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Stormrider Guide to surfing Martinique

Martinique, CENTRAL AMERICA & CARIBBEAN


Martinique surfing, Nicolas Labat

Summary

+ Good righthand reef set-ups - Seasonal north swells
+ Consistent Tartane spots - Onshore trade winds
+ Low tidal influence - Sharp shallow reefs
+ Safe tourist haven - Some crowded spots

Martinique lies in the heart of the Lesser Antilles, or Windward Islands and is dominated by the peaks of the Carbet and the Mont PelŽe dormant volcanoes. The southern shores are highly regarded by tourists seeking picture perfect beaches, leaving surfers to focus on the northern and eastern coastline, ideally exposed to winterÕs North Atlantic swell and peppered with volcanic and coral reefs. The main waves are concentrated on the unusually protruding Caravelle Peninsula close to Tartane, allowing for offshore winds on an otherwise windblown east coast. The southern beaches can provide a summer swell bodyboard option.

When to Go

The main swell season is from November to March, with 3-10ft N-NE North Atlantic groundswells. Constant 2-5ft E windswells occur year-round, so surfing small sloppy waves is always an option around the Caravelle peninsula. The highly unpredictable hurricane season can bring some of the largest swell of the year between July and September. Dominant E trade winds vary from 44% (Nov) to 70% (Jul), blowing more NE than SE. Max 0.8m tides.

Surf Spots

Tomate has long predictable right walls for honing turns and itÕs always offshore over the intermediate-friendly rock and sand reef/point. Needs a sizeable N swell, just like CŽron, which is a bit shorter, but packs more punch as it ends in a shorebreak on a beautiful black sand beach. Both are good waves, but mere shadows of neighbouring Anse Couleuvre, possibly the best wave on the island. These long, tubular rights start with an easy take-off, but the walls are fast and powerful, before the wave ends over coral and urchins. Skills are required to ride this inconsistent, wind-protected beauty. Not a place to hassle for waves, despite Couleuvre meaning snake! Grand-Rivire hosts two quality breaks. BagasseÕs powerful, barrelling rights and lefts will attract tube seekers while Charlot reefbreaks will cater to those looking for longer rides. CharlotÕs reefbreaks are powerful, sucky affairs and some longer rights are possible, but only experienced surfers should make the long paddle from the harbour against the sweep. The rights of Basse-Pointe break directly into the port and getting in is tricky. Consistently has long workable walls in NE swells, but rarely gets the SW offshores to be clean. Le Lorrain is perfect for beginner/improver surfers as itÕs a mellow beachbreak with no hazards away from any crowds. Charpencaye is Anse CharpentierÕs right reefbreak. The take-off is straight into a tube section, followed by a fast, peeling wall that ends on an urchin-covered reef ledge. Tricky in and out requires a bit of reef dancing and that the strong currents have led to a complete ban on swimming at the beachbreak on the other side of the wild bay. The best concentration of consistent spots is found on the Caravelle peninsula that juts into the Atlantic near La TrinitŽ. Anse lÕEtang Bay has a number of spots including easy rights at VVF (camping), the fast-peeling Entre-deux lefts in the middle, plus Cocoa, a technically challenging fast and powerful, big swell left. Anse Bonneville hosts the Plage des Surfeurs, the most consistent (although often messy) and best known spot on the island. After paddling around a large coral patch, mellow rights and lefts can be surfed, with some longer rides possible on the rights. A surf school takes advantage of the smaller inside wave. Out on the point, Roukoukou is a sucky, barreling left and right that handles swell, but not wind. Pelle ˆ Tarte is a short walk or a 15min paddle from there. This wave is much more shallow and powerful with a hollow but makeable right and a death defying left that only a few bodyboarders dare tackle. On the south shore of the island, the reefbreaks give way to a string of beachbreaks that tend to close-out quickly and therefore only attract bodyboarders looking for launch ramps. The road to Anse Trabaud crosses private property and the owner charges $2.50 for the privilege. The wave is a shorebreak on the left side of the beach. ThereÕs also a reef outside, but itÕs an exhausting paddle and rarely worth it. Around Le Diamant a few regulars take on violent shorebreaks such as Diams or Banza•. Anse Cafard is just more of the same stuff and should only appeal to bodyboarders.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell N -E N -E NE -SE NE -SE N -E N -E
swell size (ft) 4 3 1-2 2 3-4 4
consistency (%) 70 60 40 40 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 28 28 26
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
Jan to June are the cooler and drier months (carme), and the wet season runs from July to Dec (hivernage). The southern area of the island tends to be drier. Daytime temperatures can reach 30¡C (86¡F) and thereÕs only about a 5¡C (9¼F) difference between summer and winter temperatures. Two regular, alternating wind directions from NE and ESE.

Lodging and Food
Accommodation options range from large hotels to family-run ÒRelais CrŽoles,Ó or ÒG”tes de FranceÓ, usually studios in private homes. Around Tartane, try RŽsidence OcŽane (fr $90/n), LÕh™tel La Caravelle ($90/dble) or Bliss from $325/wk. Sample MartiniqueÕs culinary magic, a marriage of French and Creole cuisines.

Nature and Culture
Hiking, diving and mountain biking are great. A wealth of sightseeing: white sand beaches, tropical rainforest, floral gardens and the majestic Mount Pelee. Sample product at rum distilleries before dancing to Biguine and Zouk.

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