Haiti – (a wonderful country of strong, courageous and resilient people)
There is no doubt that the title of this blog post is misleading. Everyone who surfs knows that an epic surf day requires the perfect and delicate convergence of variables – wind, tide, swell direction, air temperature, water temperature, visibility… depending on the state of these variables, your favorite break is epic or junk. If you want the best day at your break, you have to have flexibility and days to spend waiting for the perfect conditions. The convergence of perfect variables is a rare gift. Unless you are surfing Kelly’s surf ranch, you can’t just pick a day, paddle out and be guaranteed amazing waves. It is part of the spirit of surfing – it makes surfers nomadic, persistent, patient, and attentive.
So it is no surprise that I have been skunked every single year I travel to Haiti. Once a year in November, I travel to this beautiful country to provide pediatric general surgery care in the beach town of Jacmel. Every year, on the Sunday of our trip, I take my team to Kabik beach and the Surf Haiti break where we rent boards, paddle out, languish in the warm Carribean and feast on grilled lobster as the sun sets into the sea. This trip is planned months in advance so there is no chance of timing swells, or tides, or winds … we go to the beach on Sunday after clinic and that is when we surf.
Surf Haiti was founded by an ex-patriot doctor/surfer who travelled to this beautiful country and found a pretty sweet hunk of reef. He started teaching the local kids to surf and then taught them how to make a business out of their skills. These kids rent boards, give lessons, run a guest house, and host a surf contest…. and they do this after school. It has been four years worth of one-day trips. Most of my team lacks a surf background so we get lessons or rent some foam boards but every year, the beach kids give me “a good board.” They welcome me back with a smile and a “nice to see you again” that honestly, warms me to my core.
That one day, every year in November, on that one beach is always an epic surf day. The conditions are usually bleak, windy, and the swell direction for the reef has never been quite right; yet that session is epic regardless. It is epic because I get to paddle out with friends in warm, clear blue water. It is epic because I get to watch talented Haitiian kids surf consecutive corners of stinky waves all the way to the shore. It is epic because we all laugh and smile and marvel at the beauty of it all. It is epic because I feel that I have come home, welcomed into this beautiful culture in this beautiful country.
Sometimes the waves are glassy and so gorgeously perfect, but everyone who surfs knows that an epic surf day is not always about the waves.
I encourage anyone who is interested to learn more about and support Surf Haiti (http://surfhaiti.org) I look forward to grabbing a surf on November 11, 2018 when Single Steps International (https://www.facebook.com/SingleStepsInternational/) heads to Haiti for our pediatric surgery mission.