A for Adventure: sitting down with Chris Surette

By Brad Donaldson

When asked about A for Adventure’s beginnings, Chris Surette can’t help but get excited. “I still get the chills when I think about it,” says Surette when reflecting on how the multi-faceted marketing brand started.

Fittingly, the adventure started here in Nova Scotia, when, in the summer of 2013, Jan LaPierre (another member of A for Adventure) created “Paddle to Sable”, a paddling venture that would travel from Canso, Nova Scotia to Sable Island—an island 200 kilometres off the coast. The trip, along with friend Graham Carter, was aimed at raising money to send children dealing with mental health issues to Brigadoon Village, in Kentville, Nova Scotia.

Nearly four years later, I sit across from Surette (who was in the support vessel during “Paddle to Sable”) in his downtown Dartmouth office as he shares stories from the last handful of years.

The paddling trip was a celebrated accomplishment, but it simultaneously sparked a journey of further adventure across the province.

Paddling was step one. Step two?

“Canso’s still in the rear-view mirror,” says Surette, “and [Jan] pulled out his phone and started reading. And he was like: ‘A is for Adventure, as you’ll come to know.’”

What LaPierre was reading was the beginning of his idea for a children’s book, synonymously named “A is for Adventure”. By the time Jan had gotten to the third letter of the alphabet (C is for canoeing, if you’re wondering), Surette was hooked.

“I could instantly imagine families, and people coming together and being inspired to get outside.”

Roughly two years after that drive home from Canso, Jan and Chris held the first hard-copy prints of their storybook vision.

Through this literary vehicle, the Nova Scotian duo have become full-time adventurers, promoting the outdoors, and acting as ambassadors for the multitude of benefits found outdoors, which recently includes a partnership with Parks Canada.

Surette believes the importance of a children’s book is to create a foundation of adventure within the younger audience. Because, if you can convince that audience to connect with nature, “You’re way ahead,” he says.

Following the success of the book, there was a rise in demand for the brand’s additional online content such as collaborating with Tourism Nova Scotia. The demand led to Chris and Jan quickly adding a third, full-time member, in the form of Brad Sayeau, a Toronto-based filmmaker who had recently moved east.

“We’re storytellers, first,” says Surette. “And in order to do that, video has been a really big platform for us.”

With this addition, the brand continued its production of digital content both in quantity and quality, with all three members sharing in on the brainstorming and production process.

While Surette enjoys recounting the success of his own business, what is reassuring of the brand is the prominence placed on others who share their passion. By adventuring on a regular basis, Surette says it has “opened [their] eyes to realize there was different ways to reach people.” And he insists it has the power to change lives.

The enthusiasm that appears when talking about other people’s stories proves the brand’s intention is built around what Surette calls “CCR” or “creativity, curiosity, and resiliency.”

“The outdoors teaches you how to fail,” says Surette, who isn’t shy of the fact everyone fails at some point. “[But] if you fall down, get back up again.”

Whether it’s sharing this message with elementary schools, facilitating camping workshops with refugees, or hiking local trails for their own pleasure, Surette says the brand emphasises breaking the stigma that adventure has to be something extreme or radical. He believes adventure can be manageable, such as biking around the lake or walking through the neighbourhood park.

And these days, the guys behind A for Adventure can be found all over Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces living up to their motto: inspiring others to get outside.

Visit A for Adventure’s website here for more online content and inspiration.

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