Surfing St. Barths

I felt a bit guilty as I approached the far end of the beach where a handful of surfers sat waiting for the next set.  My head was filled with images of my online news feed; detailed accounts of friends back in New England getting ready to brave the ice and snow, freezing rain, and heavy chilled winds.  I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to tell them about my morning in 80 degree weather with clear skies, bright sunshine, and just a hint of soothing, warm breeze, let alone the fantastic day of surf that lied ahead.  It just wouldn’t be right.

Warm, turquoise water makes the surf very inviting.
Warm, turquoise water in St. Barths makes the surf very inviting.

St. Barths is known as a destination for high end shopping, fine dining, and luxurious accommodations, but what many aren’t aware of is the island’s surf scene.  It’s not unusual to see local surfers hitching rides or zipping by on scooters, toting short boards ready to hit the beach-or even the occasional jeep so full of boards it looks like it might tip over.  Geographically, the island is ideal to catch good surf  from late November through April.  With over 10 north easterly facing bays and coves, a variety of surf spots including point breaks, reefs, and beaches give the opportunity for surfers of all abilities to get out and catch some good waves.

Surfing in St. Barths
Fun for the whole family.

On this particular day, the swell was pretty mellow so I headed to my neighborhood beach toting a 9ft long board and walked along the soft sand assessing where I’d paddle out.  I should tell you at this point that I’m obliged to keep this spot anonymous, although a little web research will give you names and directions to most breaks on the island.  After a short walk, I arrived to the perfect place to get in the water and quickly paddled through the clear sea, glancing down at the vibrant reef with an occasional fish sighting.  I spent about 45 minutes in the electric blue water catching long, uninterrupted rides with the backdrop of jagged cliffs and palm trees.  With only a handful of other surfers in the water, there were plenty of waves for everyone and I easily could have spent the whole day enjoying the surf and sun.

Two surfers walk out to a cliff side break.
Two surfers walk out to a cliff side break.

If you are visiting the island surf rentals and lessons are readily available near most beaches.  You can rent boards and find instructors right on the beach in St. Jean, or take a trip to a number of specialized surf shops in the area.  Hookipa Surf Shop is located near Villa Creole in St. Jean, offering board and gear rentals as well as other water sporting equipment .  There are also more options right in Gustavia.  To satisfy your post-surf appetite, stop into Jo-Jo Burger right across from the surf hut at Lorient – a nice big burger and freshly made fruit smoothie at this casual surf themed shack will hit the spot.