One purpose of the Share the Stoke Foundation is to make a positive impact on the places we go. While we hope we did that in Kabik Beach, we’re sure that Haiti left our own souls transformed and affected more than we imagined possible.
This Share the Stoke project was significant because it marked many firsts for the foundation – the most obvious of which is that fact that this was our first trip to Haiti. Jetblue was the first airline to sponsor a trip by waiving the transportation fee of the surfboards we brought to donate. Traveling with surfboards is cumbersome and costly, and after spending thousands of dollars over the years to get the boards to the countries they are donated, it was huge to have an airline’s support! This was also the first trip where a family of four was part of the team. The head of the family, JoAnna Alidu, played a key role as our French speaking connection and organized much of the trip. Most importantly, this trip kicked off the opening of the very first surfing school/club in Haiti, and it was an honor for the Share the Stoke Foundation to be a part of history.
The journey south to Jacmel, the most consistent surf spot in Haiti, commenced with twisting turns through narrow, tattered streets of Port-Au-Prince where the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake was still felt. Wildly painted buses filled with people swerved around us, and the turquoise ocean peeked between villages of black plastic bags and rubble. The drive was a little over two hours, and quickly brought us out of busy city streets to a rollercoaster ride up and down white mountains where goats sidestepped along tethered to trees in the lush Haitian countryside.
When we arrived at the Haiti Surf Guest House in Kabik Beach, we met Joan Mamique. As our host for the trip, he played a large role in the opening of the surf school. He led us into town, where we met many of the kids involved in the surf school. They worked tirelessly around the freshly erected surf school and cleaned up trash clearing the beach for the grand opening that took place the next day. I told one of the kids how great it was to see them all working together to make the school look so nice. “We are proud of this,” he responded, “and we must take care of it and make it nice because it is for all of us.”
The next evening was the “leash cutting” for the grand opening of the new surf school and the board donation ceremony. Before the leash was cut, proud leaders from the community and the surf school spoke about the significance of the new building and what it meant to the local kids to have a place to call their own. Kelly Kingston was then invited to speak about the Share the Stoke Foundation. She shared about how much surfing taught her and how she wanted the kids to learn valuable life lessons from the sport and share it with others as well.
Then they selected the youngest kid in the surf club to cut the leash. Everyone circled the surf school and cheered in unison sharing the happiness and joy of the moment. Next, we awarded five surfboards to five kids. One by one, the kids held their new boards in their grip, full of pride and excitement.
After the ceremony, the party moved to a reggae bar down the street for a celebration of the surf school inauguration. The guys set up a projector and everyone piled around a white sheet screen to watch a film of the kids surfing. We all laughed and cheered at wipe-outs and heroic rides of the kids all around us.
The next day, Sunday, waves arrived and the celebration continued with all the kids in the water. We had never seen kids that stoked on surfing for such a length of time. The kids were in the water for hours practicing and getting pushed into the surf. The older locals helped the younger locals, and the love and encouragement they offered to each other was inspiring. We all stayed in the water until the sun went down not wanting the fun to end and the week to begin.
In a country known for such poverty, the people in Kabik Beach are rich in so many ways. The people are so loving with open hearts, and the area is filled with an abundance of natural resources – the sea full of lobster and fish, the hills ripe with banana trees, passion fruit trees, mango trees, papaya trees. Hummingbirds drink from red hibiscus flowers, and the air seems full of life. The people of Haiti give their love so easily and accept love so easily that we are already thinking about making a return to Share the Stoke and support the future of surfing in that land of promise.
Discover Haitian surf and visit the Haiti Surf Guest House