Surf Haiti
By Dr. Ken Pierce
While packing medical supplies and personal items in preparation to move from Kauai, Hawaii to Jacmel, Haiti shortly after the devastating earthquake in January 2010, I made the decision—which seemed frivolous at the time—to take one surfboard, a 5’11” fish, on the off chance that I would find rideable waves. With so many people homeless, hurting, and hungry it seemed incongruent to seek surf—and yet that is my passion and my favorite way to recharge my batteries in order to do the difficult work that I do as an Emergency Physician.
While hiking and driving along the coastline near Jacmel I could see that there were many potential reef breaks. I didn’t have to wait long for a decent swell to arrive. A two hour surf session alone at a reef break near Cayes Jacmel, later nick-named, “Pierce Point”, with a dozen kids lining the shore hooting and clapping was all it took to germinate the idea to encourage the growth of surfing in Haiti. Traveling and surfing around the world—Hawaii, Indonesia, Fiji, Western Samoa, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Spain, France, Portugal-- has taught me that surfing provides a viable economy everywhere that it is embraced. My hope was that Haiti would be no different.
Surf Haiti was formally founded in October 2010 with the assistance of long-time friend and Kauai surfer, Alan Potter. Alan agreed to manage the USA operations for Surf Haiti—very difficult for me to do while residing in Haiti. Through Alan’s hard work, promotion, and creativity, Surf Haiti rapidly gained traction and the attention of traveling surfers. A local surf culture began to grow in the Kabic Beach area of Haiti. Alan brought down several soft-top surfboards and we initiated a “surf school” with many enthusiastic local kids participating—and quickly becoming passionate and talented surfers. These kids then started teaching other kids and visitors to surf. One of my fondest memories is of the day several of the older kids spent an afternoon teaching their younger brothers how to surf—using the same techniques that I used to teach them! Of course my very favorite memory is of the many surf sessions I enjoyed with the amazing kids, young adults, visitors and ex-pats who embraced surfing in Haiti.
My chance meeting of Joan Mamique, on a beach near Kabic, grew into a friendship based on our mutual love for the ocean and surfing. Joan and Chris, also a passionate and talented surfer, agreed to take over SurfHaiti when I returned to the USA in 2012. Joan’s commitment to excellence, love of surfing and Haiti, and superb leadership is evident in the continued growth and popularity of Surf Haiti. Many people have contributed to the success of Surf Haiti—too many to name here. You know who you are and you know that you are appreciated. Haiti has surf and now surfing has Haiti. Bon bagay!