How a summer camp day trip changed my life. Also known as the start of Bring The Stoke.
Bring The Stoke...what is it exactly?
Well, I will need to tell you a backstory first. I hope that's alright, if not scroll down to the second to last paragraph or somewhere around there. Yeah, just scroll all the way down. Just hope you know you'll be missing a sweet story.
It was the summer of 2019. More specifically, a sunny, moderately hot day in early August. A normal day for the middle of nowhere Maine. I was a driving a big ole' 15 passenger van. This van filled with my co-worker, nine children, a whole lot of immature jokes and myself. At the time, I was working at a summer camp in Maine and it was a Wednesday. At camp, we love Wednesdays, because on Wednesdays, it's trip day!
On most trips, this is how the day goes down.
Pack the bus with about 50, middle school age campers and leave around 9:30
Drive to wherever we are going - 11-12ish?
Have fun till 4-5ish?
Drive back and stuff ourselves with a whole lot of Pizza Hut, Rice Krispies, and Capri-Suns around 6ish.
A very solid day if you ask me.
For trips, we usually went to places such as, movie theaters, escape rooms, go-karting, laser tag, batting cages, mini golf, water parks, ice cream, and Acadia National Park (my personal favorite). But this trip was different. This Wednesday was a surf trip!
And it wasn't taking 50, middle school age campers and attempting to put them in wetsuits . It was nine, yes I repeat, NINE total campers. That was a breath of fresh air. Their ages range from about 8-14. With me was another counselor, his name is Nexus.
Let me tell you a little bit about Nexus. He is basically Poseidon reincarnated. And I am not just talking about his long, beautiful South African mane he has, but rather the passion for the ocean this man holds.
Back this surf trip, I wasn't originally supposed to go on this trip, but the stars aligned perfectly in my favor. They needed someone to go along with Nexus because having one adult alone with children is an obvious no-no. They needed someone who could drive a van, take photographs, and was lifeguard certified. I know somebody who fills those voids! You guessed it. Me.
Around 11 that morning, we loaded all nine campers into the van and we were on our way! For about 30 seconds, because we needed to get gas, (and snacks, of course) and the gas station is right down the road. Then about ten minutes later, we pack the van again with all nine campers, beef jerky, Doritos, Red Bull, M&Ms, and other snacks that any kid would love, but before we left, I asked all the campers how many of them went surfing before. One. Now that may not surprise most of you, but if you knew these kids and where they come from, it is a complete shock to me. Most of these at this camp are affluent. Very, VERY affluent. Some lived in the Hamptons, others had houses on Nantucket, a yacht in Miami, been to the .Super Bowl, fly in first class and so on. I would say most of these kids live a life similar to Richie Rich. But only one has gone surfing!?! That surprised the heck out of me. After I voiced how shocked I was, Nexus went over some rules. or should I say "rule". The only rule he asked of the campers is that we "Bring The Stoke". Of course, the campers had a laugh with that, imitating his South African accent and adding the word "mate" in there way too many times.
Now for those who don't know what "stoke" means, let me explain. According to UrbanDictionary.com, it is a slang term meaning, "the exhilaration/happiness a person find in something". I will now use it in a sentence. "I am so stoked you are reading my blog post. But I will be even more stoked, if you buy a shirt or a sticker. A synonym would be excitement, exciting, excited. Makes sense? I sure hope it does.
Anyways, all Nexus wanted us to do, was bring excitement, the good vibes, and energy etc. That really stuck with me. I liked it a lot. I liked it so much I thought about it for the two hour drive to Kennebunkport. I liked it so much, I thought about it when surfing. I liked it so much that I thought about it for four months till I sold my first shirt that said "Bring The Stoke" on it. I thought about it everyday. Originally, it made me think... "What if I brought the stoke in everything I did", "When if everybody in this van brought the stoke on this surf trip?", "If everybody in the world, brought their own stoke, how would the world be?". Any question I asked myself regarding humans & them bringing the stoke ended the same. It would be better. I would be a better person. The trip would be more fun. The world would be more positive. I could use it as a platform to help others, and spread kindness. ALL better things. It amazed me how a three word message, could mean so much more.
We finally arrive at Kennebunkport, and we go to a beach called Gooche's Beach, The campers had a laugh or two about that name, and we are out having the time of our lives. I am having a conversation with one of the campers. I was telling him how "bring the stoke" sounded like a movement, a lifestyle movement. He agreed. We talked about these big ideas of what it would look like. At the time, these were all theoretical. I thought about selling merchandise, being in all the surf/skate shops in the nation. Sponsoring the top athletes, and ultimately, making the world a better place by having the customers bringing the stoke in to their everyday lives. The camper had an other idea. "What if you sold the merch and gave back?" Whoa. I couldn't believe a 13 year old came up with that idea. (There is a lesson in that). But I am also grateful he came up with that idea. I was sold on this whole concept, to make a brand that has sweet apparel, promotes positivity, kindness and eventually use it as a way to give back.
I did some thinking. Then some more thinking. And even more thinking. Then it hit me. This is PERFECT. I need to help underprivileged children get outdoors. At the time, I was going into my senior year in college, (I am finishing up my last semester as I write this), and I wasn't so sure what I wanted to do after graduating. I am graduating with a degree in Recreation & Fitness Club Administration (If you are reading this after May 2020, I already graduated - yay me!) I had ideas. I had MANY ideas. But now? Now I had a plan. A goal. A vision. A purpose. A dream. I have to make Bring The Stoke become a reality and eventually try to benefit as many children, that may never get the opportunity to go on outdoor adventures, as I can. That's the motive.
If only one very privileged camper went surfing before, I know for a fact that underprivileged children will never even get the chance to surf. That's not right. The campers had the time of their young lives being out in the ocean riding the waves back to shore. That's the power of Mother Nature. It can change lives. It changed mine. Why not spread that power?
My hope for Bring The Stoke is to take underprivileged children on more than just surf trips. I want, through selling apparel, to fund ski/snowboarding trips, go rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and more! I just want to share the wonders of nature with those who would benefit most. It's simple really.
So what is Bring The Stoke? It's a lifestyle.
I challenge you, everyday, no matter what it is, to bring the, excitement, positive energy, love, good vibes, stoke, or whatever else you want to call it, and spread the goodness. It will change you, just like it changed me.
(me bringing the stoke)
Thank you for reading. I appreciate you for taking the time out your day and reading my post.
- Miles Nessuno