Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.  ~ Paul Walker

Surfing Boston Bay

Boston Bay is known as one of Jamaica’s most popular surfing beaches and attracts surfers from all over the world.  The local “surfas” are some of the coolest and friendliest locals you will ever meet.  Unlike some surf breaks around the world, where localism is a problem, Boston Bay is the opposite.

Jamaican surfers epitomize the laid back lifestyle many traveling surfers only dream of.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach

For me, it is a place I’ve always dreamed of.

That’s not to say there aren’t any others because there are many other spots in Jamaica and around the Caribbean that I rate highly!

(Soup Bowls, Barbados fi sure!)

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Surf shack where you can rent surfboards, bodyboards and set up surf lessons.

This just happens to be my favorite because it is so close to where my family comes from.  So I feel there is a deeper connection here for me.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Cliff jumping while waiting for the surf to pick up again in the late afternoon.
Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Fabian retrieving and passing out boards to his bredren after a cliff jump.
Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Paddling back to the line-up.

Although some locals may not have much in the means of material wealth, they are rich in spirit, personality and good vibes.  Leave any negative attitudes at home and don’t be afraid to socialize.

Respect the locals and they will respect you.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Jason running tings at the surf shack.
Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Munga holdin’ it down and spreading good vibes on Boston Beach.

“Stereotype of A black male misunderstood…  and it’s still all good.”

~ Notorious B.I.G.


Yeah, stereotypes suck.  I’ve been fighting them all of my life.

If you don’t know, that quote is from Biggie’s song “Juicy”  …now you know. 😉

That line always stood out to me since the first time I heard it.  I recognized that I was always being stereotyped and judged since I was a child and I think those judgments have made me rebel even more against what people expect from me because I am black.

I often wonder why I should limit myself to anyone’s expectations?  Why should I allow myself to be labeled or pigeonholed?  Progress and achievements are only made when we think outside of the box and step out of our comfort zones.

Now that I’ve gotten older and traveled more, I’ve seen even more how diverse black people in the world really are, especially outside of the U.S.

There were only a handful of black surfers that I ever came into contact with in South Florida during the ’80s and ’90s.   I’ve surfed up and down the coast since I was 16, from Miami Beach to Cocoa Beach and dozens of spots in between.  The first wave, I ever stood up on was at Sebastian Inlet, FL  I had only been bodyboarding for about a year before that trip.

“Black people don’t surf.  Black people don’t even swim!” That’s the stereotypical comment, i”ve heard from friends and family over the years.

Maybe not in the world that’s viewed through a television screen.

The truth is, many of our preconceived notions about other people or cultures we are not familiar with come from something we’ve seen in a movie or on television.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Yes, we ride horses too!  Alton does surf lessons and offers horseback riding.  Summer of 2011.

The stereotypes perpetuated on television of black people here in the United States are very limited and sometimes just plain racist to me.

However, when you travel you will realize that the color of someone’s skin, doesn’t determine how they act or speak, or what they like to do.

Our social/cultural environment, upbringing, and education have a lot more influence on our behavior than our pigmentation.  This is not only relevant to race but religion and culture as well.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Who is the minority now? It’s a different lineup when you are in the islands.

When I was in Bali, I met a pretty Vietnamese girl who lives in England, speaks French which is her native language, is a hardcore cyclist, just learned to surf, moves like Ciara, and will put you to shame in a dance battle if you test her.

Who would have guessed?  I sure didn’t.

The point is, it’s not my job to look at another human based on their appearance and make judgments about who they are.  I guess we all are guilty of this, but we should be aware of our own prejudices before we start pointing fingers at everyone else because we all have them.

Most locals probably thought she was Balinese.  In Asia, they sometimes think I am African or have some relation to Bob Marley….oh well.  It’s still all good.

Inspired

To see the surfing scene in Jamaica grow so dramatically among the local kids in such a short time has really been a source of pride for me.  I only wish I had been more a part of it, but I am thankful to have experienced the vibe down there on so many occasions.

Watching the youths that look like me when I was a kid have the same passion for surfing as I once had, just makes me happy.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Youth from 2011, now a big man, looks determined to tear that wave up!
Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Another righteous youth going hard on a fun little wave.

My Experience Surfing In Jamaica

I have been traveling to Jamaica since I was a child but the first time I realized there were surfable waves there was on a trip in 1992. I was with my family on a beautiful black sand beach in Annotto Bay, and I saw huge wind chopped waves breaking around the corner of the headland at the end of the bay.  I walked all the way around the coastline so I could get a better look, and I couldn’t believe that rideable waves were breaking at about 6-8 feet high!  In the middle of the summer, which is usually off-season for South Florida except for occasional storms.

I assumed since Jamaica was blocked from the North by Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti/Dominican Republic) to the Northeast that the Caribbean Sea would not produce much in waves here.  I found out later that because Jamaica is volcanic in origin, and by the way it was formed, the eastern side of the island rises up very drastically out of very deep water so it receives more powerful sea swells.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Beautiful and rugged coastline protruding out of the Caribbean Sea.

After graduating from college I returned to Jamaica in 1994 and then again in 1995, but I still didn’t get to surf then.  On each of those trips, I saw small waves breaking around Port Maria.  I vowed the next time I would bring my board.  I spent 3 weeks in Jamaica in 1996 and that was when I finally got a chance to visit Boston Bay with my surfboard.  There wasn’t anyone out surfing at all.  I caught a few waves and my cousin Horace took some pics.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica
Fabian going for a surf. Summer 2011.

When I got out of the water, one of the locals said to me that I am a good swimmer.  He claimed to be the lifeguard, so he was watching me closely.  Then shortly afterward a young caucasian blonde-haired surfer dude came out of the bushes at the top of the hill and asked me where I was from.  Needless to say, but I asked him the same question!

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
No, it’s not me! It’s Fabian ripping it up with ease. Summer 2011.

I am not claiming to be a pioneer at all, because I know the history of surfing in Jamaica goes back to the 60’s.  I even have an old video my uncle made back in ’89 on a trip he took to Boston Bay and there was a guy long-boarding back then.  I just didn’t know the waves could get so big.

In 1997, I brought my friends Scott and Aaron to Jamaica for a family reunion and afterward we explored some spots to surf on the island.   We surfed the Lighthouse in Kingston and near the shipwreck and further down the Palisadoes Road in Kingston.

That same week we met Billy “Mystic” Wilmot on Cable Hut Beach while he was watching his young boys surf some small waves, but we had no idea who he was until a few years later when he was featured in a popular surfing magazine.  He is also a television star in Jamaica and a popular musician and lead singer for the band the Mystic Revealers.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Just cruising.

On that trip in ’97, we surfed Long Bay.  We left early in the morning from Kingston for the 3-hour drive to Boston Bay, but when we got to Boston’s there was no surf!  I heard that if the surf is small here to check Long Bay about 20-25 minutes east of Boston Bay.

We were lucky that day to catch some really fun surf at Long Bay instead.  Scott and I surfed until we couldn’t paddle anymore, but Aaron did not want to get out of the water and I remember watching him surf while sipping a soda in front of a roadside shack at the top of the cliff overlooking Long Bay.  We had literally been the only ones out again.  Except for one young couple, also surfing, but visiting from another island.

Ten years later, I met Billy Mystic again while he was hosting the 2007 Makka Pro Surf Contest in Yallah’s St. Thomas.  This time I obviously knew who he was.  Aaron coincidentally happened to have a lot of inventory from a friend’s surf shop that was closed down.  When he heard I was going down to Jamaica, he invited me over to pick out clothes to bring to Jamaica.

Because of his generosity, I was able to donate a bag of surf clothes, hats, shorts, shirts, etc. mostly children’s & teen sizes.  I also gave a bag to the surf instructors at Boston Bay, and even years later some of those kids who are now much older remember me for that.  I try to leave something every time I go.

What’s funny is that the first time we met Billy Mystic, we gave him a bar of wax and I believe Aaron gave him his t-shirt because that is all we had in the car, not even knowing who he was or that he was nurturing a dynasty of young talented surfers, artists, and musicians to make their mark on the world.

Surfing Boston Bay Jamaica - Portland - Boston Beach
Walk Good.

Well, as I am sure you can tell my passion for surfing in Jamaica runs deep and goes way, way back.  As far as I may travel, my heart and soul will always be with this beautiful little island in the sea.

For more information on the Jamaican Surfers Association:

http://jamsurfas.webs.com/

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2 Comments

  • Linette
    Posted May 19, 2014

    This is tremendous Brian. And it’s exactly how I remember your passion. How wonderful that you continue to pursue it and share it so broadly!! Thanks for inviting me to share this. It’s truly a beautiful post!

    • Brian Dennis
      Posted May 19, 2014

      Thanks so much Linette, I appreciate you stopping by to comment! Come back anytime! 🙂

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