Right now looking out of the cardboard box that doubles as our office in south-west France, we are seeing drifts of snow ruffle two foot lines on a dark and grey Atlantic Ocean. It's about as appealing as putting your left nut in vice, smearing it with deep heat and bashing it with an ice pick. Anyway it got us thinking about where we should be right now. And just like that, a series was born. A quick check reveals Soup Bowls, in Barbados, is four foot, offshore with tubing waves and bikini clad girls frolicking on the shore. Sound alright? Here is a rundown on the wave. Time to get that credit card out...
Make no mistake Soup Bowls is a world class wave. In fact such is its quality, it’s unusual that it it hasn’t figured more prominently in surf lore before. Kelly Slater probably did more than most to raise its profile. In 2009 he visited this part of the Caribbean and scored six to eight foot Soup Bowls. The video footage went viral, as clips with mind bendingly perfect waves and the world’s best surfer tend to do. On top of that a photo from that trip was used for the cover of Slater’s autobiography For the Love. When you think of all the waves and all the photos the 11 times world champ could have used for that book, it goes to show the quality of the wave.
However if you really want to see just what Soup Bowls is capable of, check out the Caribbean section in Josh Kerr’s 2011 movie Keerazy Khronicles, where along with Chris Ward and Mason Ho, Kerr jetstreams through some of the biggest, heaviest and most perfect aqua blue barrels ever captured on film. It's around the 15.05 mark. Yep, Soup Bowls is that good.
So what’s the catch? Well Barbados is tucked in the southern corner of the Lesser Antilles, and is the easternmost island in the Caribbean. Soup Bowls is located on the island’s east coast, which unfortunately faces straight into the prevailing north easterly trade winds. It’s often onshore, and local surfers rely on morning glass offs and freaky, unusual offshores. It also needs a pretty solid groundswell or Hurricane swell to light up, and the chances of getting both of these necessary parameters to happen at the same time means Soup Bowls is as rare a rocking horse shit.
Still when it does happen, usually in the winter months from December to March, the result is a truly remarkable. A steep drop leads into a draining shallow section, often doubling up on itself, which can lead to four or five second tubes. It then backs off slightly, leading to end bowl that is super sucky and super shallow and sometimes intense closeout. All this happens over a sharp reef absolutely covered in sea urchins, while getting in and out over the shallow reef adds more danger (and often some blood) to the equation.
Watch the locals; and show some respect. They are famously friendly crew, but with their treasured break such a rarity, they will have waited a lot longer than you for some Bowl magic. Elsewhere Barbados offers a huge variety of waves and experiences. The island’s west coast is its famous side: powdery beaches, clear water a manicured estates, really manicured resorts and even more manicured golf courses. That part of the island is known as the Platinum Coast, so named for the color of its sparkling coastline and its preferred credit cards. It’s worth checking out, especially on a huge swell, where some incredible waves come to life. The northern and southern tips also offer fun waves and with the island only 22 kilometres wide, everywhere in Barbados is a short drive away.
Perfect day: A hurricane swell and stiff south-westerly see Soup Bowls pushing at six feet through aqua marine waters. You’ve managed to stay off the ganga and the rums the night before, leaving you ready to tackle the Caribbean’s best and heaviest tube.
Getting there: Fly into Barbados Airport, and you are within 15 miles of the wave.
Boards: For Soup Bowls you may need something a little longer and stronger than your normal shortboard. For the rest of the island a fish will come in handy.
Essentials: Its easy living, all you need is a few pair of boardshorts, some flip flops and plenty of sunscreen.
Accommodation: From the west coast glitzy hotels to the cool as surf camps on the east coast.
Other waves: Duppies is closest to Soup Bowls, Maycocks offers a mellow right, on the south coast Freights offers true but rare quality while South Point sucks in all the swell. .