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Sunday, November 25, 2012
One Step Beyond


Having traveled to South America for summer snow since he was 13, Vancouver, British Columbia-based pro snowboarder Tamo Campos has always possessed a strong connection with the continent. But during a volunteer mission to Peru in 2011 as part of his nursing degree, he got a firsthand look at the lives of a population that would likely never set foot on a ski hill. The daunting, unrelenting poverty that existed was coupled with an amazing level of joy and appreciation for his group's small contribution to the area -- a contribution not only in aid and resources, but also in optimism and encouragement. In that moment, a light bulb went off, and Campos realized that while the snowboard community possesses a surplus of resources, its true advantage lies in its overabundance of positivity.

Upon his return to Canada, Campos immediately began seeking a way to utilize that energy. The method was simple: Take a group that is already highly skilled at spreading stoke through telling stories through words, photos and video, then focus those skills on educating the local community and providing resources to those in need. Beyond Boarding was born.

No matter how hard the work or hot the days, the smiling faces of the kids in the community always kept the crew going strong.

In the spring of 2012 the initial dozen members of Beyond Boarding worked to raise more than $7,000 for the impoverished jungle community of Belen in Iquitos, Peru. An eclectic mix of individuals made up the group, from Campos's fellow riders (including Dave MacKinnon and Lewis Muirhead), friends and photographers all the way to classmates and players in Vancouver's social and humanitarian circles. The destination itself was decided with the help of Hope International, a group working with the poorest regions on the planet. With their help, Beyond Boarding was able to focus in on not only the area they were able to make the most impact upon, but also on how their contributions could go the farthest in terms of providing self-sustaining and valuable services to the community.

They settled on Belen, which was experiencing the worst flooding in 20 years due to one of the heaviest rain seasons on record. By July, 10 members had headed down to assist residents with rebuilding. Four weeks of sweat, tears, stomach parasites and bad Spanish later, plus one community center and one floating garden raft, the crew left feeling as though the community had changed them as much as they had changed it.

From Peru the team continued on to Chile, where they met and exchanged ideas with Un Techo, a student-driven organization working to raise social awareness amongst Chile's emerging business class, which helped to establish Beyond Boarding's Chilean team in the heart of Santiago. Together they were able to address ways to involve Un Techo students in new initiatives and to adopt new means of getting business students in North America involved with social programs.

Tamo Campos laying one out as he drops into a well-deserved line in the Chilean Andes.

Finally Campos and five remaining members of the team travelled into the Chilean Andes to do what they know best: snowboard -- a far cry from the experiences of the previous six weeks, and a change that was reflected in the outlook of the entire team.

Today the Beyond Boarding crew is working feverishly to build awareness about this project and others like it, and to turn positive energies into real action. In December they'll be premiering a film detailing the project and showcasing some solid snowboarding from south of the Equator. Aside from raising awareness about how people can get involved with Beyond Boarding on a local level, the film will continue to benefit the community of Belen through the donation of all proceeds from its initial showing and those of concurrent fundraisers, which will help to provide high school educations to 100 children.

Tamo Campos working to finish the base of the floating garden raft, providing 100 square feet of arable land to the community regardless of flood or high water.

This is just the beginning. Despite having no massive corporate backing, no huge budget and no affiliation with any existing organizations, more members, more support and more energy come to Beyond Boarding all the time. They're already working to provide easy access to and information on how individuals can help their local communities through shelters, food banks, educational programs and even political action.

Now with sights set on a mission to the aboriginal communities of Haida Gwaii in Northern British Columbia this winter, things are looking bright for this group. If you'd like to find out more, check out their Facebook page and website. Get inspired, get connected and get involved.