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Tortola, BVI

If you’ve ever seen a pirate movie, or dreamed of an idyllic castaway surf locale, then you’ve probably seen or envisioned a setting very much like the BVI’s. Lush rolling green hills cradling bright white fine sand beaches fronting a turquoise blue surf zone running azure to the horizon. To say that the BVI’s are something out of a dream is not a stretch, and when the waves are on it’s hard to find a better place to be a surfer. The thing is, that like in most parts of the Caribbean, the waves are not as consistent as many places around the globe, and these islands in particular because of their orientation need a big swell to start frothing. And the other thing is that everything in the BVI’s comes at a price, and like the hills in these here parts, that price can often be steep. But don’t fret there, pirate, there are still ways to make an affordable trip here for a good swell. Just be prepared for some flatness if you simply choose a week or two during the winter and set up camp in this region.

–Steve Fitzpatrick

Crowds
Well… yes and no. The more popular beaks in the BVI’s have their full cadre of locals and will be packed on most good days. Use common sense and make way for locals of all ages, regardless of what they’re riding. Chances are they’ve been surfing there since way before you were born, so let them have the waves they want as they are in their backyard. Early and late in the season, however, you can find yourself surfing alone.

Hazards
Like most places in the Caribbean the waves here break over coral reefs, and some of them are quite shallow. Other than the usual fire coral, sea urchins, and a blazing tropical sun, the only thing to be worried about is staying on the left hand side of the road and on top of the very steep and often pot-holed paved roadways of these islands. Crime is almost non-existent, and the hardest part of any excursion might just be paying the bill.

Cane Garden Bay

The Seasons

Summer
This is the best time to stay far away from the BVI’s if you’re a surfer. Swells are few and far between, and if you thought life was slow here in the winter, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. But it is an excellent time to be sailing, fishing, diving, or snorkeling the incredibly clear water in this part of the world.

Fall
Now is when the BVI’s start brewing the magic potion with the occasional hurricane or tropical storm, and then the regular cold fronts coming off the east coast. Depending on the season, this can be the best part of the year or sometimes the worst part of the season, but there are usually a couple swell events to mark the passing of summer to be sure. A good season will see October ring in the winter with weekly NW and N swells of varying intensity and size.

Winter
This is the most consistent time for surf in the BVI’s, but it can sometimes be plagued by N and NE trade winds that make most lineups windblown. That’s not to say that early morning sessions aren’t to be had with overhead swell in abundance, but you mightn’t get any of those days when conditions are favorable all day long.

Spring
Another great time of year to be here if it’s a good season, and a bit of flat city if the weather up north has been unusually warm and dry. Spring is a time when there is still potential for powerful cold fronts to push far down the eastern seaboard resulting in solid groundswell and sometimes SE wind flows. When those two variables come together you’re in for a treat because there will be waves all over the exposed coasts here, and few people who want much to do with them.

Directions
The British Virgin Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Therefore, you’ll need a passport for assured entry. Usually, flights from most major US and European cities will stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico first, before boarding the puddle jumper over to the smaller islands. Driving is on the left, and no roads are wider than two lanes. In other words, leave the lead foot at home; this is a different pace of life.