Mark Harris (IG: Markharris_barbadosphotography) took the picture on the left in November. That's my board on the right in August.
I have been infiltrating Soup Bowl, a world renown surf break. Kelly Slater surfed it last year and there was an international competition…in winter. The difference between the winter and summer waves is astonishing. It goes from massive and angry to clean and small. And by small, I mean in the eyes of the accomplished surfers. This is where they surf, bringing a whole other level of competition and surf etiquette.
The south coast of Barbados has gone flat, typical in the summer. So, us surf addicts have gone East. My heart rate picks up as Nick drives down the hill to Bathsheba. He is comfortable there and I am not yet. It is not the waves that frighten me. I feel invincible if I am leashed to my board. It is the other surfers that concern me.
Surfing is a sport that you earn your place. Physically, you need paddle strength to make it out to the break in larger waves. Technically, you build the skill to be able to ride the waves that form at the peak. Culturally, when the local surfers that learned the sport as children are at the peak, the ex-pats are not all that welcome, and the visitors are not welcome at all. There is an obvious pecking order.
Sherisse and "baby" Thais
Last year, I told Sherisse that I had been in Barbados for two years and was still surrounded by ex-pats. I went to visit her and her little girl recently, who is now one year old. She said to me, well you found yourself a white Bajan man, not many of those around, now you will infiltrate the Bajan society.
It sounds like a funny thing, for one local person to have such an impact on your life, but it is true. I now know the good surfers on a big day on the South Coast and they are way nicer to me. They know that I am Nick’s girlfriend and they cut me some slack, even at Soup Bowl. A girl who seemed to have it out for me when I was learning, hugged me in public at the Grand Kadooment parade. I guess we are good?!
Nick and I at Tipsy - All White Party
One of Nick’s friends told me that when he paddles for a wave, I do not! I asked, but what if I have priority? He said, you never have priority over someone who has been surfing these waves for over thirty years. Nick thinks he is kidding with me, and I know that there is an element of joking. But he is serious, in that if I screw up his wave I am in big trouble!
Brandon has been away all July and has seen my surf reports. He asked me, “Are you a Soup Bowl pro now?” I responded, “We went out for lunch with Nick’s friends after surfing, so I haven’t become a Soup Bowl pro as much as infiltrated Soup Bowl.”
Still having fun with the South Africans.
Kian, Lorena and I make it to the picture window at Chalky Mount
It is the way on a small island. As I build trust and foster a reputation, I am becoming more accepted by the Barbadians. I will never be someone who has earned their place here over the last thirty years, but I have infiltrated Bajan society, and maybe some of their hearts.