On a sunny Tuesday morning, Larry Cavero is strolling down the beach keeping a close eye on the waves. He’s spent the brisk morning attending to the trash littered along the shoreline while patiently waiting for the surf to build. The wind is picking up creating promising white caps out on the 17-degree lake; more than comfortable conditions for this veteran Great Lakes surfer.
It’s the last day of September and the Great Lakes surf season is just beginning. This also marks the time of year for the annual Surf Dreams Canada The Cove Beach Cleanup event held at the Scarborough Bluffs. Typically, a celebratory event to bring the community together to kickoff the surf season, this year brought many challenges in the face of the current pandemic situation.
Larry and his daughters, Keana and Neilani surfing in Chicama, Peru
Surf Dreams Canada was founded by Larry Cavero in 2009 and has since then grown into an extraordinary community-oriented organization. Cavero, who was born in Lima, Peru, came to Canada disappointed to leave behind the dreamy waves of the Southern Pacific Ocean. In his mind, his surfing life was over as he left the sea and moved to the land locked province of Ontario. Later finding out that you could actually surf the Great Lakes, he soon saw these magnificent bodies of water through a different set of eyes and was perplexed at how they could be kept a secret for so long.
“There was no community. It was having all of these little groups here and there but not united. Localism in their own little spaces. No one was invited. The word or news was never shared. It was meant to be kept a secret, with a lot of respect obviously.”
Larry surfing at The Cove in Toronto
Growing up in Peru, Cavero had a much different surf experience and culture etched into his mind. He would share waves with people from all around the world. “To me it was as if, naturally surfing is sharing. So, it was a shock when I found out that there was not much welcoming anywhere you went surfing here.”
With a new goal in mind, he wanted to share his same experience that leaving his surfing life down south was not his actual reality. The goal of Surf Dreams Canada was to give the opportunity to anyone who wanted to get into surfing or just simply out on the lakes. An important aspect to their mission was to spread awareness of our polluted beaches. Starting as an online surf shop for many years, the growth of the organization transitioned into much more. The Cavero family has built a strong community, creating connections with people from all around the world. Simply by providing the opportunities, resources, and community support to get people into the water on our Great Lakes.
The Cove Beach Cleanup 2014
In the early years of his journey, the idea for The Cove Beach Cleanup came from himself and his entrepreneurial daughters, Keana (18) and Nailani (15). One of the best breaks on Lake Ontario and Cavero’s favourite spot, The Cove disappointingly had a shoreline littered with trash. Starting as a small group, the Cleanup has grown successfully over the years and has built a strong community behind it.
The Cleanup has always been a celebratory gathering with the community at The Cove. A morning of cleaning up was followed by food, drinks, prizes, sharing experiences and making connections with fellow community members. With social gathering limits inhibiting this annual event, Cavero and his family creatively developed an alternate plan abiding by the pandemic guidelines this year.
The Cove Beach Cleanup 2014
The concept came from Keana and Nailani. They knew we all had to keep our social distance and the only way to do this type of event was to have the community taking their own time to do it themselves. The idea was to host a “virtual” Cleanup running the entire month of September. The community was asked to document themselves and their bubble members picking up trash wherever they were. Sending it to an email address, they would then be entered into a raffle for the chance to receive some epic prizes from the numerous event sponsors. At the end of the month, the raffle would take place and there were to be three grand prize winners to receive special trophies from Keanaila Surfboards.
The first two weeks of the event were rather quiet. Once the community started to adjust, the response Cavero received was overwhelming. As with everything, individuals take time in having to adjust to the new norms. Once the word got out and more people started sharing the event on social media, the response skyrocketed with photos and videos of the community collecting and filling endless bags of trash. “I must say that the past two weeks, it’s been great. It’s been positive. I’m so happy to see that every day I’m getting a lot more messages come through.”
Participants The Cove Cleanup 2020. Left: Morgan Heyde. Right: Sylvia Klimak
“You see the community getting stronger, more united. This is real surfing. This is what surfing’s all about.”
Education and spreading the word through community is an important aspect to initiate environmental change. By doing these types of events, working with organizations and getting the local authorities involved, The Cove Beach Cleanup has substantially grown over the past eleven years. “People are more conscious about it today. I remember over ten years ago; people were scared to go on the beaches or anywhere on Lake Ontario. Swimming in that water? Not a chance.” The Cleanup isn’t about getting outside for a couple of hours one day to help restore our beaches. It’s creating an idea that resonates with individuals to develop a mindset change that they will take with them throughout the rest of their lives.
The Cove Beach Cleanup 2014
Cavero’s two daughters have been strong advocates for not only the Cleanup, but for the endless community projects that have revolved around the family for years. Kids are the ones who have the potential to create a lasting change in society today. “They can see everything that we’ve messed up. And they want to do something about it.” Keana and Nailani are continually promoting the strong surfing community through their passionate projects.
Surfing has always meant so much to Larry Cavero and his family. Coming from a broken home in Peru, the water was able to bring him answers to all of his questions, to help him develop himself and become a better person. “I never even look at surfing as a sport. It was never a sport; it was way more than that.” Everyone in the community has a similar story. We all have the same love for the water, the ocean, surfing, and the environment, right in our own backyards. That’s what makes every individual in this Great Lakes community and our connections with one another so unique.
Participants The Cove Cleanup 2020. Left: Lucas Gentina. Right: Matt Bujok and family
So, the next time you find yourself checking the conditions, grabbing your gear and heading to the beach to jump into the water, take a minute to notice your surroundings. Pick up that piece of trash or recycle that piece of plastic. Whether you’re on your own, with your family and friends, or passing by a stranger. Every action makes a difference, no matter how big or small.
The swell has finally arrived and Cavero grabs his board and jumps into the water. He’ll be greatly appreciating these last few sessions in the warm lake without his boots, gloves, and hood. But this is what he waits for all year long. These are the conditions that all Great Lakes surfers wait for and dream about, even during the hot summer months. Touching the waves that beautiful morning, Larry Cavero has touched much more than that, reaching the hearts of surfing communities all around the globe. “Out of all of this bad, there’s always a lot of good. In anything in life. Always. At the end of the day, it’s all about community.”
Larry and his family surfing in Nova Scotia
You can connect with Larry Cavero through instagram. Specializing in surfboard shaping and repairs, he is highly advocated in our surfing community for all of his remarkable efforts.
Words by Allegra Smith-Herriott
A Toronto based student, Allegra is currently attending Ryerson University studying Sport Media. Growing up living between a hemp farm and the waters of Georgian Bay, her life is strongly centred around the outdoors and environment. Allegra is constantly immersed in sports, sailing, all things health and fitness, while trying to inspire the community. Ambitious in journalism, her dream is to travel the world following her passion for writing, sports, and the outdoors. Find her on Instagram.