The US Virgin Islands has a few surf spots and a small community of local surfers. In this article we will look at surf season in the USVI, a bit about the surfing community, surf spots in the Virgin Islands, surf guides, surf tourism infrastructure, whether to bring your board, surfing in the British Virgin Islands and advice on surfing in the Virgin Islands.
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Surf Season in the Virgin Islands
The surf spots in the Virgin Islands are fickle. The most consistency is in the winter months around November to February, and sometimes through May. During these months low pressure areas in the Atlantic Ocean cause Nor’easters that affect the east coast of North America, and sometimes generate large swells in the Caribbean. Winter swells in the Virgin Islands typically affect the north through northwest facing coastlines and beaches. During the summer months surfers in the Virgin Islands sometimes get lucky with occasional swells, but it is rare. Around August-September the islands get occasional wind swells and tropical storm generated swells. These summer swells typically affect the islands’ south and southeast facing surf spots.
Surfing Community in the US Virgin Islands
The surfing community in St. Thomas, and to some degree the Virgin Islands in general, has always been one of keeping surf spots and surfing hidden from visitors. Years ago, you could hardly find any mention of surfing in the Virgin Islands online. Today things have changed. Some surf spots in the US Virgin Islands are discussed on blogs, and some spots are included on websites that monitor surf conditions. Despite the greater level of information sharing, there is still localism at certain surf spots in St. Thomas.
On St. John the surf community is more relaxed, though they protect their secret spots too. On St. John the surfers are known for encouraging the new and younger generation surfers. One of the greatest examples of this on St. John is “Surfer Gary”, a Coral Bay resident who is legendary for his great teaching abilities and his willingness to teach anybody wanting to learn to surf.
SUP surfer numbers in the USVI have slowly increased over the last few years, and its common to see both surfers and SUP surfers at some breaks.
Surf Spots in the Virgin Islands
We list some of the popular, known surf spots on St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and Water Island below. Some surf spots remain secret.
On St. Thomas there are around 6-7 spots where you can catch a break, with Hull Bay being the most popular because of its easy access and consistency during most north swells. Some places have better waves, when conditions are good, but they also require long treks or access by boat.
On St. John, Cinnamon Bay is a popular spot for surfing when there are big winter northern swells. It is otherwise a calm swimming beach. Cinnamon Bay is an easy spot for beginners due in part to the beach break. Another popular spot is Reef Bay, which requires a trek to get to along a steep, long, hiking trail. Reef Bay is a summer, reef break and best for experienced surfers. Johns Folly is another possibility on St. John. It is also a reef break and suitable for experienced surfers. Johnson’s Reef, located just north of Peter Bay, is another favorite with experienced surfers.
|St. Thomas||Hull Bay||Easy, Road||Right & Left||Coral Reef||Experienced|
|St. Thomas||Botany Bay||Long Walk||Right||Point Break||Experienced|
|St. Thomas||Caret Bay||Right & Left||Coral Reef||Experienced|
|St. Croix||Judith’s Fancy||Easy, Road||Right & Left||Coral Reef||Experienced|
|St. John||Cinnamon Bay||Easy, Road||Right & Left||Beach Break||All|
|St. John||Reef Bay||Steep Long Hike, Trail||Coral Reef, Summer|
|St. John||John’s Folly||Right||Coral Reef||Experienced|
|Water Island||Sprat Bay||Private Estate Access, Boat||Right||Point Break, Rare, Summer||Experienced|
Most of the surfing in the US Virgin Islands is reef break and surfing here is like reef breaks elsewhere in the world. It is very shallow with dangerous non-sand bottom. The jagged reefs in the Virgin Islands do add a unique element. If you are afraid of a reef break or hitting the reef, this is not the place for you to surf.
Surf Tourism in the US Virgin Islands
Its recommended that a surfer be advanced to surf in the US Virgin Islands. The US Virgin Islands is not considered an ideal learn-to-surf vacation destination. Even on smaller days it can be dangerous because there are limited sand/beach breaks which unfortunately means not much room for easy learning and practice. Resident surfers do of course learn here, many with the help of an experienced surfer.
If you are coming to the islands between November and March and are serious about surfing, it is worthwhile to bring your surfboard. Check with your airline for information on taking surfboards as luggage, the associated fees and airline policies on damage. Most airlines do not take responsibility for accidents and damage to your board so be sure to pack it carefully, particularly the fin. A couple watersports operators like West Indies Windsurfing on St. Thomas rent short and long boards. On St. John, you can find SUP rentals for SUP surfing from SUP St. John.
If you visit the US Virgin Islands at the right time, then you may be able to catch some waves during your vacation. Plan to go surfing with a surf guide. They can take you to the less crowded and the hard to access surf spots and provide safety tips. Surf lessons and surf guides in St. Thomas and St. John are limited but there are a couple.
Surfing in the British Virgin Islands
Another option for surfing in the Virgin Islands is the British Virgin Islands. A few popular surf spots in the BVI include Apple Bay with its lefts and rights on a reef break, Cane Garden Bay is a great surf spot for advanced surfers, Long Bay is another good spot, and the most consistent is Josiah’s Bay. Josiah’s Bay is great for beginners and intermediate surfers. It includes lefts and rights and is a beach break. There is a surf school at Josiah’s Bay, and they host the annual Josiah’s Bay Surf Classic competition. Virgin Gorda and Anegada also offer a couple surf spots.
Advice for Surfing in the USVI
Advice for surfing in the US Virgin Islands is much like advice surfing anywhere. It is not advisable to surf alone. Anything can happen, you could hit the board, hit a reef, be injured in some way that leaves you unable to help yourself. Have someone out there surfing with you or at least on the beach, just to be safe. This is particularly valid if you are surfing in an unfamiliar surf area. Be respectful of the local surfers in the Virgin Islands. It is a small community and there are limited amounts of waves and breaks.