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Stormrider Guide to surfing Antigua and Barbuda


Galley Bay, YEP


+ Perfect Palmetto Point - Very inconsistent
+ Uncrowded conditions - Shallow, uneven coral reefs
+ Sailors paradise - Lack of land access spots
+ Deluxe tourism services - Uber expensive

Antigua and Barbuda are located on the Leeward side of the Eastern Caribbean, ideally positioned in the NE corner of the island range. Mostly low-lying, these islands lack the central range of mountains common to much of the Caribbean. The highest point, Boggy Peak, is just 402m (1,319ft). The rocky coastline of the two islands has numerous bays and inlets, some of which have been turned into harbours. The water offshore is shallow, reducing the impact of the swell and cutting the number of surfable spots down to around ten. Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda is strictly luxury only. Most hotels are self-contained, all-inclusive resorts, the majority of which are owned by Americans.

When to Go

A large underwater plateau between the two islands has a shadowing effect on most of the north Antigua spots and the swells lose a lot of energy and size. Bad winter storms and cold fronts will produce 3-6ft groundswell, but most surf is made up of 2-4ft windswell. Most of the consistent spots are onshore, breaking small on razor-sharp coral. The winds are NE almost all year, but during summer, SE trades blow. Good windswells are quite rare, the surf quality is often a choice between onshore mush over sand with a bit of size, and smaller side-shore walls over sketchy reef bottoms. Hurricane season (summer) can have epic days, lighting up dormant breaks. Tide changes are almost nil with 0.3m range max.

Surf Spots

Antigua has a greater density of spots. Just south of the beach resorts at Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay is Sand Haven (also called Lashings). With a NW-NE swell running, a semi-consistent left and right reefbreak breaks near to the St. James Club. The beaches most convenient to St. JohnÕs are Fort James, a popular public beach, and Deep Bay but neither hold much shape or size. Fort Barrington is a left pointbreak that gets impressively long and ripable on the handful of good days a year. Visible in the distance is Galley Bay, the most consistent north side spot, where the outside lefts are stupidly shallow, breaking fast and hollow over staghorn coral. The series of four crescent beaches at Hawksbill have pretty disorganised surf and several reefs are exclusive to the hotels and therefore private. Offshore, Sandy Island can get all-time conditions but requires the fickle combination of good N swell and no wind, not to mention a boat to access the spot. Lefts wrap down the east side and the rights can be offshore in SE winds. On the south coast is FisherÕs Hill, where rare lefts spin over shallow reef and it will be sideshore in NE winds. Land access is almost impossible, so take a boat and also check the outer reef of Rendez-Vous Bay. ItÕs a a popular beach with messy shoredump for boogie boarding or bodysurfing when SE trades blow and there are some more shoreline reefs to the east. The best wave on the south coast is Turtle Bay near ProctorÕs Point, a scenic set up with a quality, long left reefbreak on S-SE swell. Gets hollow, racy sections over ridiculously shallow reef, attracting the local crew from English Harbour. Half Moon BayÕs reef off the northern headland is fairly consistent pulling in any E swell. A sucky take-off leads to some faster walls with a bit of speed and power and it can wrap into the bay and clean up a bit. Needs a bit of size to clear the reef and handles overhead swells. Neighbouring Barbuda sits 40km north of Antigua and has a coastline of long pink and white sand beaches protected by barrier reefs. Unfortunately, the island took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma and 90% of the buildings were damaged along with all the islandÕs infrastructure. The population was evacuated and the island remains eerily deserted with only a third of the 1800 population returning to rebuild. Surfwise, apart from some very rare waves on the west coast, Barbuda is not the best Caribbean surf destination for consistent waves. Spanish Point on the southeast tip of the island, is a barrier reef with sectioning lefts and some scruffy rights that need calm wind to break. A line of barrier reefs parallels the eastern shore, but they are usually shredded by onshores, unless itÕs a rare W or windless day. -----On the west coast at Palmetto Point, Fuckallya can be an epic, righthand, sandbar barrel. Named by a crew of French surfers in October 2001, this shorebreak right can produce serious tubes in almost dry water, really suitable for experts only. On SE swells, lefts are a possibility, and the pink sand beach is stunningly beautiful. ----


dominant swell NW -NE NW -NE NW -SE NW -SE NW -NE NW -NE
swell size (ft) 3-4 3 2 2-3 3-4 4
consistency (%) 60 50 40 50 60 70
dominant wind NE -E NE -E E -SE NE -E E -SE NE -E
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F3-F4 F4
consistency (%) 80 77 85 85 73 76
water temp (C) 25 26 28 30 28 26
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Antigua is drier than most other Caribbean Islands. Average daily temperature drops a few degrees in winter (Dec-Mar) from the usual high of around 30¡C (86¼F). Rainy season (mid Sept-Nov) is when daily showers can be expected. Hurricane season runs from June to Sept; keep an eye on the forecast during this period. Boardshorts only.

Lodging and Food
Mainly luxury self-contained hotels or all-inclusive resorts like Galley Bay start at $575/n. Beach hotels under $100 will be hard to find. $50 rooms at the Capuccino Lounge in St-Johns. Barbuda had high-end tourism but Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm ever, destroyed most buildings and infrastructure in Sept 2017.

Nature and Culture
English and Falmouth Harbours become lively from Dec to April, culminating in the Antigua Sailing Week, a world-class regatta since 1967. Calypso and Soca music are big. Barbuda is home to an abundance of birdlife and great snorkelling and scuba diving.