The trouble began in July 2018 in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, 54 miles north.
The government had just announced a 50% increase in fuel prices following an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, eliciting protests that turned violent, with demonstrators looting stores and police firing tear gas. The protesters called for accountability, most notably regarding the whereabouts of $2 billion from PetroCaribe, an oil deal with Venezuela that was meant to help Haiti invest in infrastructure and social programs.
Economic growth was grinding to a halt and inflation was soaring. The question on everyone’s mind: What did Haiti have to show for the $13 billion from the world, thousands of volunteers, and countless projects?
Tourists were barely coming to Haiti — and many Haitians were leaving, including Gilles, who moved to the Dominican Republic in December 2019 for two years so he could find a job and save some money. Today, he’s trying to set up a small shop selling snacks and drinks on the Haiti–Dominican Republic border. Though he longed to stay in southern Haiti, he said, “I really want a job and to feel independent.”
Around half a dozen of Surf Haiti’s founders and older members were among those who left, most of them to the US, after getting into college or finding jobs.
When boards began breaking, there wasn’t anyone to bring new ones. Wax became scarce. Visitors slowed to a trickle, and the kids who had waited by the shore for Pierce to paddle back