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Surf of the Century

….Possibly

DANGEROUS SEA CONDITIONS TO AFFECT THE BVI WATERS

Monday, 18th March, 2008 – A cold front moving across the local area is producing scattered showers and gusty winds.  This cold front is moving in a south-south westerly direction and should exit the local area by tomorrow.  An intense winter storm located north west of the Atlantic is moving slowly north east.  This system is generating very large swells, which should reach the local waters by this evening.  As the swells arrive, marine conditions will continue to deteriorate and large swells approaching the local area may be in excess of nine to 12 feet, increasing to 16 feet or more later in the evening.

It came from the BVI Department of Disaster Management.  It was probably the biggest surf forecast ever, at least in the recorded history of most surfers in the BVI, and it sent local surfers into a state of nervous excitement.  In the office (yes, it has surfers), we checked calendars and dates and, no—not a hurricane swell and not a full moon.  On the news, reports of intense tornadoes sweeping Louisiana gave fair warning of hazardous conditions in play.  There was weather about, and out of season, too.


    
Fight or flight is generally the call to big-wave surfing; the combination of fitness, training, equipment tuning and experience with sheer balls gives rise to a bandied-about term “stoked.”  Hilarious perhaps to mock surfers—an easy target—but when the Government calls for small craft to get out of the water, the big-wave surfers are paddling into it to ride nature.  The experience combines an adrenalin surge with a feeling of being in control atop a liquid monster that, once ridden, seems tamed and predictable…ah, surfing.  Those not venturing out themselves will stand by—it’s too big, that’s all—but they support and marvel.  They are either surfers themselves or enthusiastic spectators, with respect for the challenge and the ocean.

By Tuesday, the north winds had arrived, signalling the front.  Initial reports were that the supporting breaks off Josiah’s soft sand and Apple’s sloped reef had been blown out and were giving way to the majesty of breaks in the BVI that reveal itself in a big swell and brace the north wind, Cane Garden Bay, the point break.


    
As the wave at Cane jacks up, it rounds itself back onto the shore, yet its shoulder collapses to the right, making it a ride capable of stretching out the whole bay.  Carving manoeuvres or a side take-off will build speed to prevent the initial curl into the shore and execute down the line away from, but simultaneously tease, the shoulder, snarling in pursuit of the rider.  To err is to brrr…yikes!  The rocks have eaten many a board and munched many a surfer’s ego or broken bones.  By Wednesday morning, the Cane anticipation had waned, as overnight winds had shook the swell to a mess of white water with only random large waves towering then crashing.  On Wednesday the Government issued warnings of 25-foot waves on outer reefs and reports were incoming that this system had every hallmark of the 1991 Perfect Storm—yes the Clooney storm.


    
Avoiding the onshore winds and the walls of white water, surfers searched for irregular spots—maybe not as large, but still rideable waves.  By Friday, a public holiday, the hunt was on.  Cane was breaking and surfers went for the big drop, while others looked for smaller waves across the North Shore.
    
As the waves slowly diminished and the swell withdrew, the number of surfers on the water dissipated.  Petit Mort was greeted with aching, sunburnt shoulders, heavy sleeping and wide, salty eyes.
    
Happy Easter…. But then that was March, as were the waves…next time Chico, always next time.  

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