Words: Tez Plavenieks
Pics: Tez and Fi Plavenieks
Palm fringed white sand beaches, crystal clear bubble gum blue water, lush green tropical vegetation, wafts of nostril-filling spice aroma, tempering Trade Winds and a multitude of stand up paddle spots to choose from; welcome to Grenada – land of liquid sunshine.
British Airways offer a comfortable flight across the pond and helped out massively with this trip. Unfortunately, due to baggage restrictions, flying with your regular hard stick is out of the question. But fear not, as SUP’s secret weapon is the trusty inflatable.
In the last few years iSUPs have provided travelling paddlers the opportunity to access a plethora of far flung destinations with minimum fuss, effort and cost. I was hooked up with a BIC 10ft Air (thanks to Neil Thomas at Ultrasport Europe) – a good combination of flat water and small wave performance (stay tuned for a full review). Add to the mix a three piece Red Paddle Co paddle and we were good to go.
Touchdown in paradise
After an eight hour flight the landing gear was lowered, rubber tyres kicked up dust and we taxied to a halt outside Maurice Bishop International Airport. Peering from the window I spotted a rambunctious swell curling over shallow reef while intense sunshine blazed onto the water. The reflected blue hues danced and glinted like sparkling diamonds and departing the airport, gear on shoulder, we headed for our first accommodation – the Flamboyant Hotel.
Back on the ‘rock’
Prior experience of a destination really aids in hitting the ground running. Working on the Island of Spice, back in 2004, gave a unique insight into the hugely unfulfilled H2O opportunities that exist. Diving currently has the lion’s share of representation. Grenada, though, still languishes beneath the radar for the practice of other watery disciplines.
The Spice Island receives a regular buffeting from Trade Winds, consistent fun size swells (mixed up with the odd larger pulse) and plenty of touring/exploring SUP opportunities are on offer. Grenada is an all-round tropical stand up playground – perfect for beginner paddlers upwards.
You’d think that with such consistent weather, bath warm water (17C at its coldest) and 360 days of sunshine, Grenada would be beating off hordes of saltwater addicts with a proverbial big stick. But not so…
After Hurricane Ivan blitzed the place in 2004, Neilson Active Holidays (the first fully rounded watersports centre on the island) was forced to up sticks and ship out. A handful of hotels now provide basic gear but other than that, quality setups are rarer than rocking horse poop. There are one or two exceptions but they’re thin on the ground.
A Sandals resort now occupies the southern tip of the island (Point Salines). While the brand does offer a varied watersports programme, it doesn’t give visitors the opportunity to check out the rest of Grenada’s offerings. Getting out and about is where it’s at and companies like Conservation Kayak and Dive Grenada are spearheading the way.
Grenada’s SUP potential is glaringly obvious. Shaped like an elongated comma, the island has two distinct coastlines to choose between. Depending on paddling skill, SUP bent and riding style, you’re guaranteed to find a put in that’ll tickle your sweeping fancy.
The Caribbean Sea flank is a sheltered and mostly flatter water option while Grenada’s Atlantic facing coast is altogether more rugged, wavier and hard core.
Overlooking stunning Grand Anse, the Flamboyant Hotel occupies a hill top perch pointing right at the heart of the island, St Georges.
After a long flight, Fi (my heavily pregnant wife) and I were quick to dump our clutter and hit the beach for a well needed rum punch – alcohol free version for wifey I might add! We sipped our drinks and our cares evaporated in the Caribbean humidity.
It was encouraging to note that a playful northerly swell was unloading on the shallow sand bar right out front. The following day looked ‘on’ and I dreamt of feathery lips and liquid walls.
Time for action
The next morning saw a swift brekkie gulped down before it was time for action. A stiff side off breeze proved a worthy opponent as I spooned upwind.
I’d decided to pop my Grand Anse cherry with a strenuous up ‘n’ down paddle next to the white sand shoreline. Scooping past groups of beach goers drew inquisitive looks and some heckles from the gallery. After a brief rest I banged in a quick 180 and red lined back to HQ. Even without any significant bumps it was still super fun huffing the three miles home.
Time for a liquid pit stop and then back out into some thick juice.
After a couple of nights at the Flamboyant we were ushered over the hill to the next scenic bay – Morne Rouge. The lovely Kalinago Hotel hosted this ‘random bloke and his blow up lilo thing’ and we were looked after like dignitaries.
I was keen to get stuck into some Atlantic brine and the guys from Grenada Horizons delivered a suitably apt 4X4 for a bit of exploring. First port of call was the most popular surf break on Grenada – Prickly Point.
Nestled on the lee side of Lance aux Epines peninsula, Prickly Point is very rarely without a wave when the Trades are puffing. The unique topography ensures there’s shelter here during even the strongest of blows. It’s not the world’s most powerful wave but offers a good intro to shallow reefs – you definitely need your wits about you to avoid the randomly scattered coral heads and gigantic urchins!
Come the middle part of our trip; the game plan was to head off on an expedition paddle. The hospitality from Jamie and Amber at Conservation Kayak was second to none. The circumnavigation of Hog Island (Woburn Bay) saw our tiny group all at sea for a portion of the route. A 30 knot blow, some sizeable bumps boosting us along and a vast blue ocean can be a humbling but inspiring experience.
One of the many downwind routes on offer, this leg is great for SUP. Conservation Kayak offers a wealth of knowledge and they’re looking to expand an already top shelf operation with more stand up shenanigans – paddling stoke and good vibes abound.
Mixin’ it up
Grenada has long been recognised as a diving mecca with plenty to keep bubble blowers occupied. The recently established and totally unique underwater sculpture park convinced us it would be a shame to miss some seabed gazing.
Phil and Helen, of Dive Grenada fame, escorted us and we spent a pleasant afternoon floating about. It’s the perfect activity for non stand up other halves – or for preggers wives.
Rounding off our Grenadian tale, the last couple of days were chilled to the max. Hearty breakfasts followed by laps of Morne Rouge were the order of day, chased with a few (cliché) rum punches later – when in Rome…
Even when the breeze is powering it’s possible to sweep out to the right hand corner of the bay before letting Mother Nature turbo boost your ride across to the other side. Head inshore, hug the sand and repeat – fitness SUP never looked so good.
There’s nothing better than sinking a few cold ones after a long hot day paddling in the sweltering heat. Even better is the top notch chow on offer. World class dining and humble home cooked cuisine are all available in Grenada, with options for every budget and palate.
Sails Restaurant is located right on the water’s edge of St George’s carenage. Not only is the setting to die for, the food is A1 as well. With aching limbs, the grub on offer at Sails is just the ticket for refuelling.
The more adventurous should check out Fish Friday held in Gouyave – as the name suggests it happens every Friday night. Here it’s street food done Grenadian style, with locals and tourists all enjoying the party atmosphere.
The end, my friend
All too soon the end of our Grenadian SUP saga swung in. And yet the stand up paddling potential had barely been tapped. With still a myriad of downwind routes, point breaks, mellow fishing spots and touring opportunities waiting to be discovered, this island in the sun is just begging you to visit.
Special thanks to –
Rob Bates and Grenada Tourism Authority (www.Grenadagrenadines.com)
British Airways (ba.com/grenada)
Kalinago Hotel (www.kalinagobeachresort.com)
Flamboyant Hotel (www.flamboyant.com)
BIC SUP UK (http://bicsports.co.uk)
Conservation Kayak (www.conservationkayak.com)
Dive Grenada (http://divegrenada.com)