Barbados

Jan Sleigh:
It has been nearly ten years since my first trip to Barbados Back then the Windsurfing World Tour was held at the shores of Silver Rock & Silver Sands and it was a popular winter windsurfing destination. I have fond memories of my first trip; I had some great windsurfing, met with the legendary Irie man Brian Talma and got engaged! (Not to him though). During the middle of last year my wife had opportunity to go and work in Barbados so I got the chance to return and check out the windsurfing again and see whether the destination has changed in the last decade.

Fact File

Windy Season Trade winds from November to June
Air Temp In Summer 26-29 degrees all year round.
Wet Suit? Only to protect from sun burn! Shorts & rash vest will be fine.
Average Wind Speed 15-20 knots
Flight Time (From UK) 8 hrs from London
How To Get There

Barbados is the most eastern of the islands in the Caribbean and you need to catch a plane to get there. British Airways used to be the most used carrier but NOT any more for us windsurfers. Virgin let you take 23kg of luggage and 32kg of windsurfing equipment for FREE. Dial A Flight deal with all the airlines and for some reason always get cheap flights to this island so try both of them but do check airline excess baggage policy. All you really need for Barbados is around 5.5m to 6.5m rigs so you can get away with taking just a few sails and one board.

Prices do vary hugely; on a cheap deal you might get as low as £350 return but you can also expect to pay in excess of £1000 return around Christmas time.

Car Rental

Once you are in Barbados you will need a car, unless you are staying around the Silver Sand and Silver Rock area. Car rentals are pretty expensive.

There are heaps of hire care companies. We have used Fat Jacks and Drive-A-Matic. You can expect to be paying in excess of $US350 for a week!

How The Wind Works

Barbados is blessed by relatively gentle trade winds. The trades blow from around November through to June and are generally around 15 to 20 knots keeping the temperature around a very pleasant 26 to 29 degrees. The wind speed does vary considerably throughout the day so it is always good to check the real time weather at Grantly Adams Airport.

Go to www.cdera.org and click on the “Hourly Weather Statistics” link. I usually get excited when it says 17mph and head for Silver Rock as I know I’ll be on my 6.2m Boxer and US1111 Pro Wave 95.

The wind direction varies from North-easterly to South-easterly. Easterly through South-east are the best directions.

From around July through to November the hurricane season or rainy season starts. Oddly enough this doesn’t really bring any wind to Barbados. The hurricanes usually miss Barbados and the last one that scored a direct hit was over fifty years ago. Occasionally there will be a tropical storm with a much stronger wind than usual and a lot of rain but these are usually short lived and may last a day or two. The climate in the summer months is oppressively hot at 30 degrees in the day AND night and pretty humid with it too.

The tropical storms and hurricanes do bring the benefit of swell in the summer so if you are into surfing and then this can be an excellent time to visit.

The Sailing Spots

The main spots to windsurf in Barbados are around the Silver Rock and Silver Sands area on the south eastern tip of the island. Silver Rock hosted World Tour events and is home to Brian Talma’s De Action wind and surf shop. Silver Sands boasts the Silver Sands Hotel that has been frequented by many a windsurfer in the past.

Silver Rock and Silver Sands offer conditions from beginner to expert. The lagoon inside the reef offers more protected waters, though on big swells and onshore conditions it can get a bit rough and is certainly a little choppy. If you wish to venture out into the waves then the reef offers challenging yet forgiving conditions. The waves are not super powerful, but be warned they can break gear! As the spot is a lighter air destination Silver Rock can really hone your light wind wave riding skills. There are often days when for heavier guys like me you won’t be planing on the way out all the time. This means you need to be careful going out through the break especially on the bigger days. There is a small side-shore current within the lagoon in the same direction as the wind so be aware as this does have an impact on your ability to get going. The period of the swells is short so often waves are close together even when they have some size to them.

Detail for Silver Sands & Silver Rock

Best wind direction: Easterly through to South-easterly.
Worst wind direction: North through North-easterly.
Tide: There is some tidal variation but I can never work it out! Needless to say you’ll notice the reef more at low tide. The reef is shallow in a few places at Silver Rock.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand in the Lagoon and Sharp(ish) rock on the reef
Any hazards: Only the waves when they get big and the side-shore current can get pretty strong.
Other water users: Silver Rock and Silver Sands are popular destinations with kite surfers and there are sometimes more kites on the water than sails. Be wary and show respect.
Suitability/levels: Beginner through to Expert.
Wipe-out factor: Medium. Be aware the wind can sometimes drop so if you feel it getting a bit light tack and head for the beach otherwise a swim in may be necessary.

Surfer’s Point & South Point

You can windsurf as far south as Surfer’s Point and also at a few locations north towards South Point. All of these spots are pretty much visible from Silver Rock. Be respectful of surfers at Surfer’s Point and South Point. Surfer’s Point is a popular venue and often has beginners and inexperienced surfer’s mixed with more handy riders. South Point is very much a surfer’s break. If you are this far north you are probably in the wrong location as the wind will be too fluky and offshore and there is much better sailing to be had upwind.

Maxwell, Oistin’s and surrounding beaches

North of Silver Rock and Silver Sands heading into Bridgetown on the coast road are Oistin’s Fish Market and Maxwell Beach. These beaches are predominantly flat water locations and great for beginners, blasting, freestlyle and freeriding. Maxwell and the beaches near by can get a wave occasionally but it’s a pretty heavy shore break to get out through but can offer some ok riding and jumping.

Events

In terms of windsurfing and surfing there is a local windsurfing and kite surfing competition held at Silver Rock around February time and in November there is a Surfing Competition held at Bathsheba.

Barbados is also home to many festivals, music, arts and cultural events so there is usually something going on to check out.

Instruction And Kit Hire

Check out Brian Talma at De Action Shop at Silver Rock www.irieman-talma.com where you can hire kit and get windsurfing, kitesurfing and surfing lessons as well.

Also Club Mistral operates out of the Silver Sands Hotel.

Equipment to take

In my experience all you really need, depending on your weight and ability, is a 5.5m to 6.5m sail and a light wind board. For me all I took was 5.4, 5.8 and 6.2 Boxers and my 95 litre Naish Wave Board. A 100 litre to 115 Litre Freestyle board would also be a good to take or a floaty freeride board.

 

Accommodation

Unfortunately, the Silver Sands Hotel and Club Mistral are now closed but you can still book your package through Sportif: www.sportif.travel

Years ago I stayed at Coral House which is near by to Silver Sands. This is a self catering apartment and you can expect to pay about €350 for a weeks stay in high season.

There are heaps of accommodation deals available over the internet, the trick is to work out if you plan to stay near the windsurfing beaches in which case you may save yourself the need for a car, or have accommodation a little way from Silver Rock and Silver Sands and explore the island more.

Food

Eating out:

Barbados is very much a holiday destination and therefore has no shortage of places to eat, from inexpensive at Oistin’s Fish Market to The Cliff reputedly described as one of the top 50 restaurants in the World. Both are awesome experiences.

The main tourist area and nightlife is around St.Lawrence gap and the main road into Bridgetown. Every cuisine is available. For those wishing to travel further a field take a trip up the west coast road to Hole Town for the slightly more up market scene.

In my opinion the best eats are “doubles”, which infact originate in Trinidad and are a type of bread; a mix between naan bread and tortilla, filled with a spicy filling of chana (chickpeas) or chicken. They cost $BBDS2 which is about 70p.

Dining in:

If you are self catering you may be stunned at the cost of some food items. A lot of food is imported to Barbados and hence commands a premium. There are two supermarkets close to St. Lawrence Gap. Just drive north of the Gap and you will see one on your right at the traffic lights. If you turn right at the traffic lights and travel another 200m you will find Big-B super market as well. Also check out the “Doubles” you can buy from the lady on the street near by – they are delicious!

Nightlife

Barbados has a wealth of nightlife available for those wanting to party hard! St. Lawrence Gap is the main location for partying. There are plenty of restaurants and clubs on offer and you can party till dawn. Check out: Reggae Lounge, McBrides, and The Ship all located in the Gap. You can head north to Harbour Lights and Club Xtreme for alternative clubbing within minutes from the Gap. All of these venues are classic tourist traps and pretty cheesy often with bus loads of Brits driven in from resorts out of town, but can all be fun and are worth a visit if dancing till the early hours is your vice.

The local beer is Banks and is pretty cheap and all bars and restaurants have special happy hours with cheap booze. Barbados on the whole feels pretty safe at night, just be sensible, careful and respectful.

Bored Of Windsurfing

Surfing

For me, personally, the surfing is great. There are surf breaks all over the island, from beginner to expert. A must look is over on the East Coast at Bathsheba, home of the famous “Soup Bowl”. You need to be very confident of your surfing ability here, the waves can get big and heavy, there are very strong rips and the reef is shallow. I got taken out to the break by a local surfer and shown the ropes on a “small day” which was over head high. I did manage to get two waves but I also go pounded within inches of my life, had a huge drag under water and lost all three fins off my board on the reef!

A great place to sit and watch the action over lunch is at the Round House in Bathsheba.

There are plenty of local reputable surfers in Barbados offering surfing tuition and surf safaris and you can pick up promotional leaflets almost anywhere.

One of my favourite places to Surf is Freights which is easily visible from the Atlantic Coast Road, just north of South Point and the light house and south of Enterprise Beach. It’s a long left hander, which is very clean, small and mellow. It’s a popular spot and can get very crowded here with locals, beginners and experts especially when the waves are good.

If surfing is not your thing then there is plenty to do in Barbados, from driving round the coast to hanging out at secluded beaches to a wealth of other sporting activities to take part in or watch from diving to cricket to polo!

Conclusion

Barbados is a wonderful place to visit. It has a cruisey, laid back and friendly atmosphere. The windsurfing is great, all be it in slightly lighter airs. It has great waves for improving your wave riding and is a mellow place for freeriding or freestyle. If you are into your surfing then Barbados also offers great, clean waves.

Whether you want a relaxed, chilled out windsurf trip or want a more hectic time hitting the night life every night, Barbados has it all. The island is great to explore with plenty of tourist trails to follow. What’s more if the wind is light there is always surf to be found and if you don’t surf then its time to get surfing lessons booked with one of the local instructors.

Tourist

Name: Jan Sleigh
Local beach in UK: Hayling Island
How many years sailing: 22yrs
Last windsurf move you cracked: Clew first cheese roll.
What you’re working on now: Improving my wave riding and surfing.
Competition results if applicable: The fact I am doing what I love is the best result I have.

Sponsors: Naish, Reef, Quiksilver, K172 Surf Shop

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