to youngsters in his community. It was well-received among villagers.
Gradually, Dennis and his family began teaching kids how to read from surf magazines, made sure they went to school and even provided food and money to those who needed it.
The family continued to dedicate what they could to the local children and began to see the impact this was having on their lives.
With lots of help from friends, and surf therapy training, Dennis and his wife Manuela officially founded their NGO Waves for Hope in 2019.
Now, the pair work with children from vulnerable situations, who are exposed to poverty, violence, abuse and family breakdown, by using surf therapy to create a fun and safe space with caring mentors.
The use of this surfing and evidence-based exercises helped build healthy relationships, develop coping skills, empower and provide positive psychology education among the children.
Dennis and Manuela’s receipt of this award highlights their work as unsung heroes in the community.
Placing second behind Dennis was David Malana (co-founder of Color the Water& Fundraiser). In third place was Tahlia Anderson (Surfing the Spectrum).
On the Wave of Hope’s Facebook page, administrators celebrated their most recent achievement.
“We are stoked and humbled to be internationally recognised for the youth and community work we do here in TT. It’s been an amazing journey since we officially started in 2019 and we are extremely grateful for all the support and encouragement we’ve been receiving from all over the world.”
“Waves for Hope offers youth development programs that utilise surfing, group discussion and mentorship to empower and provide positive psychology education to underserved youths. Our goal is to encourage positive life choices and create role models in under-served communities in TT”.