Friday, November 24, 2017

Luciano Gonzalez: A life at Sea

LG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican Republic Losing a parent is always a tough experience and something no child should ever go through, but what happens when it does?. A lot of things come to mind, in the case of dominican athlete and multi-time competition winner, Luciano Gonzalez, he turned to the sea.


"When bad things happen, you just need a place you can go to and feel at ease, so... I sat by the beach and, for some reason, everything started feeling a little less bad.” 

A tanned and skinny 7 year old Luciano would boogie board everyday in his hometown of Cabarete. And so, his connection with the ocean granted him a new special playground.

He started out helping a man that worked with watersports equipment in a hotel close by his house, he made sure everything was clean and in exchange he was allowed to make use of it. 

“By the time I hit puberty I was doing pretty good at windsurfing, I hoped to become a champion. Some years later a group of french kiters were in town and well, to be honest I’d never seen anything like it. They pulled 20 meter jumps in the air, they were like Superman to me!”

While at the beginning he wasn’t very interested in the new emerging sport he quickly noticed some of his friends were shifting their interests (and careers) into kiteboarding, so he thought “might as well give it a try!”.

Kite Park was a hot spot where many kite brands came out to test their new equipments (known today as Kite Club), Gonzalez started receiving diverse proposals from possible sponsors. He tried his best to include more options in his 'resumé'.

“I still needed training in different areas so I pushed myself into surfing in Playa Encuentro.”

And while he never received much aid from the dominican government after becoming a competing athlete, he managed to get sponsors from Takoon, Red Bull and Gotcha, as well as performing international events in countries like France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Hawaii, Brazil, and more.


LG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican Republic

His uncle is Grisolías Martínez Merete (pictured) a pro windsurfer and one of the first people to put Cabarete on the map while competing abroad. And even though Luciano displayed his best efforts in water sports, he didn’t get much support from the rest of his relatives.

“My family has always wanted me to steer towards a more “traditional” lifestyle. But that’s not me! I had to make tough decisions, quit school and travel the world doing sports, but you know what? I don’t regret it, not even one bit.”

So, what would you consider yourself proud of?

LG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican Republic

“Luckily enough, I'm proud of a lot of things I've done. For example, I remember going to the Red Bull King of Air in Hawaii (2003) and winning 3rd place, funny thing was I'd never catched those kinds of waves. That event also got me one of the coolest pictures I have, it's with a 15 meter wave and I look tiny in it! Also winning 1st place for the Master of the Ocean event on 4 different occasions.”

What has scared you the most?

“In the same event I mentioned in Hawaii, some killer waves got a hold of me and my kite. Imagine these huge walls of water pumping you down, the bottom of the ocean was pretty much all rocks. Personally, I like to think I have respect for the ocean and avoid eventualities but this time I was freaked out. Wasn’t sure I was gonna make it.”

What exactly inspired you to open up your own Surf Camp?

“I guess one does get used to doing things over and over until you’re recognized for it, not only in your country but internationally as well. I’ve always wanted to live off of what I know and what I’m good at. The beach is my favorite office by far! They call me “dichoso” or that I’m lucky guy, but I see extreme water sport athletes as visionaries. Who would’ve thought that you could live off practicing sports on the beach?.”

LG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican Republic 

How has being an extreme water sports teacher been for you?

“Great! When I became champion and travelled the world, I figured I could expand my knowledge to others. I mean, sometimes clients get scared thinking they won’t be able to pull something off and you have to show them support while also being positive in their capabilities. Confidence is important for them.” 

Daily Routines

Since his teenage years, Gonzalez was busier than your average dominican teenager. Having to juggle in between gears, he got up super early to cach  waves surfing in the mornings, going kiting in the afternoons and throw in some windsurfing around the sunset hours, just to keep up. Paddle boarding came along much later, nowadays as the owner of the famous LG Surf Camp, Luciano's own multi-sport school.

“I noticed the waves weren’t as consistent some days as others, that’s when I started teaching all the different disciplines (kiteboarding, surfing, paddleboarding and windsurfing). A complete structure that’s been running for the last 5 years, allowing you to enroll in any of them, doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate or somewhat advanced, there’s always something cool to practice!” 

What’s your experience with the LG Surf Camp so far?

“Making people happy is an awesome job, it’s the best one you can have. People come to me during their vacations, the want to unwind, learn something new, they are open to new experiences. It transforms our lives since we both learn from each other, wether as professionals or on a cultural level, everybody is different and you get to learn a lot on the daily.”

LG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican Republic LG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican Republic

When asked about the Cabarete Lifestyle he says:

“Here, you can live like a millionaire, even if you’re not exactly rich. Hopefully we can create more jobs around sports or creative lifestyles to sustain this level for more to come. It's awesome being able to live in paradise without having to die! ” 

How do your clients reach you?

“The internet is a great place to connect. People from all over the world find out about our school through our website. A lot of canadians, north americans and europeans come here. All the sports that I’ve ever practiced are taught in our Camp.

Hopefully the government representatives will support alternative sports, specially those growing in our island and the companies that are pushing through to make use of our nature in a positive way.”

Advice for the young:

“I would recommend that you study as well as do sports everyday. They're both very important. Even though I didn’t study, in most cases it’s best to have some sort of education if possible. Here in DR, only mainstream basic sports are promoted, but I think it’s better if it’s something you can do as an individual, not depending on others. Extreme water sports show you how to fight, not only against nature but yourself. Everything that happens can make you stronger and better by correcting yourself. Even if it’s hard at first, be patient and don’t lose hope!” 

LG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican RepublicLG Surf Camp Cabarete Dominican Republic

The future is not a scary place anymore.

In the future, I’d like to have a foundation of my own. Now we’re under the process of buying some land for the LG Surf Camp. Maybe get some kids from the community together for free classes, while keeping an eye out for young talents. This is easy for me since I’ve lived through it. I’m definitely not competing anymore. I only have time to develop my dreams and my business (which are the same thing). If you do something you love, whatever that is, it will come to you. We all have the tools to grow but you have to make a decision to use them.”


Nowadays, Luciano doesn't spend much time looking at the ocean, he's happy being part of the scenery.




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