Surfing Jamaica's Hidden Paradise Adventure

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Surfing JamaicaSurfing Jamaica | Photo Credit: @pripsja

Surfing Jamaica
by Deon Clarke - Associate Writer

Do people surf in Jamaica?  Pretty unusual question for Jamaica – the land of sun, sea, sand and of course reggae music.

Oh yes! It is one of Jamaica’s best kept secret for fun things to do in the  island. It continues to grow in popularity and is one of the must-do adventures for lovers of the sea!

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But how did we get here, who engineered this new love fun and exciting activity in Jamaica. Let's take a quick look at...

The Pioneers of Surfing in Jamaica

You cannot talk about Jamaica and surfing without mentioning the "Wilmot" family. 

Billy “Mystic” Wilmot, founder and operator of Jamnesia Surf Camp in Bull Bay, St. Thomas is credited for pioneering the growth and development of surfing in Jamaica, and rightly so.

His love for surfing from a tender age was not be undaunted due to the lack of surf boards during the 1960’s era when he was growing up.

He and his friends got resourceful and made surf boards from anything they could find such as old fishing boats.

This love and passion for surfing did not rest only with Billy, but his sons, Ivah, Icah and Inilek were also drawn to the sport.

Today, Jamnesia stands as a family operated business.   

Icah was also the winner of the 2015 Makka Pro. This is Jamaica’s biggest surfing competition and this was his third time winning the event.

Billy and his sons recognize the importance of maintaining surfing in the community and so engage in the funding and sponsoring of surfing events and after-school activities. They also assisted with funding for international travel to competitions.

Through his overseas connections, Billy was able to secure surf boards, repair kits and other items needed for surfing.  This meant that more children would be able to participate in the sport.  He sees it as a positive recreational activity and will ultimately keep them out of trouble.

Did You Know?

 ... that Jamaica has a national surfing team that participates in regional and international events?  Did you know that there’s a Jamaica Surfers Association (JSA)? 

Yes, surfing is certainly beginning to get recognized in Jamaica! 

In fact, we are even recognized by the Jamaica Olympic Association, The Sports Development Foundation, and the Ministry of Sports. 

The Jamaica Tourist Board is also doing a feasibility study of Surf Tourism in Jamaica. 

Where Do People Surf in Jamaica?

surfing_jamaica_ig_briannejedlySurfing Jamaica | Photo Credit: @briannejedly

Who would have thought that surfing actually happens across Jamaica?  

You might even be surprised to know that someone is surfing somewhere near you right now! 

Jamaica has ideal surfing conditions for at least 8 months out of the year! These northeast trade winds are blessing in disguise for the happy surfer.

And where do people surf mainly in Jamaica?

Jamnesia!

The brain child of Billy Wilmot now stands as the first and only surf camp in Jamaica!

It is located at Copa Bay in Bull Bay, St. Thomas, just about 20 minutes from the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

And funny enough, if you ask most persons in Jamaica about Jamnesia, they’ll probably tell you they’ve never heard of it.

But, if you ask anyone who is into surfing, they will tell you that Jamnesia is the "mecca" of surfing in Jamaica.  It’s a surfer’s paradise!

This surfing hotspot on the south eastern coast of Jamaica is home to anyone who wants to surf, whether you are a local or  an international traveler.  

You will find...

  • Surfing swells for both newbies and pros
  • Friendly Surfing instructors
  • Surfing Lessons at all levels
  • Surf board rentals
  • Surf library, information on competitions, videos and news
  • Photography
  • Zinc-roofed bungalow accommodations for local and overseas guests
  • Surf-lovers from around the world
  • Food and Drinks
  • Wooden Benches on the beach

And you don’t have to be an avid swimmer, as the water is just about 4 ft deep but it would help if you can float or doggy-paddle as you will most certainly be falling into the water!

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Other Places To Surf In Jamaica

Let’s take a look at other places in Jamaica where you can hit those waves!

South and Eastern Jamaica

  • The Zoo – Located just a short distance from Copa Bay, this hotspot is a great choice for intermediate surfers. Although it lost its former glory after the passing of hurricane Ivan which destroyed most of the reef, it is slowly building and will possibly regain its top surfing spot position in Jamaica after a few years.

  • The Lighthouse – Located in close to the Norman Manley International Airport, surfers at all levels can enjoy this remote spot.  Beware of the reef sharks however! Although people have been surfing here since the 1960s, there have been no known dangerous interactions with the reef sharks.

  • Guanna Beach -  This spot is considered a little gem as it is not widely used.  The reef is shallow and usually covered with sea urchins but still a great spot to do some surfing.

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North Coast of Jamaica

The northern coast of Jamaica has some of the best places for surfing in Jamaica. These include...

  • Boston Bay Beach –  A great place to surf for amateurs and pros and to meet local surfers.  It’s considered one of the top spots to surf in Jamaica with clean water and beautiful surroundings. You can expect to see crowds and boats as it is also a popular beach spot.

  • Makka Beach – Known to be one of the best surfing locations in Jamaica and also known for its consistently good world-class waves. It’s great for both intermediate and expert surfers.  It’s also the only beach in Jamaica that has hosted a professional surfing competition.

  • DNA or Toad Beach – Called Take off and Die (TOAD) by locals, this spot provides excellent surfing opportunities for the experienced surfer. It’s located just north-west of the Grand Bahia Principe hotel.

  • Outback -  Located in Long Bay, Portland, this spot is great. It’s known for its powerful waves and serves as another great spot for intermediate surfers. Look out for sea urchins!

  • Ranch – Located North of Manchioneal in Portland, this spot is ideal for intermediate surfers both locals and travelers. You can generally expect 2ft or 3ft waves.

  • Navy Island -  Located off the coast of Port Antonio, here you will find a great surfing spot for all levels, with 2ft to 5ft waves.  There is not usually much crowd presence either.

  • Peenie Wally-  Located in Buff Bay, Portland, this popular hotspot is considered to be a great location for surfers of all levels.

  • Runaways – Located near St. Ann’s Bay, you can find these north coast waves are not the very best quality for surfing so it’s great for small waves. Usually 1ft to 4 ft, so good for newbies and all.

  • Discovery Bay and Runaway Bay beach -  Consider yourself lucky if you get the opportunity to ride these waves, they don’t come very often but when they do, they make a great surfing experience.

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Western and South-Western Jamaica

At this time, there is not much surfing on the Western and South Western side of the island, usually because there are so many other things to do!

So, if you are in Negril or Montego Bay, you might want to to take a drive to one of the locations mentioned earlier.

Other notable surfing spots in Jamaica includes Port Royal and Canon Cave, also called Rozelle Beach.  

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The Future of Surfing in Jamaica

surfing_jamaica_ig_boston_bay_surf_experienceSurfing Jamaica | Boston Bay| Photo Credit:@boston_bay_surf_experience

We still have a far way way to go with the development of the sport, easy access to surf boards (which by the way are not currently made in Jamaica).  There are no surf shops in Jamaica. You will also find that there is not much exposure of anything surfing-related in Jamaica.

But even with those limitations, in 2016, one Icah Wilmot, placed 13th out of over 40 competitors in the Pan American Games in Ecuador!

That was much to the surprise of the other countries. 

It certainly shows that with some focus and attention to the sport, surfing can cement its name in the annals of Jamaican sports.

That being said, you too can certainly help to build exposure of this fascinating sport by enjoying some of those epic rides.

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References:

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