Ten years ago I went to Haiti to pen a narrative for this very publication. It was my first major assignment as a writer. Along with me was photographer Ryan Miller and surfers Gabe Kling, Asher Nolan and Ben Bourgeois. The five of us went in blind. We had no idea if Haiti — the poorest country in the western hemisphere — even held waves. We just knew it was dangerous and our experience, whatever it may be, would make for a good story. That was enough reason to go, because sending surfers to unsafe countries was all the rage in the early 2000s. And Haiti was that dangerous. In 2006 — the year we visited — it sat atop the Department of State's Travel Advisory black list and 60 American's would end up being kidnapped for ransom. Fortunately, not 65.
While nerve wracking, Haiti is the most memorable surf trip of my life so far. And isn't that often what happens? The things that push us way out of our comfort zones are the things that have the most profound effects on us. Invariably, that trip to Haiti set me on a course from which I've never looked back. It's the reason I'm sitting here as editor today.
And no, Haiti doesn't have amazing waves, but it does have really f–king fun ones. And while it's not as dangerous as it was a decade ago, it's still a nation in turmoil, and a nation where 50 percent of people are without access to clean water. Which is why we went back, this time with 2015 world champion Carissa Moore and one of America's top teens, Jake Marshall. The fact that Carissa signed up for the trip is just another testament to her shining character. She only gets a few weeks break from her grueling contest schedule every year, and she chose to spend a chunk of that time in Haiti, stretching her mental boundaries and making a tangible difference in the lives of others by providing hundreds of families with clean water filters through the Waves For Water program. And though she never expected to score a Snapper warm-up at an empty right point, that also happened. Chalk it up to good karma.
Carissa and Jake weren't the only ones who stepped outside their boundaries in the spirit of pushing comfort levels for this issue. Shane Dorian surprised Seth Moniz with a 9'6" and a plane ticket to Maui to surf Jaws for the first time. How did Seth respond? By getting barreled. We invited Nikki van Dijk, Malia Manuel, Tia Blanco and Coco Ho down to the Caribbean for our first all-female feature trip since 2008. How did they respond? By reminding us how damn well they all surf, and to never again wait that long to organize another. (And, OK. The girls weren't exactly stretching their comfort levels on a sailboat in the Caribbean, but this issue couldn't be all about scary surf, immunizations and drug wars.) We sent Editor at Large Taylor Paul on a road trip, errr "Vision Quest" with Tanner Gudauskas without a photographer or videographer in the interest of penning Tanner's first major profile. Just like Tanner, it oozes inspiration.
And last, but certainly not least, we sent intrepid traveler Beau Flemister to Cuba and Colombia. While those countries aren't totally under the radar, they certainly don't get much play, let alone surf-travelers. And while these lesser-known destinations might not turn into the next Bali anytime soon, they do have miles of coastline and are home to a crop of dedicated surfers.
This issue is made up of a series of cerebral journeys that meant different things to everyone. But the common thread is: every surfer, writer and photographer featured in this magazine is better for having experienced them. So turn the page and get inspired. Mental paradise awaits. —Zander Morton