"What if bringing attention to it draws in tons of surfers?" "What if my favorite spot gets over-crowded?" I had some inner conflict when deciding to write about Anguilla surfing. Around the world, people work hard to preserve the secrecy of flawless spots.
But, then, I traveled to Tortola. And Puerto Rico. And Barbados. I saw just how consistent and clean surfing can be (and that's not even talking about Central America, California and other Pacific Coast destinations). The truth is, Anguilla will never be a surfing paradise for surfers of all skill levels. Dictated by swells, which come and go, wind, which never ceases to shift on the turn of a dime, and breaks so shallow and rocky, surfing in Anguilla is hard.
There is one condition which Anguilla surfing relies on to be fun. That is, being a truly good surfer. Then, and only then, does Anguilla surfing become interesting. When it does? It measures up to top spots in the Caribbean, without the crowds.
Let's start by taking a look at the island's two "famous" breaks, and then explore the secret breaks that make Anguilla surfing world-class (conditions depending).
Set on the island's wilder, more deserted eastern end, Savannah Bay feels raw. With just one little beach bar dotting the long stretch of sand, here, you are isolated. Open to the Caribbean Sea and totally exposed to the strong winds that blow through the bay, it's wild.
Don't let that set-up intimidate you, though. Small and gentle, with a mossy bottom, this is the most beginner friendly wave, which is probably why it's my favorite in Anguilla. Plus, it's the island's most dependable wave, almost always breaking.
But, it is short, flat and "mushy" and breaks to the left. If you can get your timing down though, if you have experience with watching waves and knowing which ones to pick, it's a blast. That is, of course, a pretty big "if." Generally, it's tricky to time.
I've only ever seen one good surfer ride this break well. You can see him in the video above. Aidan, a friend from Rhode Island who's been surfing forever, handled the wave with style. Pumping the board, time after time, he squeezed every last ounce of energy out of each wave.
Naturally, you do get the odd day when things line up just right. One such day came right after a storm. With my friend Noah, we caught it dead calm wind-wise, with swells of about 4-5'. Glassy, it was ideal for me, more of an intermediate surfer still nervous around bigger waves and choppy conditions. Hopping in right around sunset, I'll never forget that picture-perfect late afternoon session.
In the "heart of it all" in the West End of Anguilla, Meads Bay is home to the ultra-luxurious and popular Viceroy and several other hotels and restaurants including Carimar Beach Club, Turtle's Nest, Straw Hat, Jacala, Ocean Echo, Blanchards and so forth. If you want to surf in front of a scene, this is your spot.
Only "working" in winter months, when the swell comes, it's big, steep and powerful.
Finding Barrels at Meads Bay, Anguilla
First, the entrance is ruled by a strong shorebreak, averaging 6-8' when the waves are on. Beyond the shorebreak, the bay is full of rip tides. It's not for the faint-of-heart. But, shining a deep azure, with clear waters and almost always without wind, it's most picturesque.
A point break, as long as you steer clear of the rocks to your right when you take-off, you're golden. The bottom is smooth and sandy, just don't ride it too far in. The wave is a "board breaker." A few friends have lost boards in the gnarly shorebreak.
I first surfed this wave with family friend Judd Burdon. He has mastered this spot! Me on the other hand? I've had plenty of luck with wipe outs on take offs and tumbles on steep sections ;-) You only need to get tumbled in a Meads Bay wave once to understand its power. Straight out of the Atlantic (with nothing in its way), it's impressive. On small days, though, it's my kind of wave... clean, fun and fast (see photo above)!
Small Wave Days at Meads Bay, Anguilla
If you're not up for testing it out, drop by Ocean Echo or Viceroy just to watch. It's dazzling.
Hurricanes and tropical storms send surges of anxiety and worry through most people's veins. For surfers, heart rates rise for reasons of a different nature. With storms come swell and wind, typically bringing good surf a few days before the storm sets in.
Depending on the direction of the wind and swell, storms have generated big waves at Savannah Bay and Meads Bay (10+ feet). But, what I love about bad weather systems is their unpredictable nature. The ones that generate swell in spots you didn't even know were surfable are the ones that intrigue me most.
For instance, who knew that calm and peaceful Rendezvous Bay could do this?...
The photo above is of a good friend, Bart van Deventer, a life-long surfer and long-term resident of Anguilla. In March 2008, a passing tropical storm brought sizable swell and long periods of 15 seconds (which play a role in generating larger waves). In Anguilla at the just the right time, Bart caught this one all morning.
Beyond the two "known" spots and those that emerge with storms, there are plenty of little known onshore and offshore spots.
I'm not even close to being good enough to handle those razor sharp reefs that require fast and critical take-offs. But, a visiting friend, Joe Esko was just the right candidate to take them on. Before a recent trip to the island with his girlfriend, Heather, he dropped me a line asking about surfing in Anguilla.
Having surfed big barrels in Costa Rica and Fiji, I quickly realized that he would be perfectly suited to Anguilla's secret spots. Excited by my reply, he packed up his boards, his soft rack, his repair kits and extra fins. We were ready for a week-long Anguilla surf journey.
Loading Up The Boards
With Our Trusty StoreYourBoard.com Soft Rack
One of his favorite waves of the trip? This break (above) on the island's south shore. Discovered by fearless Anguilla surfing pioneers Akio and Ravi Lloyd, if you're an experienced surfer, it's a gem. "It's along the lines of something you'd find in Puerto Rico," Joe went on, totally enthused by the wave.
With a rocky, urchin-lined entrance and exit, with big, deep-water waves and row upon row of reef staring you down ahead, it's intimidating. Yet, Joe glides effortlessly across the face, making it all look so easy. Watch the video above to see what I mean.
That, in the clip above, was on a swell of about 4-6'. What about those small, calm days? What happens when the swell shrinks? Move to a different spot! This one's a go-to on flat days...
The island is dotted with promising spots that few have ever surfed, and that few will ever surf. A couple of more popular ones come to mind. Their names spread like wild fire through the surfing community in the Caribbean. These waves call surfers far and wide when the conditions come around...
A heavy barrel AND a right, the one above is the island's best known "secret" wave. For reasons including fear of ex-communication, I will leave its location and name undisclosed.
Lastly, there are those ultra-mysterious waves that you see in the distance, kissing the horizon, ones that have never been surfed or explored. Ones that leave so much to the imagination. The ones that encourage you to constantly push your game and chase that dream, that feeling of pure exhilaration and satisfaction.
Far from over, with more adventures and reports on awe-inspiring Anguilla surf to come, this is just the beginning.
Want to rent boards or take a lesson in Anguilla?
Akio and Ravi Lloyd of Surf AXA, equipped with fearless passion and local knowledge of spots and conditions, they are the ones to get in touch with. You can reach them below.
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