Haiti: Hitting the Waves in Port Salut

Jun 21, 2010
Outside Magazine

Surf Walk
It's not until I wake up in an unfamiliar bed that the reality of being somewhere different really sets in. And nothing says good morning in Haiti like getting out of bed with a thick layer of sweat already coating your body. A far cry away from San Diego's chili mornings, I was still glad to be here. We made it to Port Salut on the southwest coast of Haiti, and we had waves on our mind. We packed up our van and hit the road in search of surf.

It's a little ironic that the only things I'd ever heard about Haiti up until this point had been about poverty and rubble, because here we were driving through a stretch of coastline whose pristine waters and lush backdrops would rival that of the most beautiful Caribbean beaches.

River crossing
It reminded me of a trip I took in 2007 to Indonesia when a series of 7.0 earthquakes struck the Java trench off the coast of Sumatra. I remember receiving hundreds of emails from concerned friends and family. To my fortune, I was in Sumba, about 1,500 miles away from the epicenter, and not only was I safe, but I couldn't even feel the quake. Likewise, I was in Port Salut, only 100 miles out of Port-au-Prince, and I couldn't see any remnant of destruction from this past January's quake.

After hours of exploring uncharted coast and crossing sketchy cobble stone rivers, we stumbled across a few really fun A-frame peaks. Over the next couple of days, we continued our quest for swell, and although we never really got anything over chest high, we were happy to be surfing in Haiti.

--Kahana Kalama

The surfer and social activist Kahana Kalama is the star of the award-winning documentary Gum for My Boat: Surfing in Bangladesh, directed by Russell Brownley. He, Brownley, Matt Beacham, Art Brewer, and Shayne and Shannon McIntyre are traveling to Haiti as part of a surf-and-serve documentary film project.

Shayne Surf

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