The kids came flying down the hill in the rain - racing, sliding, some falling - all smiling and laughing. First, down San Isidro, known for smooth speed runs and some intense tight turns. Then, down the S of La Molina, to work on how to enter corners and how to do pre-braking. And, finally, down Valle Hermoso de Surco to work on handling speed and letting some of the better riders cut loose. These were kids from Chorrillos, a south-side of Lima Peru neighborhood - all at-risk and under-privileged. A group called Alto Perú organized the event with the support of sponsors including Concrete Wave, Longboarding for Peace, DB, Jet and Road Shark Boards. Over the years, one local guy (Diego Villarán) started Alto Perú, first informally lending kids his surfboards and later creating full formal programs to incentivize good behavior by lending equipment and offering training for surfing, longboarding, self defense, and break-dance classes. Joined by Matías Ballón and others, it was organized into a full non-profit organization that is making a real difference in one of the tougher neighborhoods in Peru. The neighborhood is famous for being a historical battleground site. It still is one, though now the enemies are drugs, crime and quitting school at a young age. Many of its at-risk residents end up in jail or worse. ---- I have traveled to, downhilled, and worked in more than forty countries in my lifetime; the extremes of Peru are something that I have seen in few other places. Peru is a country full of potential, but where the vast majority of the people have few opportunities. The rich live in neighborhoods next to the poor, with great views of beautiful beaches in front and blocked views of poverty behind. There are many excellent spots to ride, and some of the top riders in the world come from here, including Felipe Malaga, Marko Arroyo, Gonzalo Brandon, and others. With the mighty Andes mountains nearby, smooth roads in the foothills, and seemingly endless surf spots - it is a country made for action sports. Almost all of the younger generation are die-hard longboarders, it seems, or want to be. The cost of equipment is more than double what you would expect to pay in the United States. There are small groups of wealthy children that have the best, most modern boards, racing leathers, helmets, slide gloves, etcetera, and large groups of others that could not afford these without years of saving and sacrifice. Few of the poor people can afford to buy a board, much less safety gear. Some have to beg, borrow and steal to ride. I own a company called Road Shark Boards. When I first came to Peru a few years ago, there was little doubt that the sport was on fire here. The streets and hills were so full of riders that it was completely amazing. It was like a scene from California during the 70's, but with longboards. Michael Brooke had asked me to help with a different Longboarding for Peace (LFP) event in Israel, but at the end I could not attend, so later organized an event in Peru in 2012. Michael worked with me, Seismic Wheels, and Triple 8 to organize materials for that event, that we later wrote about in a Concrete Wave article, last December. As I was planning several trips to Peru in 2013, Michael Brooke and I were talking about a second event there. Soon after, we were contacted with a request to organize an event with a local Peruvian non-profit, Alto Perú, to do an event near Lima. Here is what Anahí Rossel, the person that contacted LFP wrote about that time: Everything started when I came across LFP on Facebook. They had shared an article about weapons being exchanged for longboards in the U.S.A., originally organized by Neil Carver from Carver Skateboards. The article was so shocking and amazing I simply decided to congratulate LFP for their work and for the sharing of information of this kind. On my message I didn’t just congratulate them though, I also told them that if they ever wanted to make any event in Perú, they should let me know to see if I could be of help on any level. The answer came faster than I expected, saying they had being here before but they would certainly love to come again. That’s when I got in touch with the guys of Alto Perú. Alto Perú started in 2004 with some free surf lessons for the kids in the neighborhood of Alto Perú, Chorrillos, Lima. Little by little it evolved into a nonprofit organization (2010) dedicated to create athletic and cultural spaces for low resources kids in the neighborhood. That way the workshops and activities started to grow and get better, turning Alto Perú in a place where positive values and love of sports like surf, downhill and Muay Thai were being shared (www.altoperu.org). When I met with the representatives, Diego Villarán and Matías Ballón, we decided we were going to plan the most amazing day of full downhill that we could for the kids that practice it, kids that didn’t just love longboarding as we did but also that were behaving on the neighborhood, at school and home. After a lot of planning, we met again, jumped in a van with the kids and started our trip. The day was cold and wet. It had been raining all night long and we thought it would be a disaster! Ironically the kids were really excited and felt challenged riding on the wet concrete. The hardest part was to control everyone’s excitement, and getting them all to ride safe, at the end we decided they would take turns for using the helmets because, you know, no helmet no riding - and we were a few helmets short. We visited 3 classic Lima spots during the day and headed back home in the evening. We were all very tired but happy, the kids had so much fun and got to visit spots that they couldn’t before because of the distance. We had free gear provided by the sponsors Road Shark Boards, DB, Jet and Cloud Ride Wheels. We rewarded those kids that showed not only potential riding but good and kind hearts. The only condition for giving them the boards was the promise of staying on track, both in school and in the neighborhood. It was the most amazing day and we would definitely do it again. There’s nothing more incredible than seeing the smiles on those kids faces when they’re on a board, practicing the sport that we all dearly love! Thanks to LFP, Concrete Wave, Road Shark Boards, DB, Jet, Cloud Ride Wheels and Alto Perú and everyone else involved with making this possible. --- So, what does Alto Perú need to continue its work? They say that they need safety equipment, like helmets, slide gloves, knee pads, and racing leathers, plus more longboards. They also need sponsors that can support the organization overall. Road Shark Boards donated several complete longboards (with Seismic Wheels), as did DB Longboards (Cloud Ride Wheels) and Jet (Abec 11 Wheels). It is a good start, but they need more. We challenge others to support Alto Perú type organizations and Longboarding for Peace wherever they find themselves: working hard to make the world a better place is worth the hassle. Plus, you get to go longboarding a lot.
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