- AGAINST ALL ODDS -
SPLITTING RAYS OF SUNSHINE TAPERING INTO THIN STREAMS OF LIGHT PUSH THEIR WAY THROUGH THE CRACKS OF A SINKING ROOF AS THE DAY RISES OVER KITE BEACH, CABARETE. THE DRUMMING SOUND OF THE OVERSIZED RAINDROPS THAT POUNDED THE CEILING ALL NIGHT ARE NOW A DISTANT MEMORY, BUT THIS DOMINICAN FAMILY REMAINS HUDDLED IN THEIR SINGLE ROOM SHACK, CLINGING TO ONE ANOTHER IN AN ATTEMPT TO STAY AS WARM AND DRY AS POSSIBLE.
It’s about 6:30 am, and with silent moves thoroughly honed and tested, a small shadow creeps away from the sleeping bundle and scuffles out the door. The banana tree greets him with breakfast before he sprints, barefoot, the 30 meters that separate him from his paradise: the beach. This is where this boy’s future lies, where tourists bring all the toys and nature delivers its relentless wind. Ariel Corniel is eight years old with an already lifelong addiction to the ocean. The awakening of the sun means another day of discovery, although with a drastically different lesson plan than that of most kids his age.
Following his lead, three silent ghost-like shadows tiptoe out the door shortly after Ariel’s morning escape. The Corniel brothers are awake and ready to embed themselves in another day of kiteboarding history on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. They do everything together, and their everything is kiteboarding. This obsession is only interrupted by the things that keep them alive and breathing (water, food and sleep) — the boys are convinced that they can conquer the world on a kite, but even at his young age, it’s Ariel more than any of the others, who has the drive and passion to succeed.
His eyes scan the sky — first the palm trees and then the ocean to determine whether or not the day will bring the wind he desires. Confirming that it will, Ariel saunters over to his hiding spot and unearths a stick to finish his life-changing task. It turns out to be a broomstick, most likely borrowed from an unsuspecting business somewhere along Kite Beach. Ariel doesn’t really know any better, he just borrows stuff.
Armed with a broomstick and the strongest plastic bag obtainable in a world overrun with flimsy single-use sacks, Ariel now has what he needs; but the question is — will it fly? In only a short moment, complete chaos breaks out in the shorebreak outside one of the kite schools causing tourists and instructors to run for cover. Oh yeah, it flies, and with the addition of a broken surfboard, Ariel has conquered the kite and is one step closer to his dream. Growing up in the Dominican staple of extreme poverty with the European tourist’s opulent world of luxury just down the street presented Ariel with a different outlook and understanding of life. Education, reading and so-called proper and acceptable behavior were foreign words, and much like consequences for actions, these lessons wouldn’t make a mark in Ariel’s life at any point during his childhood. But with little more than some wind, water and an advanced model of his first kite, the Dominican boy set out to be a “campeon,” a kiteboarding champion, however he could swing it