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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Featured Trail: Cape Smokey Provincial Park

Trail Name: Cape Smokey Provincial Park

Location: Cape Smokey, Cape Breton

Description: “This trail starts at the Cape Smokey Provincial Park. Smokey is one of the most famous mountains in Cape Breton.” It features a 10 kilometre (return) rugged trail, picnic tables, look-offs, spectacular views, and rest stops.

Map: Find a map and directions here.

Featured Trail: Caribou-Munroes Island

By Amanda Cashin

We’re tying a different format for our Featured Trails. One of Hike NS’s board members, Amanda Cashin, has a blog of the hikes and adventures she takes. Her blog is called Beachcomber & Trail-Roamer. We’d like to share some of her blog postings with you.

On what may have been the coldest day in October to-date, I had a

beach day. It was a chilly 9 degrees and under overcast skies my partner and I enjoyed a hike at Caribou-Munroes Island Provincial Park. As we set out for our day trip to Pictou County we were hopeful; the sun was shining brightly and fluffy white clouds filled the sky. By the time we arrived along the Northumberland Shore though, it was down-right cold and the sun had started to disappear.

In typical Nova Scotia fashion though, the sun did show itself and warm our walk in short intervals. Cold or not, I’m not going to pass up a day at the beach. Read the full posting here.

Featured Trail: Cape Chignecto Provincial Park

Trail Name: Cape Chignecto Provincial Park

Location: Advocate Harbour

Description: “At Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, towering 180 metre (600 feet) sea cliffs rise from the Bay of Fundy, while the world’s highest tides lap at their base. Best described as a wilderness park, it has 29 kilometre (18 miles) of pristine coastline, deep valleys, sheltered coves, rare plants, and remnant old-growth forests. The park offers over 40 kilometres (25 miles) of wilderness trails and remote walk-in campsites.”

Map: Find a map and directions here.

Featured Trail: Blomidon Provincial Park

Trail Name: Blomidon Provincial Park

Location: Canning

Description: “Rising majestically from the shores of the Minas Basin, Blomidon Provincial Park is renowned for its spectacular views. Blomidon’s 759 ha (1,875 acres) include 180 m (600 ft.) high cliffs, a variety of habitats, striking natural features, abundant wildlife — and the world’s highest tides wash its shores. These natural attractions provide excellent opportunities for camping, hiking, beachcombing, photography or just appreciating nature.” Blomidon is host to fourteen kilometres of interconnected trails with a variety of habitats and scenic look-offs.

Map: Find a map and directions here.

Draft Parks & Protected Areas Plan Ready for Feedback

Nova Scotians are invited to help define the final parks and protected areas plan to manage and protect Nova Scotia’s natural spaces. A draft was released on February 28.  The province says it will protect the most sensitive and important lands in our province and meet the goal of reviewing the province’s parks system, which is included in The Path We Share, Nova Scotia’s natural resources strategy. The province would protect more than 13 per cent of its lands, surpassing its legislated goal to protect at least 12 per cent of Nova Scotia. Currently, about 9.3 per cent is protected. The plan proposes to:

  • Add: 4 new provincial parks (960 ha); 44 new wilderness areas (126 020 ha); and 120 new nature reserves (33 690 ha)
  • Expand: 12 provincial parks (3940 ha); 32 wilderness areas (72 070 ha); and 10 nature reserves (4330 ha)
  • Transfer: In order to create a more effective parks and protected areas system, the plan proposes to transfer 2500 hectares of provincial parklands to protected areas and 1000 hectares of parklands to Crown land (still available for public use).

With these changes, the proposed parks and protected areas system would include: 187 provincial parks; 84 wilderness areas; and 142 nature reserves. Nova Scotians have until May 1 to review and comment on the document. Feedback will help shape the final plan. Give feedback online or attend one of 17 public consultation sessions in March and April across NS.

Featured Trail: Taylor Head Provincial Park

Trail Name: Taylor Head Provincial Park

Location: Spry Bay, HRM

Description: “Taylor Head Provincial Park, a natural environment park, occupies a rugged wind-swept peninsula jutting six and a half kilometres (4 miles) into the Atlantic Ocean on Nova Scotia’s picturesque Eastern Shore. The park provides spectacular views and offers 16 kilometres (10 miles) of unspoiled coastline. Discover the majesty of enduring rock versus the tumultuous power of the sea, all just over an hour’s drive from Halifax.”

Map: Find a map and directions here and here.

Provincial Parks Survey

The Province of Nova Scotia continues its consultation with Nova Scotians on the Provincial Park system. In addition to public consultation sessions during the month of June, there is a survey available. Please complete the survey and give your feedback on our parks system so that it continues to play a vital role in providing excellent hiking and other outdoor opportunities. Look up Provincial Parks online for a description of each provincial park in Nova Scotia. Park maps and information is found here.

Hike Nova Scotia asked, through Twitter and Facebook, what folks’ favourite Provincial Park for hiking is and these were some of the answers given: Cape Chignecto, Blomidon, Long Lake, Taylor Head, Thomas Raddall, Melmerby Beach and Powell’s Point. What’s yours?

Provincial Parks Consultations May 31-June 26

Parks Consultations Meet Strategy Goal

Department of Natural Resources

May 28, 2012 12:23 PM

Government is acting on another goal of the natural resources strategy by launching provincewide consultations with Nova Scotians about provincial parks.

“We are very proud of our Nova Scotia parks and we want them sustainable for the future,” said John MacDonell, acting Minister of Natural Resources. “This consultation will help us develop our parks to meet the goal set out in the natural resources strategy.”

A series of community meetings will be held in locations around the province beginning Thursday, May 31. People can also comment through online and telephone surveys.

A simple survey on the Department of Natural Resources website and a telephone survey of Nova Scotians will also provide opportunities for people to express what they value most about provincial parks and how they should be managed in the future.

“We encourage Nova Scotians who use our parks to be part of this system-wide discussion. Their input is welcome and needed,” said Mr. MacDonell.

The province’s natural resources strategy, The Path We Share, released in August 2011, calls for a review to develop a more sustainable parks system. Information and opinions gathered from Nova Scotians during the consultations will be considered by government to develop an improved, sustainable system of parks.

“Provincial Parks are important to Nova Scotians,” says Chris Miller, national conservation biologist for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “Parks are places where people can go to enjoy nature and learn about conservation, so it’s important for park users and all Nova Scotians to make their views heard”.

The province has nearly 300 properties in the provincial park system, including 20 camping parks and 122 day-use parks, many with coastal access. Other properties are held in reserve. The consultations will look at whether parks are meeting the mandate of parks legislation and consider opportunities for changes.

English public meetings will be held in 15 towns across the province and French consultations, via video conference, at five French-speaking areas. Details will be advertised locally and are online.