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Blue Tomato

Stormrider Guide to surfing British Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands, CENTRAL AMERICA & CARIBBEAN


Cane Garden Bay, Steve Fitzpatrick

Summary

+ World-class Cane Garden Bay - Short swell season
+ Consistent beachbreaks - Lack of consistent reefs
+ Safe tropical destination - Boat access only breaks
+ Exploration potential - Expensive

Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands and the capital, thanks to an important deep-water harbour in Road Town. The north shore of the island is dotted with a series of bays and beaches offering a good diversity of surfing locations, including one the CaribbeanÕs sparkling gems, namely Cane Garden Bay. Outlying islands have exploration potential but will require the use of a boat.

When to Go

Peak surf season is between November and March, when winter lows leave the US East Coast, sending 2-15ft surf to the exposed shores. E windswell and the occasional hurricane swells will sometimes provide summertime surf on SE exposed shores for desperate locals, but long flat spells are way too common to plan a surf trip at this time of the year. The wind blows E year-round, with more NE winds between November and March, and more SE for the rest of the year. The tidal range hovers between 30-60cm max.

Surf Spots

CapoonÕs Bay, aka Little Apple Bay, holds a perfectly symmetrical A-frame reef where a user-friendly wave handles everything from 2ft to big swells. ThereÕs another, softer right on the E side of main peak, generally used by SUPers and often known as Gay Rights. Around the corner, Long Bay, has more beachbreak peaks. World-class Cane Garden Bay faces west, so the right pointbreak will only break 20-30 times a year, but when itÕs on, fast walls peel down the shoreline for several hundred metres. Throaty barrels at the tip of the point hit the numerous shallow coral heads, then race down the line to a fast, hollow end section. Try to time a big NW-NE swell (Anegada saps due E) with NE-E wind. SE messes up Cane, but is dead offshore around the point at fickle Brewers Bay, which has a much shallower, more dangerous/unpredictable left pointbreak. JosiahÕs Bay is the most consistent beachbreak and is slightly off the beaten track. The quality of the wave depends on the shape of the sandbanks, but thereÕs always something to ride. ItÕs ideally suited for longboarding and learning - hence the local surf school. ÒJBayÓ holds lots of surfers but above 1.5m it becomes less defined with arduous paddle-outs. There are more waves on Tortola, including powerful beachies in remote, roadless locations. Finding them would require boating along the coast or making friends in the small, local surfing community. There are a couple of spots on nearby Virgin Gorda Ð Yacht HarbourÕs reef at Spanish Town is worth checking on a large NW swell. ItÕs a tubular A-frame with long rights and a quick, hollow left. Anegada is completely different from all the other BVIs in that its highest point is only 10m above sea level. The whole island looks just like a giant beach but itÕs actually a raised reef. ItÕs wild coast is popular with divers and fishermen. West End is actually a great kite/windsurf spot, but if the wind drops or goes southeast, a long righthand pointbreak will reveal itself. It can either be a mellow, cruisey wave or turn heavy with huge rips and some big barrels bowl sections. Another option on the island is Loblolly Bay, which is usually onshore since it is exposed to east winds, but it picks up maximum swell. This spot is very remote and itÕs a long paddle from the beach to the peak. On a windless day, thereÕs a long, relaxed left and a much more intense and hollow right. Sharky.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell N -E N -E N -SE N -SE N -E N -E
swell size (ft) 4 3 1-2 2 3-4 4
consistency (%) 80 60 30 30 60 70
dominant wind NE -E NE -E NE -SE NE -SE NE -SE NE -E
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F4 F4
consistency (%) 80 77 85 97 89 76
water temp (C) 25 25 26 27 28 26
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
Because of their position within the trade wind belt, the islands have a balmy, tropical climate. The blazing sun is usually tempered by the constant ocean breezes. Summer is humid with temperatures over 30°C (86ºF), winter is slightly cooler. The temperatures drop by 5°C (9ºF) at night. Average water temperatures remain around 26°C (79ºF) year round. The total rainfall is quite low and even in the rainy season, starting in late summer and ending just before Christmas, the islands receive less than 5 rainy days a month. Like most semi-tropical and tropical locations, the BVI is in a hurricane zone; watch out between June and November. For all these reasons, the surf season is also the ideal time to visit, especially after Christmas.

Lodging and Food
The BVI is not a cheap destination: food is pricey and accommodation is in short supply. Most visitors sleep on their chartered yachts and on land the only budget options since Hurricane Irma are AirBnB-type rentals. Starting at around $110/dble in season, Sebastian’s is a middle price hotel and is right on the beach in Little Apple Bay. The Tamarind Club is a similar price, in Josiah’s Bay.

Nature and Culture
Cruise the islands on a yacht or using local ferries, depending on your budget. Top diving spots include the sunken RMS Rhone, off Salt Island, and Horseshoe Reef (Anegada). Good snorkelling in Smugglers Cove and Brewer’s Bay. Check out the Baths on Virgin Gorda, a network of giant granite boulders and take a paddle around the mangroves on Beef Island or hike in the hills with GroundSea Adventures.

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