As I rode down Barbados’ ABC Highway I couldn’t get ‘Wipe Out’ by The Surfaris out of my head. While it was my third trip to beautiful Barbados, this was my first time exploring another side of the island and its growing surf culture. If there was one thing I was told before my very first surf lesson, it’s that the sport – like most good things in life – comes to those who are patient.
The easternmost island in the Caribbean, Barbados is a coral island that straddles two bodies of water. The Caribbean west side is dotted with pristine white sand beaches and large hotels while the Atlantic side boasts a rugged coast and consistent year-round swells. Despite varying landscapes, it took less than an hour to drive across the 430-square-kilometer island from Speightstown to Surfer’s Point on the island’s south eastern tip, home to Zed’s Surfing Adventures (www.zedssurftravel.com) and one of the country’s most ideal spots for beginner and intermediate surfing.
Upon arriving at Zed’s unpretentious compound my 1960s electro surf music was replaced with riffs of ‘The Weight’ emanating from a beachside jam session. With apartment rentals and thrilling tours all in one stop, Zed’s Surfing Adventures caters to surfing neophytes and experienced enthusiasts alike seeking a laid back atmosphere and consistent trade winds. It’s travellers like these that are transforming Barbados into a surfer’s paradise in the Caribbean and drawing attention to one of the world’s best breaks, the famed Soup Bowl on the island’s east coast.
Not exactly ready for a serving of the Soup Bowl myself, I decided to start off small with a two hour ‘Get Wet’ afternoon lesson that cost $80 USD. With no more than 10 people in the lesson, we loaded on to an open-air truck with our boards stacked overhead and set off to Freight’s Bay, which is a sheltered southern bay known for its turquoise waters, six-foot swells, and large amount of indigenous sea turtles. The water is so clear that you can actually see the turtles’ heads bob in the surf.
After learning the yoga-esque basics on how to ‘pop up,’ I lay on the board and used my hands to paddle myself out to sea. My instructor Jason Cole (who, as I learned after some ocean talk, is also a popular Bajan children’s author) schooled me on how to catch the perfect wave. After idling for about five minutes, Jason encouragingly pushed my board into the path of a rising wave. I ended up falling as quickly as I tried to stand and proceeded to crash, eyes and mouth open, into the water. After creating a pattern of waiting for waves and then popping myself up too fast, I finally learned to be patient. It’s like the turtles in the water are purposely there to remind you the importance of being slow and steady. At my fourth try I planted my feet firmly on the board and was able to pull myself up and ride the pocket of the wave. I was hooked, and continued to repeat and improve on my routine like a kid who just learned how to ride a bike. By the end of the lesson, I knew how to build momentum from the growing swell and ride my waves to shore.
For those who are looking to dedicate more than two hours to the sport, Zed’s offers apartment rentals prided on being only 30 steps away from the beach. And adventurous couples looking to surf together can book a private lesson with one of their pros for $320 USD.
Experienced or not, surfing in Barbados offers a great way to see a less touristy side of the island while interacting with its natural beauty. The picturesque scenery of Freight’s Bay alone was well worth the trip. Surfing schools like Zed’s are dotted along the south and eastern shore and charter trips to more challenging spots like the Soup Bowl in the town of Bathsheba. Beginners like me can work their way up Barbados’ east coast and conquer its larger waves – a challenge I’m definitely willing to accept on my next trip to the island.
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Wendy Goldman is a Toronto-based freelance writer and the Web and Community Editor for the interactive city guide Ourfaves.com. For more on Wendy, check out her reviews on OurFaves.com or follow her on Twitter.