There’s nothing like a good travel story, especially when it involves flying on more than one plane. I have a story to tell and if you will oblige, I would like to share it, as I still can’t believe it myself.
I’ve had five kiteboard lessons, but yesterday I had my first with my good friend Rafael Våsquez, the highlight and core of this story. My patient friend was good enough to teach me, even after “trying” to teach my daughter Macy back in July. I guess it only makes sense considering we are talking about a man with twins…can you say patience?
I honestly thought my first kiteboarding lesson with was going to end with my kiteboarding instructor and friend being arrested. The day began in typical fashion, Rafael was little late (Dominican time), the sun was shining, and right around 2:15 pm the wind picked up, the leaves started to make that all too familiar rushing noise and the flags started to whip themselves. It was like riding a bike and I almost picked up exactly where I left off – keeping control of the kite in a way only my boarding friends will understand (between 1:00/2:00 and 10:00/11:00).
Just like child, I always wanted to fly and today was maybe the day! A man walked up to Rafael and started asking questions, about the kiteboarding equipment lying on the beach. Rafael is a trained kiteboarder and on his way to being a licensed instructor, so he was not happy to be questioned, but about what? His regular board is made for a pro. “My board?”, he said, as the man seemed to be accusing him of theft? Keep in mind that I know only a little Spanish so I was reading between the words and body language. Rafael says to him, “I bought it from a local fisherman because it was cheap and could be easily banged around by inexperienced American girls like you and Macy.”
Matter of fact, he bought it when Macy was here learning to kiteboard with him!
The man says to Rafael (the most honest guy you’ll ever meet), “That is not your kiteboard!”
Rafael protests, “I bought it from a fisherman in my village!”.
“That is not your board! I know the man who made that and he did not make it for you.” says the gentlemen speaking Spanish twisted with a heavy German accent (if you can imagine that?).
At this point, there’s a crowd forming, all around us. Cameras are flashing. A few minutes later, a few Canadians riding four-wheelers roll in. Luckily Rafael’s brother Frank, a member of the Republica Dominica National Guard joins us on the beach just to make sure all is ok!
I am asking Rafael to translate the conversation going on around me which I am still rather unaware of. I have heard the word, “Virgin” many times. Possibly because my ear has been tuned to the word since 2007, my mind automatically assumes the U.S. Virgin Islands. The reason why is a whole ‘nother story.
I ask, “Who do you think the man says the board belongs to?”
As Rafael responds to my question, the second question – very common in the Dominican Republic- is being asked by many: “Is this really from a good friend who really is a fisherman, or could it be hot, stolen, has someone been robbed, or anything else similar?”.
I keep asking. Rafael continues to insist the guy who sold him the board is from his village and trustworthy. I am American and trust Rafael, so I believe him as he explains, “Mrs. Tasker, the German guy is saying the board was made for his friend for SIR RICHARD BRANSON!!!” He goes on to say, “I do not believe him. Do you?”
Guenter “Plinsi”, the man who made the kiteboard soon rolled in on his quad (aka. four-wheeler). He agreed, this was the kiteboard he had made, and there were only two in the entire world. Estimated value? $800USD was the purchase price. Rafael had bought it from the fisherman for about $80. Rafael and I confirmed both where right!
This kiteboard that I just thought was another remarkable Richard Branson and Virgin idea, happened to be made for Virgin’s CEO, founder, brainiac, and the man that happens to be my favorite CEO of all time along with the former CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts. Here is the proof that we found that the board was really made especially for Richard Branson by Plinsi:
There was no brawl, thankfully. In the end, they confirmed that Sir Richard Branson had indeed lost his board off the coast of Necker Island, about 320 KM North East of the Dominican coast sometime in July. Well, from our time record, time does tell all. Rafael was teaching Macy to kiteboard July, in the Dominican and didn’t want her to use his expensive equipment, so he bought the inexpensive board which also helped the fisherman out.
I want to get one thing straight. My friend Rafael did not steal Sir Richard Branson’s kiteboard. He does, however, want to return it. Just to be totally Southern and honest, I want to learn to surf on it first. The laws of the sea say the board now belongs to Rafael. However, thanks to Sir Richard Branson’s customization and proper branding, Rafael would like to ask Sir Branson what he would like him to do with the board.
Therefore, I promised him that I would write this post for my friends, family, and the rest of the world to read and this letter to Sir Richard Branson on his behalf:
Dear Sir Richard Branson,
First of all, it was nice thinking that I would possibly have the opportunity to slip my feet in your kiteboard sandals. Rafael says, I must confirm and seek permission with you first, considering your misfortune could be the gift you want returned.
Considering Rafael has purchased your lost and now found Plinsi Virgin branded kite board for a very small price of even the cheapest kiteboard, he would like to return it to you. After meeting you in the Dominican Republic hotel at Agualina Kite Resort, you gave him a profound message on his phone that read something to the motivational tune of “Take risks”, he like myself has taken this to heart. He has taken so many risks thanks to the advice of you, my husband Boyd, his friend Javier, and myself. What would you like Rafael to do with your board? How can he return it to you?
Just in case it matters…we thought you did an excellent job and that Virgin had created it’s own line of kiteboards! I was excited at the thought of surfing on a Virgin board before I knew it was yours! Oh-M-Gee! I know it’s only a board, but I do want to now fill your shoes and fly!!! Tomorrow maybe, there was not enough wind today!?!?
In all seriousness, we could ship it back for Rafael, have him meet you at the next Mai Tai surfing event, drop it off on our way to Glasgow to see my in-laws or better yet, considering we all love you and you love kitesurfing, you could come and get your kiteboard and kite with Rafael? There is one more option….we will put Rafael on a Virgin plane for his first trip out of the Dominican Republic to learn to speak proper English. His mother and sister live in Germany but alas he has never been on plane (until tomorrow when we take him on 4 seater along the North Coast of the Dominican). He is scared to fly…imagine that??! I thought all boarders really wanted to fly!
Long and the short of it you have given Rafael a great story to tell and thank you for allowing me to recognize what he has, and share it with him so he can share with others. That is your boards greatest gift…
Rafael & Christi
P.S. this Rocks
We really do have, what looks like your lost kiteboard. If it is indeed your board, Rafael just has one question: Why are you still on a beginner’s board?
P.S.S. I would like to especially thank one of my best friends, right hand, and best writer/editor I know for turning my word vomit and facial expressions on Facetime into the start of this blog post! I love you Laura Larkin.
P.S.S.S. If you’re in for a good read, download Laura’s novel: Twenty Something. I just read it and LOVE it! Makes me want to be more rebellious and write a book about the millennials all at the same time.