My old man told me stories of a tropical island. My parents had been so taken with the unspoilt beauty, peace and friendly locals that they’d returned almost yearly for nearly three decades. He talked of a sand point, shallow and heavy, which as a keen bodysurfer back in the day he’d considered but written off due to the isolation and current. We’d discussed the place, considering that things had changed a little, boards could cover more ground, surfing standards were rocketing and he felt it might be somewhere worth considering. I did too.

There were a few major problems. The wave is a capricious darling, a sleeping beauty. It is an incredibly long, convoluted and expensive journey from anywhere. Accommodation is almost non-existent. The sand point changes shape massively during hurricane season and could be a closeout, soft or a rip-torn mess. With all of these factors in mind, I’d been waiting for some time to pull the pin - several years in fact - as the Caribbean had been through a lean trot, that is until Hurricane Sandy was spawned. The US Met office was forecasting it to be one of the most devastating hurricanes in history with winds reaching 175 kph and a predicted trajectory taking it slap bang into major urban centres on the US east coast. It also looked like it could produce swell from just the right angle to awaken the slumbering sand point.


photo by Al Mackinnon
photo by Al Mackinnon
photo by Al Mackinnon

After an incredible journey, the waves on the first day only served to reinforce my relief that Alex Botelho had agreed to join me on a mission, which many others had shirked. We’d never met, he only knew what I’d told him of the place and yet there we were, on a desert island with pumping surf and not another surfer in sight. I shuddered at the thought of turning up here by myself, paddling into one of the elevator drops, getting vaporised and snapping my only board on the first wave. I would’ve been stuck, no board, no company, photographing the best waves I’d ever seen, completely empty.

Alex proved to be the perfect travel partner, calm, unassuming, remarkably funny at times he is a gifted tube rider who took everything in his stride from running out of food and water, almost losing a ‘hire car’ (we bartered with a local guy to rent his) in floodwater, extortionate food prices, landing on his fins twice and lastly the most horrendous mosquito assault I’ve ever encountered. Bear in mind I’ve been through the jungles of East Africa, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and several other mosquito laden zones but nothing, NOTHING I’d encountered could’ve prepared me for the onslaught we sustained on that island. The storm had turned huge areas of the island (including many of the roads) into lakes and the little buggers were breeding like crazy. After just half an hour’s exposure one evening Alex counted more than two hundred bites on my back alone, we estimated nearly a thousand over my whole body; it was truly the stuff of nightmares. Having said all that, we both agreed the astronomical expense of the trip and infinite bites were a small price to pay for getting the most incredible waves of our lives, to ourselves in the most unspoilt surroundings. Alex put it perhaps best when he said the waves had “permanently altered his perception of perfection."

photo by Al Mackinnon
photo by Al Mackinnon
photo by Al Mackinnon