Cane Garden Bay, Bomba's, Cooten Bay, Josiah's. These are the colorful collection of Tortola's surf breaks. Each as varied as its name, and all located on the island's beautiful North Shore. Spread out amongst them in peace, and surf safe.
Off Tortola there are breaks on Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Guana Island, Sandy Spit and more. Don't get excited about riding these breaks though. They are less reliable and require access by boat.
Surf season in the British Virgin Islands is roughly between November and March. Good waves may be had as late as by May, though the frequency of quality that swells after March is substantially reduced. Also, thanks to hurricanes we often get quality surf in September and October.
Tortola attracts visiting surfers from the adjacent US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the US East Coast. Ironically, St John surfers call Tortola's breaks their own!
Actually Apple Bay(or Capoon's Bay if you ask some locals) is located close to Tortola's West End. Bomba's is named after the famous ramshackle bar that hosts the monthly Full Moon parties. With offshore wind you can sit in the lineup listening to reggae music waft across from the bar perched precariously over the water. Catch a wave to the beach and hop up for a cold Red Stripe.
Bomba's serves up a great right that bowls as it approaches the beach. A good left that dissipates into the channel is also on offer. Susceptible to the trade Winds, Bomba's is best when the wind blows South East, which is not often during surf season. Average surf is 2-4 feet. Less is surfable; more than 5 feet and things get a bit hairy. [All wave heights measured back-side]!
Bomba's is an easy break and attracts many surfers- too many some say. On a good day (or bad, depending on your perspective) the St John crowd are in force with their dinghies anchored beyond the break. Other crush times include US holidays, and any Puerto Rican holiday, of which there are many.
Cane Garden Bay
The Northern point of Cane Garden Bay is an exposed rock & coral beach. In a 6-7+ foot swell it offers a great wave. At its best Cane is a long ride. If you pick it up far out you'll get a 200 yard freight train ride. The wave may lose a little steam in the middle but you can be assured of a gratifying long paddle back to your starting point. Cane takes at least a 6 ft swell to start working. It'll hold almost any size wave. Beach Bars will be swept away but Cane will deliver rideable waves.
Casual observers might note that Cane goes off less than a dozen times a season. With a good swell it might be good for days at a time. Those that surf Cane the most live nearby and are in the water at a moments notice because when it's on its on.
Surfing at Cane in any size swell always exposes the rider to encounters with the reef. You simply never want to be swept into the rocks at this break. Most regulars have a few good scars!
Cane Garden Bay has a mythical following. For years it was virtually unknown. (Surf photographer Greg Huglin has been fingered as the first photojournalist to make a buck selling and naming Cane Garden Bay photos). Nowadays, thanks to the science of wave forecasting, surfers book flights to Tortola to catch their piece of Cane Garden Bay. Fortunately the break can hold a fair number of surfers, but don't let that fool you into making a trip to Tortola just to surf this break.
Just to the West of Josiah's Bay, Cooten Bay is only accessible by water. It is visible from the Ridge Road so you can always check conditions before deciding if you want to give it a go. Cooten is a left, and a meaty one at that. The drop isn't difficult but the wave serves up some tasty sections and, especially in larger conditions, packs some punch. When it's small watch out for coral heads. When the swell is larger the wave peaks and breaks beyond the menace of the reef. Rides can be long. The hardest thing about Cooten is the paddle to and from Josiah's. Also, watch out for getting stuck on the inside. The beach is rocky and there is no getting anywhere from there if you're washed ashore!
The Best all-round surf spot on the island, Josiah's is a beach break offering an ever-changing wave. Waves are rideable in a range of conditions, though when it's big Josiah's is not recommended - dangerous rip tides have worried even the strongest surfers & swimmers. Josiah's is "on" when the surf is 1-3 ft. It works when it's bigger too, but in surf bigger then 5ft it's usually difficult. As the islands only beach break it's better at low tide.
Josiah's offers a short left ride breaking into the cliffs at the East end of the bay, a long right originating on the East side of the bay and a peak emanating from the center of the Bay. The bottom is sandy, though sometimes sift rocks are exposed.
The surf at Josiah's can be criticized for lacking punch; indeed shortboard riders sometimes have difficulty catching waves when the swell is small. It's no secret that Josiah's attracts the islands longboard enthusiasts! Best about Josiah's is the Grapetree Beach Bar serving cold Red Stripe, Ting and other drinks, plus food. A new bar called Big D's has also opened.
Josiah's is a great beach to bring the family. On a weekend there are long and shortboarders in the lineup while kids populate the shorebreak. Be careful when it's big though, and even a day or two afterwards as the riptides can be deceptively strong!
Best for kids Long Bay on Tortola is a great "learners wave". It's very popular with kids. It's shallow and the bottom is a mix of sand and soft rocks. Kids ride the seemingly endless walls of whitewater that reform after the waves break further out. There is little danger of a rip. Best of all you can sit at the beach bar enjoying a drink or lunch watching your kids surf just off the beach!
Contact Andy if you have questions. Email Andy or Call 284 494-0337.