Chris Dennis's story is different than most surfers. Growing up along the wild, remote northeast coast of Trinidad in the Caribbean, his passion for riding waves superseded the obstacles in front of him.
Born into a humble fishing community, it wasn't until a friend salvaged a broken board from a vacation rental elsewhere on the island, put the two pieces back together and gave it to him that he first got a chance to live his surf dream.
Diving deep into it, he educated himself about the sport and culture by reading about Duke Kahanamoku and other surfers in an old set of encyclopedias. And like a scene out of the Robert Redford classic "The Natural," the first board actually shaped for Dennis showed up during a massive storm.
"It blew down a tree and there was this big splinter that sort of looked like a surfboard," Dennis described.
Hacking the "blank" out of the tree with a machete, he whittled out a crude board.
"I don't even know how big it was," he explained. "It didn't have fins. But I finally had a surfboard."
Dennis went all in on surfing. He spent time living in Puerto Rico with Dylan Graves and his family, always learning and soaking in the surf life. Clawing his way to the pro ranks, he eventually found himself ranked 144th on the Qualifying Series -- no small feat considering where his journey began.
So, in 2018 when Dane, Patrick and Tanner Gudauskas were trying to decide where to focus their Positive Vibe Warrior Foundation's next surfboard drive, Dennis was the perfect person to connect with in Trinidad and Tobago. Keen to help the next generation get in the water a little easier than he had, the group collectively launched the board drive.
Over the course of a couple month over 200 surfboards from around the U.S. were collected. They were eventually shipped to the Caribbean, where Dennis was waiting for them with a comprehensive distribution plan. It was the largest single donation of sporting equipment in Trinidad and Tobago's history.
"It was pretty mind blowing when we got there," Dane Gudauskas noted about the trip. "Chris is the man. You can't just rock into a country with over 200 surfboards, and thanks to all his organization and passion all the pieces were put in place."
By the time the Gudauskas boys landed in the Caribbean to help Dennis with the distribution of the boards, the project had taken on a life of its own. Captured in Vans new film "Breaking Boundaries," it epitomizes what surfing is all about.
"I hope they don't think I was crazy, but I had a notebook with every kid's name, age, height and weight and what surfboard they were going to get," said Dennis. "I knew exactly who was getting what board and why they deserved to get their very own board."
"This is our third board drive, and each one is special, but this was really unique because this area gets so little attention. It's forgotten about," Dane Gudauskas explained. "We were told that this was the biggest donation of sporting equipment in the country's history."
As a result of the board drive, Chris was connected with Waves For Change in South Africa-one of the beneficiaries of the Positive Vibe Warriors' previous board drives. The group then flew Dennis from Trinidad to South Africa to work and train with them, so they could collectively share knowledge and experiences about how they're respectively using surfing to heal their nations.
"It's so powerful. It's more than surfboards. It's a lot more," marveled Dane. "It's building these surf communities in ways that are so profound."