Words and pics: Lee ‘Pasty’ Harvey (www.pastyadventures.co.uk)
There’s huge synergy between ocean sports, as Lee ‘Pasty’ Harvey demonstrates in the following article. Wave riding, in any form, is what makes up a latge part of teh waterman ethos. With multiple equipment choices Lee certainly makes the most of his time in Barb’.
Instead of my usual trip south, I decided instead to fly east for a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year. Having worked a winter season in Antigua a few years back, I knew the Caribbean was pretty reliable for wind and had heard plenty of good things about waves in Barbados so thought it was about time I had a look for myself.
As Barbados sits further into the Atlantic it catches any swell that’s going and is the first place to get hit by the Trade Winds, hence the reason it’s part of the Windward Islands chain. This means that it is pretty much never flat and also one of the windier islands, catching the full force of those easterlies. The windy season runs from November to June when the breeze generally blows between 15 – 25 knots. In April and May it is mainly windy in the morning and the best waves on the south coast are from November to February. Hurricane season runs from July to November and this is the best time to catch world class surf on the east coast with large swells and offshore winds. However conditions are unpredictable at this time of year and you can have any type of weather, even a lot of rain.
All of the kiting and windsurfing is based on the south coast, which is cross shore, or pretty close to it, depending on the exact wind direction on the day. Here there are a few different spots with most of the action being around the Silver Sands area.
Starting off with the furthest upwind spot you have Long Beach, which as its name suggests is the longest beach on the island. North east wind is side shore, so most of the time it’s cross on. At the eastern end are large cliffs which continue all the way round so this is the first accessible spot. The middle of the beach provides fairly flat conditions due to a reef located about 1km offshore, acting as a barrier for the swell. This makes is the best learning spot, due to less shore break and smaller waves. One of the kite schools runs their lessons from here. Further west along the beach the shore break and waves get bigger due to no protection from the outer reef so is for more advanced riders due to a tricky entry/exit from the water. On low tides the wave can have fairly good shape for short quick rides and on higher tides with less wind I found it the best spot for getting in and out on the foil.
West of Long Beach is a big rocky section which then bends around into a beginners surfing spot on no wind days which is also a good kite/windsurf spot on windy days, with easterly wind being side shore. The beach here is really small in front of Zed’s Surf School, so the best way to get to the action is to launch at Long Beach and ride downwind or come upwind from Silver Rock. On smaller days the best wave shape is at low tide which also has better wind as you are outside of the wind shadow from the point. On bigger days, I preferred the waves at high tide as they were a bit heavier and made for some nice jumping ramps.
The next spot down is Silver Rock beach, home to Brian Talma’s DeAction Beach Shop and the most popular spot for kiters and windsurfers due to the ease of launching. Most of the riding here is on the reef approximately 800m out with easterly Trades blowing side shore. The waves here are great fun with low tide producing more punch and due to the reef being fairly long with several different sections to the wave it can handle a lot of people before it gets crowded, although I don’t think it ever gets that busy. Due to the wave energy breaking over the reef, the inside is fairly choppy with some current that gets worse on higher tides. Some of the best conditions are early in the morning and last thing before dark as the wind tends to blow slightly more offshore and is always a little bit stronger than middle parts of the day. The next beach down is Silver Sands – just the other side of the rock. This beach is smaller so mostly used as a safety beach to come in on if the wind drops or you cannot get back upwind to Silver Rock. After this the shoreline gets a bit rocky again for 2km down to the lighthouse which sits on top of a headland.
Around the corner nestled under the land is South Point which is an excellent surf spot that rarely gets flat and is sheltered from the wind. In fact the windier it is the bigger the waves are and if the wind is more from the NE can actually barrel. Predominately a left there are also a few shorter rights to be found on the right tide. Further round the point is Freights which is an excellent beginner’s surf spot although when it’s big has surprisingly good shape and the odd left barrel. On good days you can score 150-200m rides!
As the bay curves round from Freights you come to Oistins. A larger town with good shops. On Friday and Saturday nights the famous Oistins Fish Fry lights up. It’s not to be missed and offers amazing value for some of the best fish and shrimps you will ever eat. East of the fish market there are several beaches which are good for kiting or windsurfing. The biggest being Casuarina Beach which is cross on in ESE wind and has flat water. Further along the beaches are fairly small with small little reefs nestled just offshore. If the wind is strong from the ESE then it’s possible to kite at several different spots although launching is fairly tricky due to narrow stretches of sand lined with palm trees and sun loungers. On big swells there are also several really good beginner surfing spots which are definitely worth a look and lots of nice bars and restaurants all the way to Bridgetown – great places to have a sundown beer.
Driving around the west coast amazing beaches and fancy hotels are abundant but the wind is offshore so no good for kiting. On large north swells there are a few surf spots which on their day can be very good. As you reach the top of the island you come to the north shore which is super consistent for wind and waves but offers no real access. There are a couple of places where you can get in to surf but for kiting you need a boat. The top of the island is made up of large cliffs so you have to come back down through the surprisingly hilly Scotland region before you reach the east coast surf hub of Bathsheba. Here there are numerous good waves, the highlight being Soup Bowl, which can handle any size and light onshore wind. No real access or spots to kite due to shallow reef, heavy waves and predominately onshore wind, but could be epic for kitesurfing if conditions lined up one day…
Barbados is an amazing place to go for a kite trip (or anyone into different types of watersports). It’s best suited to wave riders on surfboards and is a great place to take your first steps into surf. The whole island has a nice safe feel to it and the locals are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. The fact there are consistent waves even when it’s windy is a massive plus, as well as amazing snorkelling which means that there is plenty to keep non kiters entertained. The only downside is things are fairly expensive with accommodation and hire cars costing more than in Europe or the US. Even food in the supermarket is more than at home due to most of it being imported. The exception to this is rum which is dirt cheap.
On this trip I took 9m and 7m North Neos, a North Whip 5.9ft, Fastafoil Sencillo hydrofoil and my 5.10ft JP Fuse surfboard. The wind tends to drop off a little bit when the sun is overhead during the hottest time of day so is the perfect time to do something else, which for me was go foiling on high tides and surfing on low tides. With the sun setting around 6pm and rising at 6am the key to scoring the best sessions is early nights and early mornings. This gives plenty of time for three sessions a day when the waves are up.
Highlights of the trip for me were kiting and surfing with turtles every day, Oistins Fish Fry on Fridays and Surfers Bar on Sundays – all of which should not be missed on any trip to Barbados.