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Stormrider Guide to surfing Grande Terre

Guadeloupe, CENTRAL AMERICA & CARIBBEAN


Guadeloupe surfing, Philippe Chevodian

Summary

+ Small easy waves - Sloppy onshore waves
+ Consistent surf - School crowds
+ Alternative water sports - Tourist development
+ Laid back Caribbean atmosphere - Pricey

Guadeloupe is the biggest land mass in the lesser Antilles split between Base Terre and Grande Terre which benefits from a deeper offshore valley pointing towards the Atlantic NE winter swell source as well as regular trade wind swells. Grande Terre also has the majority of the surf spots. The waves are often windy and rarely get bigger than 8ft (2.5m).

When to Go

The main swell season is from late October to March, with 2-10ft N-NE groundswells mixed with consistent 2-5ft E wind swells. Onshore trade wind swell occurs year-round, but it will usually be small. Dominant E trades vary from 44% of the time in November to 70% in July. It tends to have a slightly more frequent NE pattern than SE, except during May-June and Sept-Oct. This is unfortunate as SE winds produce more offshores on Grande Terre. The hurricane season (June-Oct) offers a better chance to surf spots exposed to the Caribbean Sea, but at this time of year there is no regular groundswell. Maximum tidal variation is 0.5m.

Surf Spots

Grande Terre has the majority of the surf spots while Basse Terre only gets surf from S and W hurricane swells. There are also the exposed islands of Marie Galante and La DŽsirade offshore, which have good potential for explorers. On Grande Terre, Le Moule is the main surfers hangout. Facing NE, it has the best exposure to swell and is the most consistent wave around. Normally this reef works as a waist to headhigh onshore left with a juicy take-off and ripable vertical walls directly in front of the car park. Short, ultra-fast rights are possible off the peak and thereÕs more waves on the adjacent Damencourt reefs. Not for beginners or improvers and thereÕs a local pecking order. Difficult entry off the jetty when bigger and watch out for rocks and urchins. The expert only outside reef at La Station has critical take-offs into fast barrel sections on moderate N to E swells. Draws in plenty of swell and can have some scary sections. Caille Dehors bends a bit more on the inside allowing for more turns, but is challenging and shifty as the wave height moves into double figures. Off the beach at AlizŽ can be some easier, fun waves for all abilities. Anse Salabouelle (a la Bouelle) is a quality stretch of reef where snappy, hollow lefts share a channel with walled-up rolling rights that pick up all E swells. Hope for S winds and there will be barrels. Pulls a crowd with vibe when it is on, which is often. A keyhole leads to Anse ˆ la GourdeÕs structured rights off a protruding rock, that are fun when small, challenging when big. Pointe des Chateaux has messy onshore lefts that are suited to improvers. Summer SE swells will light up La Chaise, a fast left with a bit of E wind protection. Port St-Franois is generally an easy reef peak, but still shallow and urchin covered. Crowded La Caravelle in St Anne, has two consistent, shallow lefts (longer La Digue and short hollow La Table), plus a pushy right called Calif. The left at Petit-Havre is quality, attracting plenty of surfers from the capital, looking for short barrels, long slashable shoulders and some NE/E wind protection. ThereÕs wind and swell protection for beginners and kids at Hotel Novotel, while experts can search for some juice on Gosier Island. Port-Louis boasts the best wave on the island Ð a peak with long mellow rights and a shorter left, but needs a moderate N-NE groundswell. Anse Bertrand has a choice of walled-up, easy peaks. The area conceals some excellent reefs like Plombier, Anse Laborde or Pointe dÕAntigues, all of which break rarely, get crowded and are for experts only.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell N -E N -E N -SE N -SE N -E N -E
swell size (ft) 4 3 1-2 2 3-4 4
consistency (%) 70 60 40 40 60 70
dominant wind NE -E NE -E NE -SE NE -SE NE -SE NE -E
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F4 F4
consistency (%) 80 77 85 97 89 76
water temp (C) 25 25 27 28 28 26
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
Like most tropical islands, the climate varies according to exposure to the trades. Grande Terre is the windward side of Guadeloupe, but being mainly flat it doesnÕt attract many rain squalls from out at sea. Most of the rain falls over higher Basse Terre. The wettest season starts in June and sometimes lasts until December, with heaviest rains possible during the hurricane season of June-October. Temperatures remain around 26¡C (79¡F) all year with little variation.

Lodging and Food
If you canÕt stay in Le Moule, try St. Franois. Freddo Surf Camp from $340/wk. Most of the hotels are on the south shore, costing anything from $32-245/n. Renting a flat can be much cheaper (Airbnb from $40/n). Creole cuisine is very tasty - try ti-punch, the local drink of rum, lime and cane syrup. A meal will cost around $20.

Nature and Culture
Apart from visiting spice markets or sailing, Basse Terre offers enjoyable trekking around La Soufrire volcano. Diving is best at ëlets Pigeon, on the Carib side. There are mangrove swamps between the two islands.

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