Young ni-Vanuatu surfer attracts attention after wowing competition with duct-taped board
The international surfing community responded to this photo of 14-year-old ni-Van surfer Kaltaliu Kalotiti with offers of surfboards and other gear. (Vanuatu Surfing Association: Stef Mahuk)
A ni-Vanuatu boy who captured online attention after progressing into the final stages of a local surfing competition with an old, duct-taped surfboard has been gifted a new board from a fellow surf enthusiast in New Zealand.
- Kaltaliu Kalotiti was originally given the duct-taped surfboard by older kids
- Vanuatu Surfing Association made an online appeal to get him a new surfboard
- Dozens of offers for new boards flowed in from New Zealand surfers
An online campaign started after a photo was uploaded to Facebook of 14-year-old Kaltaliu Kalotiti holding his battered surfboard, held together with layers of duct tape.
Remarkably, Kaltaliu had used the duct-taped board at a recent surfing competition, where he burst into the semi-finals.
President of the Vanuatu Surfing Association, Stephanie Mahuk, said Kaltaliu’s surfing had improved markedly over the past couple of years.
“He started out as one of those kids who was just born in the water, getting his hands on whatever he could to get in the water with,” Ms Mahuk said.
“Going from there one of the older kids handed him a surfboard, and that’s what he’s been surfing on ever since.”
Ms Mahuk posted the photo of Kaltaliu with the battered board on the VSA’s Facebook page and appealed to the surfing community to see if anyone could donate a second-hand surfboard for him.
Her post was widely shared and within moments she received an offer from New Zealand.
“I didn’t anticipate the level of response that I got back,” Ms Mahuk said.
“Within a couple of minutes I had an email from New Zealand Surf Magazine, who proposed to get him a board and fly it across to Vanuatu.”
Kaltaliu Kalotiti and his new surfboard with Ben Johnson from the Vanuatu Surfing Association. (Nicola Young)
Offers of boards flow in from New Zealand
New Zealand Surf Magazine’s managing editor Steve Dickinson shared the photo of Kaltaliu for his surfing readership to see and said it didn’t take long before the offers started flowing in.
“We put that image on our NZ Surfing Facebook page and within seconds the situation was resolved,” he said.
“A guy called Graeme Sainty rang and said, ‘Hey, look I’ve got a board, I’m going out your way tomorrow, I’ll drop it off with the board bag and a leash.
“And then in 10 minutes we had another six or seven offers of boards, and then by the end of the day those offers had gone to about 20 or 30.”
Kaltaliu’s story has resonated among the international surfing community and Mr Dickinson says it has highlighted the challenges faced by young surfers who struggle to afford the expensive cost of surfboards in Vanuatu.
“Vanuatu’s not renowned for its surf, but it actually does get really, really good surf,” he said.
“So getting an almost new board has got to be very exciting for the little guy and I’m sure it will improve his surfing astronomically.”
System needed to ship new boards to Vanuatu
The multitude of offers from the surfing community for Kaltaliu has prompted Dickinson to start looking for ways to send more second-hand boards over to Vanuatu.
“There is a lot of need up there. They get pounded every couple of years by cyclones and they rebuild their villages and they all get blown away again,” he said.
“So now we’re just trying to work out the best way to get these boards from New Zealand into this shipping container and then sent on their way to Vanuatu.”