January 10, 2020




The temperature was below freezing, the city littered with piles of dirty slush and snow, and weather-beaten New Yorkers were pushing through with what little energy they had left, just to make it through the worst winter in history. Who would want to tough it out in those conditions? Not us. Packing up our bikinis and trading in our snow boots for flip flops, we were bound for the tropics.

We dragged our surfboards through John F. Kennedy Airport

and eagerly waited for our plane to take us to a tiny jewel of an island in the middle of the Caribbean. For months we had been deprived of sun and salt water, but a week filled with nonstop surfing and adventuring around Barbados was sure to cure that. As we stepped off the plane, the embrace of the blazing sun and light tradewinds shocked our system. When you land in New York, the air is filled with combustion and pollution, making it too thick to breathe, but in Barbados it was pure, fresh, and the smell of the ocean tickled our noses.

Here we were, two college girls, alone, thousands of miles from our homes, dropped in a foreign country with only each other and our boards. The land unknown was intriguing and we could not wait to experience something new. Sarah spotted Ginger in her vibrant yoga pants and welcomed us to her island. She smiled with exuberance and sun-kissed skin, leading us to the car where her husband Jason was already unloading the pile of stacked paddle boards atop their car. Sarah and Jason own Paddle Barbados, the first SUP school in the country. They have been spearheading the movement of paddle surfing along the empty surf breaks that circle the island. Squeezing into the four seater, we jammed in around six boards, paddles and all of our luggage. We were headed 10 miles north up the west coast. The one lane roads, rutted, washed-out and pot-holed, showed us the way to Freights Bay, where pastel houses lined the streets and buses swerved around us, picking up the locals walking along the road.

The waves below the cliffs revealed turquoise water

so crisp and clear you could see the creatures on the reef. In the humid heat, all we could think about was how fast we could drop our things and jump in the water. Freights surf spot was a five minute walk down the road. On the way, we spent our first Barbadian dollars on half a watermelon, which fueled us for the afternoon. We took a dip in the water and soaked in our first sunset of the trip, atop a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The colors of the skyline washed us with a surreal feeling, with not one 60 story building in sight. As the sun set and rose, as the tides shifted, as the temperature changed, there were choices to be made - should we go for a sunrise surf? Was it too early to get a freshly split coconut from the local Bajan character Coconut Chris? Should we lay on the white sand beach and listen to the waves roll in? We go with all of the above.

SUP against a building by the sea
SUP surfing

As the sun slipped away without us even noticing,

the tourists and locals congregated at the open-air marketplace in Oistins. We toasted each other with rum punches to another unreal day of fun, far away from the hectic city life we had back in Manhattan. Adapting to simple island living took no time at all. Stoked, it was Friday night in Oistins, which means time for the weekly Fish Fry. We ate freshly caught snapper, fried plantains, macaroni pie, black beans and rice, and didn't bother counting calories. We were sure to work off the delectable Bajan cuisine back out in the surf. After polishing off our fish of choice, we ventured around the night market, which doubled as a dance floor. Locals cut loose with their best moves to the heavy reggae bass rhythms.

We strolled around, meeting other foreigners

who came from Canada and had some coconut ice cream to finish off the night. As we learned to go with the flow of the ocean and embrace the new culture, time quickly disappeared. Barbados proved to be a paddle surfer's dream with empty breaks, clear water, 80 degree temperatures and friendly locals, which all made for perfect Pau Hana time. Our tropical adventure was about to become just memories. As we wheeled our suitcases across the tarmac to board the plane for home, a thunderstorm moved in. We watched the downpour out the plane window and took off into the blackened sky.

We touched down at JFK with city lights replacing palm trees,

shivering to a not-so-warm New York welcome of 23 degrees and a white snowfall. The enchanted land of Barbados was instantly eclipsed by the icy reality of winter in the Northeast.

two girls holding SUPs on a beach
girl carrying SUP on head down a street

Watch the whole BOARDING PASS series on our YouTube channel!

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