In Barbados, the west coast gets all the hype and many of the tourists, who flock to places like Speightstown, Holetown, and Bridgetown for clear water and powdery white sand. But the east coast is also easy on the eyes, less discovered than its counterpart, and more of a throwback. Bathsheba, a quiet fishing town in Saint Joseph Parish, is where you’ll find one of the best places to surf in Barbados, and perhaps the Caribbean; the Soup Bowl.
The Soup Bowl
Barbados is the easternmost of the Lesser Antilles islands. On a map, it appears to be escaping from the rest of the Caribbean Islands towards the seemingly endless open water on its eastern side. And it’s those nearly 3,000 miles of uninhabited Atlantic Ocean, where the waves travel undisturbed towards Bathsheba, that makes the Soup Bowl so good.
The Soup Bowl may not be as populated as some of the west coast’s surf beaches, but that’s part of what gives it its charm. The waves here are consistent but rugged due to strong trade winds and an open current. Known for its heavy barrels, it rocks a north swell break capable of knocking down even experienced surfers. Soup Bowl is a playground for some of the world’s best; the likes of Kelly Slater, Taylor Knox, and the Malloy brothers routinely head down to Bathsheba to film surf videos and take part in international competitions. Slater, considered one of the all-time greatest surfers, likes Soup Bowl so much that in 2009 he told the New York Times it was one of his top three waves in the world. A word of warning: Don’t fall off your board, lest you be exposed to prickly sea urchins that line the ocean floor.
Take Surf Lessons
Barbados is set up nicely for surf travel. Barbadian locals are welcoming, and so is their surf. The island has 35 surf breaks, which means surfers of all skill levels can find a wave. If Bathsheba’s Soup Bowl is too challenging, you can learn elsewhere on the island with one of Barbados’ surf schools, easily bookable through your Luxury Retreats concierge.
Ride the Tide provides lessons for all ages and abilities. If you’re new to the sport, they specialize in small classes and individual instruction. They’ll provide all the equipment you might need for a lesson or for a day of surfing on your own. More experienced surfers should try an island surf tour to get a taste of some of the best beaches in Barbados … including the Soup Bowl. All Ride the Tide surf lessons include a GoPro video of you on the waves and all rental boards are GoPro-ready.
Barbados Surf Tours also offers both lessons and trips, led by founder and 17-year surf veteran, Melanie Pitcher. A beach tour is a great way to start a surf trip in Barbados, as Melanie will show you some of the island’s best waves. For a change, Stand Up Paddleboarding—or SUP surfing—is another fun way to spend a day on the water. Barbados Surf Tours has a professional photographer for hire: Mark Harris. One of the island’s best, he can capture you out on the water. And who knows, you might even wind up on their Instagram!
Where to Eat in Bathsheba
If you’ve surfed before you’ll know it’s a hungry sport—so we’re sharing our top restaurant pick so you can refuel. Bathsheba is a small town with only a handful of restaurants. There’s one in particular that proves to be a winner with locals and tourists alike, The Round House. This relaxed spot dishes out Caribbean cuisine made with fresh local ingredients and homegrown herbs. Who could resist that? The locals certainly can’t—that’s why they’ve been filling their bellies here for more than 100 years. The historic building is perched on a hilltop just steps away from the Soup Bowl. Sit outside for a panoramic view of the surf, and if you feel like diving in once you’re finished, walk over to the water; you can make the walk in 60 seconds. We suggest an order of the flying fish with cou cou, Barbados’ national dish.
Where to Stay in Barbados
No surf trip would be complete without a vacation home as good as the waves you’ll be riding; somewhere you can wake up to spectacular ocean views from your balcony, and fall asleep to the calming sound of the waves breaking on the sand. Barbados’ best villas are on the island’s west coast, no more than a 30-minute drive from Soup Bowl, and offer some exciting amenities of their own for when it’s time to pack away your board for the day. Villa Cocomaya has a massive balcony with an infinity pool that faces the 17th fairway at St. James’ exclusive Apes Hill Golf and Polo Club. Westhaven is a treat for its private access to Gibbs Beach, where you can try your hand at snorkeling, water skiing, or parasailing. High Breeze offers classic Barbadian luxury with high ceilings, open-plan living, and access to your own private cook, butler, and housekeeping. Hundreds of luxury villas are available to explore in Barbados, and any of them would perfectly complete a surf vacation at Bathsheba and the Soup Bowl.