Jamaica, while not well known as a surfing destination, actually has some good breaks for both the beginner surfer and the experienced.
Not only that, but the country is known for its peaceful, laidback atmosphere and friendly people. The island is also known for its culture, music, and food of epic proportions that any tourist visiting the island will surely adore.
Here’s what makes surfing in Jamaica different from other locations…
Surfing culture is well established in places like Hawaii, Costa Rica, Australia and California. These regions of big surf and beautiful beaches have become popular travel destinations for tourists new and old to surfing. Word gets around and is quickly followed by the building of infrastructure to support surfing activity – surf camps, instructors, rentals, and all the related amenities and services.
But newbies could do worse than make the island of Jamaica their destination for learning how to surf or sharpening their existing skills. Surf culture has become well established on the island and the natural environment is ideal for the sport, with good beach breaks and minimal reef obstruction.
Even so, Jamaica isn’t yet inundated with experienced board veterans chasing the perfect wave. Here you can hone your skills in a gorgeous setting that boasts a more relaxed atmosphere. People surf here because they love it, not because it’s a massive, self-perpetuating industry.
Here are five fun facts about this lesser known, but up and coming surf center:
• Jamaica’s surf scene started in the 40s on the north and south coasts of the islands. In the 60s it was fostered by home grown fanatics such as Billy “Mystic” Wilmot, who still runs the island’s only surf camp, Jamnesia, in Bull Bay. Early pioneers like Wilmot surfed on home-made boards and scraps of wood.
• The Makka Pro – Jamaica’s biggest surfing competition – takes place each year in July with open, junior, women’s and amateur divisions. It’s mostly locals competing and the extended Wilmot family are all over the finals.
• Summer trade winds make Jamaica a consistent place for surf from May to August. Glassy conditions (smooth, clean waves) dominate from November to March, Jamaica’s busiest season.
• There are underground surf points all over the island. Off the beaten tourist path, our guides will take you to interesting breaks and spectacular surroundings
Jamaica has none of the mythological draw of Huntington Beach, North Shore or any of the other iconic global surf destinations. But no one surfing the big slow-breaking waves at Bull Bay cares about that. The abundant charms of Jamaica’s surf culture are more low-key and hidden, making it the perfect place to discover, or re-discover, your love of surfing.
Here’s 11 more reasons to choose Jamaica for your next surf trip:
1. Being an island, we’ve got an extensive coastline to explore.
Most Jamaicans are concentrated in the northern and western parts of the island where the restaurants and tourism are centered as well. Besides the more popular and inhabited areas, the south-eastern and eastern part of the island also provide amazing opportunities for surfing at all different levels. Our surf camp guides are trained to know which areas are best for which kind of surfer. The water is also clean as the locals keep the environment around the beaches maintained.
2. Fantastic waves
Jamaica’s coastline has fun swells during the winter months in the United States. It makes for an excellent option for getting out of the cold and into our tropical weather.
3. A growing surf industry
The surfing industry in Jamaica, while still small, is starting to grow and more people – both locals and tourists – are embracing the local waves.
One quick note to add here…
There are very few local surf shops, and so we do recommend that you bring your own surfing equipment such as surf boards, wax and other gear. If you have any questions on what to bring, just contact us and we’ll be happy to help you get ready for your trip!
4. Availability of other water sports
Besides surfing, you’ll find an abundance of fun water activities in Jamaica such as scuba diving, fishing, jet skiing, windsurfing, kayaking and snorkeling, exposing you to amazing and exciting ocean life of the Caribbean. The island is a gateway to more sea adventure, which you will surely love! Our guides will give you the best advice on how to make the most of your trip!
5. Great shopping experience
A visit to Jamaica will also provide you with an opportunity to explore the local culture and shopping in Jamaica may just fin you taking home unique collections of artisan pieces, jewelry, clothes, handbags, perfumes and other local crafts. The local artisans have an abundance of hand crafted items at affordable prices. We’ll be able to help you find the ideal market spots and give you shopping tips for any gifts you might like to bring back from your island , for yourself or others!
6. Learn about the locals and their culture
You will have the chance to learn more about the locals and their way of life. What you will learn about the local culture is diverse and we are happy to help you immerse yourself in learning all about this amazing country! The Patois, the indigenous inhabitants before the Englishmen left a very strong culture to learn about and experience.
A few things to note: Customs and traditions include a handshake with direct eye contact and a warm smile. You should also observe local etiquettes such as waiting to be invited before sitting down when visiting locals and most often it is advisable to eat everything on the plate to show respect. (but the food is so good, you will most definitely finish every bite!)
The official language is English with a few different dialects, depending on what part of the country and who you are speaking to as well as social context.
7. Friendly locals
Jamaicans are very friendly, and the locals are more than happy to help you with whatever you may need. While you’ve got our team of experts, we also invite you to meet the locals in the area, talk with them, find out about their favorite spots for both surfing as well as entertaining and dining!
8. Fun, fun and more fun
Surfing the Jamaican coastline is fun in and of itself but there are other activities on land that you and your group may want to check out as well. Our good weather complements not just the surf but also any land activities as well. A few land activities that you might be interested in… ATV tours, white water rafting, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, biking and zip lining and even local plantation tours.
9. Jamaicans are starting to surf more as well!
Unlike in the past, today, more Jamaicans of all ages are taking to the water and waves, either learning to surf or just surfing for fun. In the past, Jamaicans had more interest in other sports such as soccer and cricket and left surfing activities to the tourists but times… they are a changing.
10. A chance to enjoy a wide variety of Jamaican food
You will be able to partake in and enjoy a variety of delicious local foods such as Saltfish and Ackee which is the local fruit as well as dried and salted cod which is served most often with bread. Other local foods include breadfruit, Bammy, Cornbread, Callaloo, and Calabaza. You may also want to try other Jamaican cuisine, all of which will certainly include a mixture of delicious and hearty spices, flavors, and other influences. You may also notice influences in the Jamaican food from a variety of countries such as cuisines from Africa, India, China, Spain and England.
11. Jamaican festivities
There are several festivities in Jamaica such as Fi Wi Sinting which involves the celebration of African traditions and culture. There is also Accompong Maroon Festival which is the celebration of maroons which is on January 6th each year and it is on the birthday of Captain Cudjoe, the man who defeated the people who colonized their country.
There is also Misty Bliss which is a cultural celebration and cultural extravaganza. Jonkanoo is a Christmas celebration, and if you happen to be on the island during this time, you will experience a masquerade parade throughout the streets in celebration that resembles those of West African culture. Carnival is one of the most popular festivals in Jamaica and is celebrated across the entire island that features parades and popular musical showbiz.
Other festivals include Jamaican Coffee Festival, Trelawny Yam Festival, and Seville Emancipation Jubilee among others. There are also musical festivals, as we all know the Jamaicans love and appreciate music. The music festivals include Heineken Startime, Rebel Salute, Africa Jamfest, Skazz, Air Jamaica Jazz and Blue Festivals, Reggae Sumfest, Caribbean Music Expo among others.
The above tips will enable you to have a good time… not just when out on the water but also as an overall fun land and sea vacation in Jamaica.