BARBADOS, TRAVEL IN THE MECCA OF SURFING AND KITES
Our surf and kitesurf trip in January 2019
Barbados is a Caribbean island that certainly needs no introduction, especially among surf and kitesurf enthusiasts. Always a privileged destination for surftrips and kitetrips, thanks to its ideal conditions, also due to its position which makes it one of the Caribbean islands most exposed to winds and disturbances.
Hot and crystalline waters populated by turtles, very white sand with pink shades, trade winds that blow almost all year round, becoming particularly consistent from December to July and a surf season that knows no pauses, with the peak period from October to March. For anyone who goes surfing, kitesurfing or maybe both, Barbados is undoubtedly a small earthly paradise ... and it was a long time since I wanted to visit it.
The travel stories of our friends who had already been there only fed my curiosity and so when we finally landed at Bridgetown airport my expectations were really high, so high that I feared that they would be disappointed within me. but it was enough a first rapid inspection of Silver Rock in the tramondo to understand that I had chosen the right destination.
On the evening of our arrival we all fainted literally before 8 pm and when we wake up it is not yet dawn although the roosters have been singing for a while ... by the way, if you are a light sleeper, keep them present and bring some caps for the ears because the roosters are omnipresent in Barbados.
The positive aspect of this forced alarm is that generally the wind blows beautifully from the first light of dawn and in the early morning it is the best time of the day to enjoy the spots without crowding in the water. It will be for this, as well as for the time zone, that at 7 am on our first day we were already in the water in good company.
Kitesurf a Silver Rock - Silver Sand
Silver Rock is the main kitesurfing spot in Barbados, located in the southern tip of the island, right next to the other spot: Silver Sand. Silver Rock is a fairly wide beach well exposed to the wind that blows side, side-off from the east, north-east with intensity that in winter is generally between 15 and 25 knots (in summer the wind is generally lighter and tends to be more south-east). At about two hundred meters from the shore the reef unwinds on which the waves rise. Beautiful lefts with a height that in good days are easily over head ... practically a paradise for those like me who is Goofy! The nice thing is that it is a very safe spot, since there is always enough water on the reef, even at low tide. The only thing to watch out for is not to end up too downwind, because if you miss the rescue beach it could be pain.
On the beach there is the De Action Beach school by Brian Talma, award-winning Windsurf champion who personally wrote the history of this sport and built his world here: school, boat storage, rental, bar, apartments ...
The first days of our vacation welcomed us simply dreamlike conditions for kitesurfing and fortunately, because for a mistake we were left without a car for the first 4 days. In fact, before leaving we had booked from a local, but the guy thought it best to rent it to others who were more time than us, so we had to manage to look for one on the spot, but find a car in Barbados for the Christmas holidays it's harder than finding a needle in a haystack! We succeeded on the fourth day. Not bad given that we stayed 1 minute walk from Silver Rock and the first days were the windiest of our stay: strong wind perfectly side and long left well above the head. We went on surfing with the 6mq for 3 or 4 days until the wind got a little softened, especially in the afternoon, leaving us time to dedicate ourselves to exploring the island and surf spots with the car that we had finally found. Not that there was not enough wind to kite surf, with a 9 it was great, but our routine became kitesurfing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon, until sunset so we could fully enjoy the best moments for each one sport. Only the last few days the wind has really given up, so that we have dedicated ourselves to surfing both in the morning and in the afternoon. The only thing that disturbed this paradise were the algae that plagued Silver Rock beach for two or three days. These were banks of algae really extended over the entire surface of the sea in front of the spot. The problem was that they were embedded in the fins so it was difficult to maintain the pace and you had to continually remove them by jumping or stopping and removing them with your hands. One day there were so many that we gave up going out. Then luckily, as they arrived they left ... We could not understand if it is a frequent phenomenon or not, many said that it is more frequent in the summer, when it can last even a week, others said it had already happened in the same period ...
Surfing in Barbados
It is hard to believe how many spots are on such a small island and the most incredible thing is that there are really something for everyone: from the steep and tubing world class Bathsheba waves, to the soft and very long waves of freight. All in a few kilometers away. In almost three weeks we couldn't surf them all, despite having surfed every day, often with more than one session a day. In particular we have not surfed in the most northern spots. This is the case with Duppies and Maycocks.Both are quite difficult to reach and locate, as well as far from our base, which is why we have always stopped in commercials closer to us. One of the main problems of going to these spots was the very poor reliability of the weather forecasts in those days and getting an hour's drive without the certainty of finding a wave was the main reason that made us opt to stay nearby, where we could check with more ease the conditions.
South Point was the first one we encountered. It is a well-known and popular spot, not far from Silver Sand, in the southern tip of the island but sheltered from the wind. There is no beach, but access to the sea between two houses, from the road that leads from the lighthouse to Oistinsis. During our vacation this wave has almost always worked, alternating longboard conditions with tablet days.
Slightly more to the north of South Point (about 500 meters on foot) there are the very long and soft left sides of freight , the dream of longboarders and beginners that occasionally offers some more challenging swells. Freight is an absolutely safe spot: no curls, no sharp reef and lots of space for everyone ... here your only concern will be to spread sunscreen before entering the water. Plus it's normal to surf with turtles and you can spend time watching them swim in the crystal clear water between sets.
The last week of our stay we discovered the spot that then remained in our hearts most of all: Brandons, a spot on the west coast, just before Bridgetown. Brandons is one of the spots that gave us the most fun conditions during our stay. A long enough left that can also be well above the head, whose only flaw is to be a little too exposed to the wind, which tends to ruin it depending on the direction and strength. Be careful because google maps point to Brandons further north, at a beach near the port of Bridgetown. To reach the spot, follow the signs to the Coconut Beach Hotel instead. Park in the shade of palm trees just a few steps from the white beach. The seabed is of mixed reef reef, but not sharp. But there are many hedgehogs, so it is advisable to enter and exit the sand tongue at the bottom of the beach. On holidays and in the afternoon the peak can be crowded.
Bathsheba - Soup Bowl
And obviously Mrs. Wave of Barbados: Soup Bowl in Bathsheba. Soup Bowl is the World class wave of Barbados that does not need many presentations: inserted by Kelly Slater in third place among the best waves on the planet, it is the site of numerous competitions and frequented by high-level surfers. On days when the swell enters as it should be this tubing right may be up to 15 feet tall and works both with the swells from the north typical of winter and with swells from the south of summer storms. Needless to say, it's not a beginner's spot! Strong currents, powerful steep waves, fast and hollow, rocky bottom ... before entering the water it is important to be aware of your abilities.
During our vacation Soup Bowl gave some quieter days but also some really impressive days during which there was always a nice group of kids who gave a show like in a contest.
Weather / what to pack : We were in Barbados almost 3 weeks between late December and early January. Temperatures are always warm: the air is 30 ° and the water is 28 °. A neoprene top may be needed early in the morning or for kitesurfing, while in the afternoon it is more useful to wear something that protects from the sun. Sweatshirts, long-sleeved sweaters, long trousers are practically useless ... except in supermarkets where it's cold!
Where to stay : We stayed a stone's throw from the beach of Silver Rock, but if I went back I would not choose this place. Convenient for kitesurfing, it's true, but the area between Silver Sand and Oistins is definitely more attractive. Furthermore, a car is still needed, so it might as well be a few hundred meters further away.
Car : essential to move independently, even if the buses and taxis are really efficient and cheap ... When you rent a car you will also be given a local driving permit at a cost of € 10, because with our license only you can drive. Keep in mind that cars are very expensive, the roads are a sieve sprinkled with craters and driving on the wrong side, so the first few days take all the time you need to settle in!
Eating : Staying in a small house with a kitchen we usually prepared our meals at home, buying fish at the Oistins fish market where you can find yellow fin tuna, marlin and other fish at really good prices, especially when compared with supermarket prices and with the cost of living in general in Barbados which is decidedly high. Before leaving we had heard that the island is expensive ... but above all certain products at the supermarket have crazy prices, like a milk carton at € 3.5!
We also tried some local restaurants, including the chicken's Rita, right behind Silver Sand which I highly recommend.
If instead you expect to find fresh tropical fruit at will, unfortunately you will be disappointed, like me. In Barbados is almost exclusively cultivated sugar cane with which the various distilleries of the island produce excellent a rum. Fruits and vegetables in supermarkets are almost always imported, there is no great choice and they are quite expensive (we are about € 5 per kg for tomatoes, just to give an example). What is not missing is the Cocchi, to drink or to eat, that can be bought at every street corner. Only towards the end of the holiday we managed to find a supermarket a little more stocked with the usual Massy Stores (the most widespread and most expensive chain) and much cheaper: the Popular Discount where we finally found some mangoes worthy of the name and many other local products.
Local population / crime / Language : Bajan is a friendly, very relaxed people. Generally speaking, the island is safe, but it is still good to avoid walking at night in less touristy areas. The local language would be Bajan, but everyone speaks English
Flight : about 9 hours flight from London. We flew with British + Virgin via London and we had a great time, besides spending very little because we had bought the ticket in time. The policies on luggage and transport equipment change often, however we have not paid any extra for sports equipment (which was less than 2 meters long), embarking instead of a normal checked baggage.
Currency : The local currency is the Barbados Dollar which is worth half the US dollar.
Current : the current is 110v not 220, however this is not a problem for our devices. It is necessary to have an American type adapter.
Internet / wifi: the apartments are always equipped with wifi and also many beaches and public places.
Drones: the Drones flight is prohibited on the whole island, except to obtain special permits. Keep this in mind before packing ... shooting with your toy could cost you dear!