Reef Bowl in Barbados
Barbados has long been a hot destination for surfers from all over the world.
Once a year we have a huge competition to celebrate and honour the surf culture that we have so greatly become a part of.
This competition happens the first weekend of November each year and spans three days, Friday to Sunday at the world famous Soup Bowl in Bathsheba, St. Joseph.
There are three separate categories, over 18, under 18, and female, that surfers can enter and each one has many local and foreign competitors. About a week before the competition even starts, the professional surfers begin to arrive and activity begins as there are signings in local surf shops and all the local surfers, both beginners and experienced, start scouting the beaches for a sneak peak at the pros at practice and at play.
Surfing is the buzz about town as everyone discusses and debates the potential of each of the surfers entered in the competition. This year was the first year that the competition was fully taken over by Reef, in previous years it was organized by the Barbados Surfing Association (BSA) with sponsorship from local companies.
Previously known as the Independence Pro Surfing Competition, which ran consistently for the last fifteen years this year the name was changed to Reef Bowl to reflect the new sponsorship and the age-old location. Even though Reef took over the official organization this year, local companies were still very much involved as was the local surfing association.
As usual, International Surfing Association judges were brought in to preside over the competition and all rules followed official ISA regulation standards. From a Thursday night people begin to accumulate in the houses along the shore, these houses are booked months in advance, in eager anticipation of the huge weekend of surfing and socializing.
The entire weekend is totally relaxed, with everyones doors open. Thursday and Friday nights are toned down compared to Saturday night, as most people stay in their own homes and have small gatherings of friends over. Saturday is a long day in the sun watching the surfing and cheering for all the favourites, which include local surfers Peter Hill and Mark Holder. In light of the new Reef sponsoring, this year saw the first Miss Reef Barbados competition which proved to be a major attraction and takes place immediately after the surfing finishes on Saturday afternoon. The beach front houses become a hive of activity after the sun sets where you can find people roasting whole pigs, beach bonfires, open bars on the galleries and impromptu acoustic concerts given by surfers with guitars under the stars.
Sunday is the day of the finals. Only the crème de la crème compete! The competition is tight and fierce, with waves a consistent three to four feet. The beach is laden with beautiful men and women in all kinds of brightly coloured swimwear; baggies, bikinis, sarongs, and umbrellas. A huge sound system is set up on the beach for the entire weekend blaring background music all day long to keep the party atmosphere going.
A commentator perched on scaffolding in the middle of the beach keeps everyone informed with the standing of each surfer.