Before Wavetrekker, there was a family trip to Ghana in 2004. I was going to meet my aging grandmother and many cousins, who up to that point had been no more than foreign voices reaching from beyond the phone at my dad’s ear on Christmas. I had recently picked up the surfing habit, through absurd winter treks to coastal New Hampshire and scraggly rocked Maine in my best friend’s mom’s mini-van. Somehow the brief moments of actual surfing shined through the bleak experience of clawing at 6mm of rubber with frozen fingers in snowy seaside parking lots. I was hooked, and convinced my folks to let me take my 80s era, flame adorned, surfboard on the family exodus.
I left Ghana awestruck, unsettled and overwhelmed. The pieces of my experience did not fit together in my mind. How could the experience of meeting my grandmother -completing my dad’s stories of home- and of the visceral joy of exploring Ghana’s culture and coastline, cohabitate with the experience of driving past cardboard homes in the slums of Accra, walking the deforested village that was lush in my dad’s youth and meeting a boy on the beach who just wanted some books to finish school?
Seven years later I took off for the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. I was working with a school in the central mountain range helping build an ecology curriculum, mentoring a youth environmental club and helping a women’s association start an ecotourism project, and, I still had the habit. On allowed leave from my project site I would head to the northern coast with other volunteers to enjoy much warmer waves than I had grown up surfing. The long hours on the gua-gua from the mountains to the coast allowed plenty of time to think, and of course the pieces didn’t fit together any better in the DR than they did Ghana.
And I thought, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the natural beauty of a place, its culture, its landscape, its waves. There is something wrong though, I decided, with ignoring the plight of the people and the natural environment of that space, as well as your impact on them. That’s when the pieces started to fit together. That’s when the idea of Wavetrekker began.
Thanks for helping me make it a reality,