Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Two nights on Tortola

This February I was lucky enough to escape the chilly SF winter to check out Tortola and Puerto Rico. My intentions around this trip were mainly relax and practice surfing. I haven't been posting about it much, but I've been trying to surf as much as possible this winter. My original hope was for surfing to help me with my wavesailing, but as it turns out I've been catching the surfing bug in a bigger way than I imagined (primarily because the first year you surf, it's a full-on exercise in futility [unless you have, ya know, talent or athleticism {which I wouldn't know anything about}]).

These last couple months have involved a lot of cold water and cold humble pie, which is a dish actually best served warm. Enter, trip to the warm Caribbean.

Traveling to a minor island like Tortola from the west coast is one heck of a journey. One whole day of traveling, an overnight layover in San Juan, then a puddle jumping prop plane to hilly BVI's. The trip was originally set for Puerto Rico only, but I figured I may as well check out another island while we're making the trip. My research indicated that Tortola was a good choice for a two night trip to score some beach time and potentially a little bit of surfing time.

As it turned out the surfing was only marginally good, mainly because there was too much wind!

My next obvious course of action was to scour the island for windsurfing gear. I went to a tourist info center (which had previously rented me a surfboard with a huge crack in the nose) to try to figure out the windsurfing situation. They were somewhat puzzled by the idea windsurfing on the island which was a bad omen. There were some outdated looking brochures sitting around hinting that there were some places that offered windsurfing on the windward side of the island and one spot on the south side which apparently would only rent gear by the week.

We made the journey back toward the Northeast part of the island, first to a town called East End. I say "journey" because even though the island is only 15 miles long, getting up and down huge, steep switchbacks on sketchy roads surrounded by anarchy style driving etiquette on the left dadgummed side of the road... well let's just say the adrenaline was flowing.

We found no sign of windsurfing in East End, so we ventured on to the final hope -- Beef Island -- where one finds the Tortola Airport. Passing by the airport into what seemed like no-man's land we discovered a parking area and a couple of shops visible from the road. One was clearly marked "HIHO", which is the name of the inter-island race held in the Virgin Islands, so I immediately knew I was in the right place.

What I discovered was a spot called "Trellis Bay" which has a large protected mooring area and some very friendly beaches with a nice outdoor seating area for eating and having a drink. Some cool little artsy stores where local artists are working on their craft right in front of you sit next to a full service internet Cafe. The Cafe's specialties include the "Awesomest Fish Sandwich" and a wide selection of cold beverages. It's the perfect kind of spot where a guy-water-enthusiest and a girl-who-wants-to-hang-out-on-the-beach combo can go to each be fully satisfied.

The host of this joint is a guy by the name of Jeremy. Turns out that Jeremy runs a blog about the goings-on of his joint and Trellis bay. Full moon parties, live music, he's got a good gig going. Jeremy also has tons of great stories if you get him away from work for a moment: sailing from SF to Indonesia, teaching Finian Maynard how to windsurf, getting on a windsurfer himself and just going places. He's one of those guys you meet who seems so inspired that you doubt he ages a day.

I windsurfed two days at Trellis Bay. The first day I rode an 8.5 and a 120L board. I admittedly was pretty nervous to use this kind of gear. I haven't sailed anything bigger than a 6.0 in literally years. I wasn't sure if I could even do it. The 120 felt absolutely ginormous. I can't remember the feeling of carving through a jibe on a board that large. Come to think of it, I don't think I had really started making a lot of jibes until I moved to the bay area a few years ago. The sailing was fun but exhausting. It's almost like you're using a whole different set of muscles with that kind of rig. I could ride it, but every transition felt really draining. It was incredibly fun cruising over the bright blue water but it's definitely something to which I'm not acclimated.

The second day was 5.4, same board, smaller fin. I was enjoying some speedy short reaches inside the jetty, blazing through jibes. It was super fun. If I had my freestyle board, it would have been perfect conditions to work on all those little spinny things the rust has been building upon.

I could definitely see the draw of the HIHO that everyone has been raving about for years. I don't think I'm ready to go for it because honestly I'm just not a long-distance (or racing) guy. For me, I'd like to hop around the islands with big wave or freestyle gear, exploring rarely-sailed reefs and protected freestyle lagoons.


I have forgotten the art of turning a board this wide.

Nature Boy's Wilderness Bar

The ever-famous Bomba Shack with photos of actual topless women.

Carib is a very nice beer.

Clean, steady 8.5 wind in the channel.

Trellis Bay is a funky and fun place to hang out.

Local Artists built all kinds of cool sculptures. They light these things on fire for the full moons.

Cane Garden Bay hides a very well known point break. We stayed down there too... a very nice family beach.

(insert laugh track)
Another sunset session surfing alone.


Missile said...

Who the hell let you out of the cube farm? *Awesomeness*

Sergey Menshikov said...

sweet, dude! thanks for sharing!

CdnGuy said...

You were only one ferry ride away from the Bitter End Yacht Club, where they have a full range of rigged boards and sails for rent!

Hiho 2012, see you there?

Waterturtle said...

Love the BVIs...glad you experienced it and found HIHO/Jeremy. HIHO is a great event and unbelievable is tough...everyone should do it at least once. I have some great BVI stories...will post them sometime and/or will have to tell them over beers sometime.

Unknown said...

When I did HIHO in 2004 two thoughts kept running through my brain, sometimes inspiring me to scream at the top of my lungs: "I TOTALLY SUCK AT THIS!!!" and "I NEVER HAD SO MUCH FUN IN MY LIFE!!!" You should definitely try it.