- June 12th, 2008
- in Yachting
Options are limitless, but in general, like Huckleberry Finn painting a fence, once it looks like fun others will want to be picking up the brush. Sailing aside, there is a varied assortment of other water-based activities in the BVI, from kite surfing to wakeboarding and battery-operated yachts to fishing, and making the most of the environment is all part of island life.
If you find yourself wondering how to break into these sports, there are several avenues available to you. Sunday afternoons at Nanny Cay you’ll find a small group of people with radio controls huddled over coolers by the water’s edge navigating their model yachts with as vigorous a precision tack or gybe as on any match racecourse. It’s a growing sport consisting of mostly adult participants; in fact, the fleet has increased from a handful to twenty yachts on the course in the space of a year. What looks like a solitary hobby is actually a shining fence with many hands at play, a modern paintbrush, complete with antenna, being passed from hand to hand with grins aplenty.
Grinning is a favourite pastime of many water sports enthusiasts on the island. Surfing is the provider of many a grin, and the routes leading to this mirth are dedication, physical prowess and a little bit of luck—let’s calls it timing. The combination of wind and water pulling, pushing, lifting and throwing us about in the water is the tease of board sports. My first experience with kitesurfing consisted of me being dragged semi-underwater under the tow of a 15-metre canopy towering above my head; akin to my first horse ride, the beast is moving and I’m along for the ride. Its mastery is dubious, but I am involved somehow, just to what extent is a little fuzzy at this submerged moment.
During practice sessions, fellow rookies and veterans compare “kite-mare” stories of being dragged along beaches, surpassed by global legendary wipeout tales, prophecies of sandblasted knees and bellies, and mammoth swims ahead. It’s an endurance sport, the learning curve rapid like white-water rafting sans boat, paddle or direction when mistakes occur. Most of the kitesurfers you may see out on the water have paid their dues, bandaged their egos and, in reality, have completed their professional courses in established kitesurf schools off-island. Locally, Bitter End Yacht Club offers courses through its water sports school—not a bad place to give it a try.
The HIHO windsurfing adventure is an event for which you can train, but you may find difficult to describe to anyone. It’s a lot of windsurfing—big sails, big boards, with everyone on the same kit, and it’s fast and tough for everyone out on the carefully planned racecourse. It will take a week to complete, and when you are done with it, that’s when you are ready to do it—all the training and experience you need for the HIHO event is to enable you to do the event yourself. Beaten and tired, arms hanging low and eyes water-blasted, that’s when you wished you had two days off and could take another go at it next week to do it again, hoping for a better result. The event is nearly 30 years old, and that’s a lot of windsurfing. Having competed personally on the world circuit, I don’t know of any other event with that longevity in board sports, and we are fortunate enough to have it here in the BVI in July.
In terms of newer events to the island, the BVI is now a stop on the world tour for billfish pro fishing, which will come to the Bitter End in July. Whilst fishing has received a great deal of media attention in the last year because of the heavy penalties being imposed for fishing without a permit, fishing with permits under an international event banner is fast, furious and fun, fun, fun. I have attended a fishing rodeo and it’s wild—these are professional sports fishermen with big, big game. From the boats to the fish, it’s all about a big catch and a hard day’s work for it. In its organization, it is somewhat environmentally conscious, containing the sport within certain guidelines as opposed to allowing a random mass of fishing activity, which would not be beneficial for anyone involved.
High-end events and fierce sporting competitions are just one aspect of water sports. The foundations are here in the BVI—KATS and the RBVIYC, as well as Bitter End, offer intro levels in sailing and water confidence. I have always been impressed by the tenacity of the BVI spirit and chuckle when I think of the after-school programmes offered to kids here—instead of the gym, they go sailing, surfing or hit the beach. Homework is for the home when your backyard is the ocean. As for getting into the sports, walk up and grab the brush and start painting.