Haitian Town is expected to become a surfing mecca

Jessica Obert of BuzzFeed News

23-year-old Samuel Jules is a member of Haitian surfing and has participated in surfing competitions.

The sun just rises When Samuel Jules walked past an abandoned house on Kabic Beach in southern Haiti, he wrapped a surfboard strap around his ankle and slid into the turquoise waves.

On that August morning, for a few minutes, the 23-year-old Jules-the country’s undisputed best surfer-floated alone in the water, where his dream of representing Haiti to participate in the Olympics was born. Soon, several surfers rowed out to join him, and the town behind the group was still asleep.

“When you surf, you forget all the problems, and you only focus on what is right now,” said 22-year-old Franz Andris, one of the surfers.

Even in this heavenly environment, there are many things to stay.

A month ago, the then President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated, throwing the Caribbean country into a political crisis. As a series of arrests of high-ranking officials and foreign mercenaries linked to the Holocaust continued for several weeks, the country’s nerves tightened. Abroad, a series of depressing new headlines from Haiti dominated the front pages of newspapers and television prime time segments: natural disasters, government failures, corruption.

Jessica Obert of BuzzFeed News

18-year-old Michael Jules went to Kabic Beach in Jacmel, where people are famous for surfing.

After a crisis more than ten years ago, the first wave of surfers braved the waves in this Gulf of Haiti. After a catastrophic earthquake in 2010, an American doctor who went to the country to help emergency response created a surfing program that attracted dozens of local children and turned a hobby into a project that would benefit the community because More and more tourists rent boards and sign up for surfing lessons. But in the following years, with the reduction of funding and the departure of the founding members, the Haitian surfing industry was in trouble and is now on the brink of extinction, with only a few surfers on the water in any given week and almost no customers.

This has become a common story in Haiti: Well-meaning businesses established by foreigners failed to produce the long-term relief that inspired their original mission. Some people left prematurely and did not provide the community with the resources needed to continue the project.Others have Mismanagement of funds, Or worse-more than 200 UN peacekeepers Abused Or have an exploitative relationship with women, make dozens of women pregnant, and then leave the country Refusal to pay child supportAll efforts have been blocked by political instability and the series of disasters that have swept the country.

A week after Jules surfed last month, an earthquake occurred in Haiti, killing more than 2,200 people, and a destructive tropical storm occurred within a few days.

usable estimate The national unemployment rate is as high as 70%-most locals lack the resources to continue surfing. In addition to attracting tourists to the area, the surfing project also aims to provide opportunities for those who cannot leave the country to escape daily reality.

However, for many people, even this escape has become out of reach.

The 27-year-old Wolfenson Giles watched Jules make a 360-degree spin on the waves, and then gently landed on his board, his legs hanging on both sides of it.

Giles said he wanted to hitchhike, but his skateboard was at home and broke.

Jessica Obert of BuzzFeed News

Wolvenson Gilles is located in Jacmel, Haiti

first, He is afraid of the sea.

Giles’ parents, like many others, had told him that if he jumped into the water, he might drown. They said that an evil soul lurked in its waters. He met many people who were as scared as him, including fishermen who could not swim.

Giles believes that the anxiety surrounding water is a legacy of slavery: intergenerational trauma, passed down from abducted ancestors, transported to French colonies across the ocean, and forced to work in coffee and sugar cane plantations, enriching white colonists life.

Curious and free-spirited, Giles learned to swim when he was 5 years old. Apart from playing football on the beach or riding horses on plastic debris in the water, there is nothing to do in the town. Then one day, when he was about 15 years old, he was fascinated by a black-haired figure, standing on the horizon dozens of miles away, shuttled in the waves.

After seeing footage of the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, Ken Pierce recently left Kauai, Hawaii. The earthquake razed most of the capital to the ground. Thousands of people were buried under rubble in a tent camp. It was full of dazed and injured people. Pierce, an emergency doctor, is one of the many volunteers who have flooded the country. He brought a suitcase full of medical supplies—and a surfboard, just in case.

After settling down, he drove along the coast near Jacmel, a cultural center similar to the dilapidated New Orleans, some buildings with high ceilings, bright colors and wrap-around balconies. The city’s painters and sculptors used the rubble of the pancake building to make art.AS Pierce Later narrated, He kept watching the waves on his right shoulder, looking for suitable waves-until finally, he found it near Kabic Beach.

When he rowed back to the shore, a group of local boys were waiting for him. They were full of questions and asked to try his surfboard. Giles remembered that before Pierce could stand up, he boarded Pierce’s surfboard, waved his hand, and jumped into the sea.

By the end of the day, he was able to stand up. For the fleeting moments of gliding across the water, Giles’s mind was clear-he was not thinking about his damaged house or the fear of aftershocks, but was simply consumed by the thrilling challenge of trying to avoid flying out of the ship.

A few months later, Pierce rented a house on Kabiki Beach, imported more surfboards, and started teaching local children to surf.He started Surfing Haiti, A non-profit organization that aims to make the country a surfing destination and provide employment opportunities for people in the community.

Jessica Obert of BuzzFeed News

22-year-old Frantzy Andris (Japipo), 13-year-old Samuel Andris and Samuel Jules hang out on their surfboards, waiting for the waves in the water.

The organization has grown to 30 members who share a common passion for the ocean. They set up a sign on the street with surf lessons and surfboard rental price lists, and watched as tourists—mainly foreign aid workers driving south for some R&R—started to trickle down. Donation of surfboards and swimsuits for surfers began to arrive in Haiti from the United States. A surfboard design company based in New York made a special surfboard for Jules. His reputation in the local area grew. Soon, the founding members of Surf Haiti began plotting to send Jules—his own mother could not swim— —Go to France to train so he can represent Haiti in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

On land, the remains of the earthquake that brought Pierce to Haiti lingered on the streets for many years, and the reconstruction funds came from International society Either Mismanagement By the development authority or promised but never delivered Donors.

But in the waters of Kabiki Beach, dozens of young people started a new pastime. Those who can swim teach those who can’t swim, and a few years later, the surfing community becomes bustling. The children rent out wooden boards to tourists. Then, as they hone their skills on a surfboard, they started taking surf lessons on their own. For most teenagers in Haiti, this is a luxury. They can both go to school and make money.

“Surfing will stay in Haiti,” Pierce, who returned to the United States in 2012, told the online publication Road and kingdom Year 2014. (Pierce declined to be interviewed, saying that the surge of COVID patients in his hospital prevented him from visiting the clinic.)

2016, surfing in Haiti Host Its first international surfing competition. For more than two days, DJs played music on the beach, local artists promoted their work, and the restaurant was crowded with tourists. A similar incident occurred the following year. This community has the opportunity to make headlines abroad, not because of political crises or natural disasters, but because of their talent and entrepreneurial spirit.

In August, on a wet and cloudless afternoon near Kabiki Beach, Andris said that surfing in Haiti has become “like a family” and its members “connect with each other.”

In this corner of Haiti, the tide seems to have reversed.

Jessica Obert of BuzzFeed News

After surfing at Kabic Beach in Jacmel in the morning, the guys took the surfboards back to the Surf Haiti storage room.

The trouble started in July 2018 In the capital, Port-au-Prince, 54 miles north.

After reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the government just announced a 50% increase in fuel prices, triggering protests that turned into violence, with protesters looting shops and police firing tear gas. Protesters called for accountability, the most notable is the whereabouts of 2 billion US dollars from PetroCaribe, which is an oil deal with Venezuela to help Haiti invest in infrastructure and social projects.

Economic growth has stagnated and inflation has soared. Everyone is thinking about a question: What does Haiti need to show for the 13 billion dollars, thousands of volunteers and countless projects from all over the world?

Few tourists come to Haiti-many Haitians are leaving, including Giles, who moved to the Dominican Republic in December 2019 for two years so that he can find a job and save some money. Today, he is trying to open a small shop selling snacks and drinks on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Although he aspires to stay in southern Haiti, he said, “I really want a job and independence.”

About six of the founders and senior members of Surf Haiti left after going to college or finding a job, and most of them went to the United States.

When the boards started to crack, no one brought new ones. Wax becomes scarce. Tourists are slowly coming. The children who were waiting for Pierce to paddle back on the shore a few years ago are now in college, with no job prospects and no income.

“There are not so many people who inspire us and support us there,” Andris said.

Then, the pandemic struck. When Jules could not get the support he needed from Jacmel’s sponsors and local authorities, his Olympic bid failed. Last year, fewer than ten people took surfing lessons, which is far from the number of people taking surf lessons every month.

In recent months, gangs have occupied the main road leaving the capital, cutting it off from the south; few dared to cross it. The other route, a long steep and narrow dirt road, is too dangerous even if there is drizzle. The number of water taxis is limited.

At present, the flow of tourists to Kabiki Beach is almost closed. The remaining Haitian surf members said they plan to sell T-shirts and handmade souvenirs with the organization’s logo on the Internet.

At the same time, the main people in the water are locals, and on this August morning, there were fewer than six people. Regulars are teaching their younger siblings to surf to keep the sport going. On a recent morning, Frantzy’s 13-year-old brother Samuel Andris stayed close to the shore, stopped to observe the formation of waves and tried to catch smaller waves.

Farther away, Jules practiced his more advanced moves. He learned some of them while surfing in the Dominican Republic in 2019, and this is the only competition he has participated in abroad. After a while, he came out of the water, patted Brutus, the bastard he adopted, on the head, then climbed the steps to the terrace of the abandoned house, Pierce’s home a few years ago. Since there is no job prospect or a functioning gym nearby, Jules spends most of his time doing push-ups on the grass here.

He still dreams of going to Brazil, Hawaii and Tahiti to participate in surfing competitions.

“It’s like a person who has to walk after waking up,” Jules said. “I think the same goes for surfing.” ●

Jessica Obert of BuzzFeed News

Some members of Surf Haiti go surfing in Jacmel early in the morning.

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