“A day of travelling will bring a basketful of learning”
The whole world seemed to grow and tower above me engulfing my shrinking being. Voices over the loud PA speaker meant nothing, people passing by were irrelevant, and everything seemed so close yet so distant.
Fear is a strangely painful emotion excited by the apprehension of impending doom. My life was not in danger nor was anyone else’s. There had been no terrible accident; no close call with authorities, neither was I threatened by anyone.
What had happened moments ago is something any travelling board rider will dread.
I was late for my connecting flight to Barbados and couldn’t find my passport. My passport was inside my laptop, which also contained my credit cards, tickets, money, phone and photos. My mind raced over where I had been when I last had it, had it been stolen or had I left it for some security guy to come along and blow it all up!
Running with my boardbag (something I would normally struggle to even carry) I jumped on the mini train back to north terminal were my flight from the canary’s had left me to deal with fate.
Rounding the corner I saw my laptop being carried off by a middle-aged security man. I can’t remember what I mumbled at the guy in warp speed speech but he returned my banter for something like “You sure are a lucky kid, with the wires stored in the side pocket we were taking no risks and were about to blow it up”
Sweating like a mad man on a mission I boarded my flight. Next stop Barbados, the home of sugar cane and rum.
Zed Layson (one of the few people in the world that can lay claim to have beaten Kelly Slater in a surf contest) picked me up from the airport. We drove five minutes to his newly acquired house/surf school/café overlooking a mellow left-hand reef. Previous to Zed taking hold of this fine part of the world it had been a kayak club and had been tagged “Kayak point”.
This was not for long, “Surfers point” now plays host to the start of many budding surfers’ lives. People from all over the world come here to learn or perfect the fine art of surfing under the watchful eye of Zed himself.
We surfed till the sun set and agreed to go eat, no trip to this part of the world is without a trip down to Oisten’s fish market for an after surf dinner. For a whole $10 USDollars you can stuff your self with Swordfish, Flying fish, Shark (unless you believe in Karma), Dolphin and Marlin all top dinners that wash down far to easy with a bottle of the locally produced Banks beer. Ready for bed we made our way back to the pad and drifted off into our own dreams.
As if my head had only just touched the pillow I could here someone, somewhere in a thick Bajan accent trying to wake me from my slumber.
“Hey you……..hey, hey you de waves is five da fifteen foot” as my mind slowly started to process what was going on outside of dream world, Zed persisted “ da waves is either five o fifteen foot cant figure out which one” In hope that by keeping my eyes closed and covering my head with the blanket this voice would go away I heard “wake up man” giving into Zeds keen ambition of a 5am dawn patrol I opened my eyes to Zed stood their with his video camera.
“Oh God only a mother would be proud of this” he muttered.
By 5:05am (ish) we were on the road, fuelled by coffee, muffins and an uneducated doubt in my mind that the Caribbean side of the island was going to produce waves worth getting up for.
First stop Batts Rock a funny looking wave, with the tide too high it wasn’t really surfable but it did show that even on this point of the island, almost completely facing opposite to the Atlantic Ocean we could still score swell.
Dodging school busses and the morning rush hour we turned left and as our vision opened up to what lay out to sea I had all my doubts crushed in one hit. Tropicana a shallow left hand reef that breaks top to bottom all the way down the fire coral. Perfect, before anyone could say anything I was sprint paddling to the line up.
For two hours I had completely forgotten were I was, the waves were as good as anywhere in the world. Perfect headhigh lefts funnelled down the reef, breaking identical to the one before it. Every now and then I would drag myself out of the routine of surfing a wave and paddling back to glance around and enjoy a backdrop that can only be described as paradise.
It’s funny how delusional you can become surfing perfect waves in the tropical heat. I swear blind I was being followed by a very curious turtle. Everywhere I looked she was right next to me, almost grinning. After a bit too much turtle action (or sun) I paddled back to the shore.
Once home I picked up the local newspaper, something that I like to do when I’m abroad, I think it gives you a real in-depth feel for the community around you.
“BUS CRASH, DRIVER STONED” was the headline that caught my eye, intrigued by the teasing headline I read on. ‘Yesterday a school bus full of children crashed into a wall outside of Bridgetown’
The story continues
‘Eye witness’s say that the driver of the local school bus stopped next to a petrol pump, the driver then jumped out to pay inside. He was unaware that the handbrake had not been put on and the buss rolled down the hill and into a brick wall. No one was injured but it is believed that Joel Hawkins 26 was high on marijuana’ Classic was the word that came to mind and a real insight into the laid back life in the Caribbean.
Laid back could quite easily be a term over used to describe the Caribbean; you can pull up at any petrol station, fill the car up with gas, go inside, sit down and have a beer at the bar!
“When in Rome…” was our excuse as the fourth beer slipped down the necks of some friends from back home (who wish to remain anonymous) and myself.
This time fuelled by alcohol we chipped in and bought a few bottles of Mount gay rum and drove home. As the last drop of rum was finished some one muttered “let’s go surfing!”
Breaking two rules of the ocean never surf at dark and never surf when drunk. Before anyone could stand and reason the insanity of jumping into the Ocean, I found myself paddling out a Surfers point. Once out back, which took three times as long as normal, I caught one wave and fell straight off. Undeterred I paddled back out trying to stay in line with Zed’s house, which I couldn’t see. Assuming that the rip was taking me west as it had all week I kept paddling east, in fact the tide was taking me East and I was paddling hard East as well. After half an hour or so it dawned on me that I wasn’t at Surfers point anymore and as I rounded the headland I saw Long beach which is 2 miles from Surfers point baffled but not bothered I caught a wave in and fell off. I have a feeling the Ocean let me of pretty lightly that time. Can you imagine the headlines “SURF COACH LOST AT SEA”.
Some useful and some useless information on Barbados
Currency: Bajan Dollars (US dollars are accepted as well)
Language: Barbados experienced 300 years of British rule and as a consequence, the official language on the island is English. Bajan is commonly confused as broken English but it is actually a very distinct language with a laid back rhythm. Some phrases for you to know before you go!
Evaht’ing cook and curry – Everything’s taken care of
Dat ol talk – Idle gossip
The sea en’ got no back door – If you get into a mess, you might not get out of it!
If greedy wait, hot will cool – Wait until dish cools before you eat it
Flights are reasonable to Barbados from US, Canadan and Europe. Schedule flights from $500. If you are not fixed for time charter planes also fly out to Barbados and can be booked for as cheap as $350. Departure tax is $12.50 Bajan.
Not many at all considering the climate. Fire Coral at a few surf breaks, sting rays and sunburn are your worst hazards. Look out for over friendly female turtles asking for Chris. Cannabis like all other drugs is illegal and Barbados jails aren’t fun! As with any tourist island try not to walk on you own along beaches at night and don’t leave valuables in your car.
General Surf Guide:
I had gone to Barbados expecting to surf nothing but wind swell, but I was proved wrong, very wrong! The East Coast is the most consistent coastline with Soup Bowl being the most famous wave on the island (if not the Caribbean) but due to the local trade winds it is commonly onshore. The South Coast has a couple of reliable spots such as South Point and Brandon’s that start to work whenever the trade winds blow for a couple of days. Moving around to the West Coast (the Caribbean Sea) and you will find some amazing waves, with the trade winds offshore the possibilities for good waves are limitless. Keep an eye on forecast charts for a big northerly ground swell, as surf on the West Coast can come and go quicker than Beckhams text messages.
As with anywhere respect the locals, always smile and your score some amazing waves in the tropics.
Flat day fun:
In the unlikely event of not being able to find a wave to surf, Barbados is steeped in British influenced history. You could spend the day chilling under the palm trees on Brighton beach or Scarborough before going shopping in Weymouth! Cricket is the national sport (remember that thing we introduced to the world and can’t win anymore!) and teams from around the world descend on Kensington Oval in Bridgetown on a regular basis.
Big Thank you to Wesley Baker at Pure Vacations for getting me to Barbados (with my laptop!).
About the Author Chris Thomson (former pro surfer):
Chris Thomson grew up on the Isle of Wight, UK. learning to surf at an early age with one dream, ‘surfing’. Chris left school at 16 and went to Newquay to live his dream, he became a surf coach and had a successful competition career with big name sponsors O’Neill and Fat Face before starting ‘Errant Surf’ in the UK. Chris also became Cornwalls ‘Young Business Person of the Year’ in 2009. After selling Errant Surf, Chris moved to Canada with his young family and now is CEO of marwickmarketing.com in Canada. A company with an excellent reputation.
Tags: Barbados or Bust