From the novice-friendly waters of Freights Bay to the famous, frothing Soup Bowl at Bathsheba, Barbados is known for being a well-rounded surfing destination. Alan Burke knows every single sweet surfing spot of his home island’s waters. A former national and international champion surfer, Burke, 48, runs Burkie’s Surf School and has taught the secrets of Barbados’ surf since 1993.
His top pupil is his oldest son, Josh, whom Surfing magazine named one of the hottest talents in the world. But Burke also takes tremendous pleasure and pride in introducing visitors and newcomers to the sport that has defined his life.
“The thrill that a novice has surfing on a 2-foot wave for the first time,” he says, “is no different than I have riding a 12-foot wave.”
You come from a family full of champions in other sports. What drew you to surfing?
The unpredictable aspect of riding a wave and being with the elements. There’s absolutely no other feeling like it.
What makes Barbados such a prime surfing destination?
Because of our location, Barbados collects every single system in both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as well as the swells coming off Brazil. We get waves all around the island, all year-round.
How would you sum up the island’s surfing scene?
The east coast attracts the well-known surfers because of its many breaks and the Soup Bowl at Bathsheba. The west coast has the best-quality surf, nice and smooth as glass. Nothing slows down the swells on the north coast, so systems hit the shore straight on and organized. The south coast has a fantastic mix; you can teach almost all levels of surfing on one day. But in particular, Freights Bay on the south coast is one of the best places in the world to teach surfing. The waves are smaller and less powerful and ideal for beginners.
Burkie’s Best of Barbados
One Eleven East Beach Bar (Speightstown): It has the No. 1 coffee on Barbados and the best rum punch, depending on what time of day you are visiting.
Café Luna at Little Arches Hotel (Christ Church Parish): The café is on the roof of the hotel and overlooks Freights Bay. The atmosphere, the food, the service — everything here is great.
Nikki Beach (Six Mens): It’s a party with fine dining at the same time. It’s a pretty exciting concept.