Latinos Unidos is a group of surfers with a common interest in rebuilding values in Venezuela. They collect surfboards and technology such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets throughout the Americas. The items are then distributed to children and young people providing them with comprehensive tools for a better future. They believe that the best humanitarian aid is to provide tools and knowledge that help eliminate dependency on a corrupt government system which doesn’t support its people. Latinos Unidos also believes that the best gift you can give a child who lives near the ocean is a surfboard.
Meet Latinos Unidos Co-founder, Korak Tinoco, former Quiksilver rider and Venezuelan National Surf Team member. Korak has helped collect over 50 surfboards and has recently set up a GoFundMe (gofundme.com/lets-send-the-boards-to-venezuela) to get the surfboards from southern California to Venezuela.
1) When did you start Latinos Unidos?
I started collecting surfboards by myself in November of last year, and Latinos Unidos came about a couple months later in January with the help of a longtime friend Colin Saunders.
2) Why did you start it? What compelled you to help? Was it something you saw or read or maybe someone you know personally?
The last time I was in Venezuela I noticed how the number of surfers had shrunk drastically due to the economic crisis the country is going through. One day I was on the phone with my cousin who lives in Venezuela and he was telling me how much worse it had become. With the highest monetary inflation in the world (annual inflation in Venezuela is running at more than 80,000 percent), the majority of the country lives in poverty (9 out of 10 Venezuelans live in poverty), even those with “good jobs” (the minimum monthly wage is the equivalent of $2 USD). If families barely have enough to cover basic expenses like food and medicine, the thought of buying a surfboard for their children is unimaginable. That day on the phone with my cousin I decided to do something for a change.
3) When/ where did you learn to surf? Who taught you?
I learned to surf at a young age in Margarita Island, Venezuela (located 25 miles northeast of Caracas, the country’s capital). My dad is a surfer and I grew up on an island, so surfing fell right into my lap.
4) What does Surfing mean to you?
Surfing is everything to me. I love surfing. It’s such a beautiful culture. It has opened so many doors in my life from traveling around the world to receiving an education and making me who I am today. I want kids in Venezuela to have these same kinds of opportunities that I had when I was young.
5) When the boards reach Venezuela, what “legitimate channels”/ organizations will they be distributed through?
We are involved with an emblematic surfer Francisco “Paiva” Hernandez, who runs a coaching academy on Margarita Island. Paiva himself comes from very humble beginnings and is in contact with children who need this kind of support. In Caracas we are working with two well-known surf foundations; Atletas del Surf & Fundación Pro Surf (funprosurf.org). Both of these organizations help children and have done board drives in the past. Through these distribution channels, we trust that the donations will reach the hands of those kids who need them.
6) Latinos Unidos seeks to provide “tools and knowledge that eliminate dependency”. Eliminate dependency from what? (A broken government or educational system, etc.)
Exactly, when people become dependent they also become easier to control. That is a strategy that the Venezuelan government is using/has used against its people. News in Venezuela is completely censored. Food is rationed. Medicine—almost impossible to find. The government provides a small portion of these necessities there for the people to become dependent on them. With such difficulties to find basic necessities the youth barely go to school anymore, this is such a danger for the future of a country. A surfboard and a smartphone can be the tools that change a kids life forever, giving them independence through the power of sports and education.
7) What are some of the “values” you hope to rebuild in Venezuela?
Values as simple as commitment, respect, honesty, loyalty, etc. Fundamental values that have been lost due to the current crisis. People in Venezuela are living in survival mode. Think of that right or wrong story about a man stealing bread to feed his family, you could say that right now in Venezuela everyone will steal that bread without thinking twice. (Note: malnutrition is a serious problem. In 2017 Venezuelans lost an average of 24 pounds in body weight.)
8) What do you think is the best thing about surfing?
Surfing is the best therapy that exists. You can be having a horrible day and one surf session can turn that all around, even if it’s just for that one hour that you were in the water. I don’t think many other sports do that to people, we are very lucky to have surfing in our lives.
9)Tell me anything you want about Venezuela.
Venezuela was once the power nation for Latin American surfing next to Peru where surfing has not stopped growing. Due to the crisis, international (surf) companies have all left the country and with them the sponsors that supported surfers. Prices for an imported surfboard are completely out of reach and local shapers struggle to find materials to make surfboards. All of these things have negatively influenced surf culture—there are less and less surfers every day. If we can change at least one kid’s life through surfing and education, this project will be all worth it.
10) In the future, what other Latin American countries does Latinos Unidos plan to assist?
The big picture goal here is to one day hit every Latin American country with surfboards. Right now I couldn’t even think where to next, but possibly the Dominican Republic and Panama since we have good connections in both those countries.
The idea is that people like myself will get the spark to use our platform and help organize board drives for their countries. I give a shout out to any surfers or athletes of other sports that would like to do the same project in a different country through Latinos Unidos to contact us with their ideas. This movement is only going to grow with the voluntary collaboration of people that want to help.
If you would like to help Latinos Unidos ship over 50 surfboards to Venezuelan children in desperate need of hope, then follow the link below to donate:
If you wish to organize a surfboard drive for a different country please message Latinos Unidos on Instagram @latinos.unidos_ Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org