We have gotten into the rhythm of the Caribbean Sea. Like the great Pacific that I know so well I now have a feeling for how the Caribbean and Atlantic act and produce the treasured waves that wash all your worries away. So we sailed to St. Marten under a calm sea and that means the Trade Winds have died down. The trades die down as the fronts that spin off of North America pass lower down below Bermuda and kill the steady trade winds and make the swell we surf. This increases the heat on the islands as the cooling trades are nonexistent bumping up the humidity and heat. As we came to St. Marten to do a ton of work, we were forced to swelter through the heat of the day replacing one of our forward trampolines, waxing/polishing the boat and various other chores. But the Hype starts to filter in…….
It sounds easy to replace a trampoline, but nothing could be further from the truth, it involves lacing up what amounts to 100,000 pairs of sneakers, and making all the holes for the laces to go into, then realising the holes you made are in the wrong place and doing it all over again. Bent over all day with the tropical sun beating on your back, forcing you to hose off every 30 minutes or so, working in your cool wet clothes. I hope people understand that as this website makes this trip look like all fun and games, nothing could be further from the truth. It is by far the most responsibility and hard work I have ever undertaken in my entire life and it starts to wear on you day after day… but then it happens.
I now now that no matter how far away you get from civilization you can’t escape the surf hype machine. As we were sweltering through those days of work, reports of the biggest swell in 4 years starts to filter in. Passed down by Surfline.com and Magicseaweed.com, to people who don’t even belong at the beach, forget being in the water, the sites say its going to be huge, 5 meters, OMG, wait how many feet in a meter 3, WOW a 15 foot swell. Well, I’ll believe it when I see it. But non the less it was comforting knowing that after days of sweltering tedious work we might have a reward waiting even if its mostly hype.
I awoke a half an hour before dawn on Wed, the day of the swell and we quickly headed our red rocket dink over to Chippawea to meet up with Gina and Naomi, who have taken care of us like no other (good food and times). As the storms that generate the swells kill the trades, Gina (Captain of the 70ft swan) thought it would be a good idea to check some of the more exposed french spots on the windward side of the island by dink. So, as we powered out the crowded bay (all the boats from the entire island and nearby islands came to seek shelter from the swell) a little before sunrise on the French side we discovered the Surf was in fact pumping. This was no hype it was the real deal. The harbor entrance was closing out and we had to time sets to make it out, and were then constantly on the look out for sneaker sets breaking even further outside. We powered up island to the closest break and discovered some nice sized 8 ft. waves rolling in, but with shitty, morning sickness chop on them. But as we are on an island it has to be offshore somewhere. So the decision was made to go back to the rental car and go to the protected offshore side. Friggin French, as we are hauling ass into the bay in between breaking waves what do we encounter, but a French Police officer with a radar gun making sure we are going the speed limit in the harbor entrance, kind of hard when waves are breaking in front and in back of you and your running scared. But somehow he had compassion and didn’t give us a ticket just some dirty French looks and we were back on our merry way, just going unbelievably friggin slow.
So, now by car we were off to a secret Dutch side surf spot. We rambled down the dirt road with our boards strapped to the roof or the car with sail ties, tons of camera equipment loaded, and four of us all weighing the shitty rental car down. We scraped and banged the undercarriage of the car into every rock and pothole on the road in a painfully slow and grating trip to the spot. Before we could see the surf we could hear it over the clanking of the car and when the brush cleared giving way to the beach we were greeted with a magical sight indeed. Perfect heavy surf, with barely anyone out, offshore breezes holing up the waves at they thundered past the lava finger to spin flawlessly on the inside sand bottom. I was fucking out there. Are you kidding, it has not been the best winter the Caribbean has ever seen and the sight of perfect surf with consequences if you messed up was just my forte.
The wave broke off a lava finger that stuck out onto the sea, the medium ones were the best in the 6 to 8 ft. range, the bigger ones broke outside and were fun to ride, but did not hit the inside sand the same way. So you could sit as deep as you dared behind the lava finger and try to get whatever wave you wanted. If you messed up, you were getting slammed into the jagged rocks and dragged over a bunch more. I did see one person do this resulting in some bleeding, a broken board and not knowing what day it was. However the medium ones would, ledge behind the rock and if you took off deep, you would just pull in and grab some fun barrels as they spun off the sand on the inside. Then the wave would fatten back up and an inside backdoor bowl section would open up in front of your eyes. Completable makable, until you got bashed into the sand in front of the cliffs and had to scramble from one ledge to the next to get back to the paddle out spot.
We just surfed all day long, resting only to recharge and build a sling for our dink (solid bit of work pulled off quickly), and then surfed some more till the sun was setting, only one other person remained and the swell was the most pumping of all day. This was a good thing as I caught a bomb, closing out down the line I pulled out the back and felt the pop as my board was sucked back and the leash broke. The tide was as high as it ever was, there was no more beach only cliffs and rocks, and I swam my ass off for that board, and got to it only after two waves and it washing up, but over the rocks on the inside. As I grabbed my undamaged board, I quickly made a dash for the outside so I didn’t end up smashed like the dude earlier. There was no more walking up the beach to paddle back out, the one crack in the cliffs was the only way back in, but not yet. Using our sailor fix anything attitude, I quickly tied a bowline, with a half-hitch follow through in the leash cord and had a sturdy, albeit short leash. The fix was good enough to catch a couple more waves by myself, as the almost full moon was rising over the blue island mountains. And on my last wave got a backdoor, ledging backwashing barrel on the inside infront of my friends. Fun times for sure and then it was straight to bed for tomorrow, but not after at least one celebratory La Bamba (Hornitos, OJ, Xtra limes), but with Patron as there is no friggin Hornitos in the Caribbean.
The next morning Captain Gina had set the time for 5:30am to meet at the car and we were on time. Off to the spot we went and were greeted with an empty predawn lineup. Gina and I were the first ones out and quickly I grabbed wave after wave in golden, warm, Caribbean, morning light. The set up was going off again and I finally was filling up on good Caribbean juicy barrels. But the fun wasn’t to last all day as I was off later that afternoon headed back to SB for a couple of days after being gone for the last 6 months. We have had lots of fun times and adventure, but I needed to reflect on things and get my personal life figured out, as that tends to go to hell when you do crazy things like this.