â€œThe BSA hosts one of the longest running professional events in the world, considered among the top 10 surfing events in the world, and has been running for 33 years,â€ said Clarke. Dubbed the Independence Surf Pro and Soup Bowl Junior Pro surfing competitions, both showcase the surfing skills of local and international competitors in November. Itâ€™s staged in partnership with The World Surf League, an international body of professional surfing.
The competitions take place at the famous Soup Bowl surf spot in Bathsheba, St. Joseph on the Atlantic Ocean side of Barbados that generates huge swells ideal for surfing. Surfing season starts when the hurricane season ends - October to June. Barbados gets its most consistent waves or swells with the winter weather that comes from the United States or Canada. The island is lucky enough to have two bodies of water surrounding it - the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. But one side is preferable over the other for surfing. According to Clarke, the most consistent waves form on the Atlantic side, while the Caribbean side is characterized by smoother waves.
Yet, top surfers take advantage of the swells no matter where they are. Among Barbadosâ€™s best junior surfers are Chelsea Tuach, who recently qualified for the Womenâ€™s Elite World Tour and is in the top 16 for women, and Chelsea Roett, ranked in the top 70. On the menâ€™s side are Joshua Burke, Che Allan, Zander Venezia, Bruce Mackie, Josh Mackie and Dane Mackie. Adult surfers who represent Barbados on the world stage include Mark Holder, Anderson Mayers and Alan Burke.
Based on sea surfingâ€™s popularity in Barbados and its draw from international surf athletes worldwide, the BSA is disappointed at the meager level of sponsorship it gets from the government. â€œThey do help, but I do believe there is a lot more room for the government to help in terms of any water activity,â€ said Clarke. â€œAs the president of the BSA, I really feel that they do not spend enough money on the ocean or beach culture. And I think itâ€™s very important for Barbados and tourism.â€
Clarke added that surfing is an expensive sport because of the travelling involved. However, there are skilled young surfers in Barbados who are encouraged and trained toward Olympic level. The BSA offers training to junior surfers to gain elite status. Private schools also teach beginners.
Clarke bemoaned the challenges of Barbadosâ€™s world class athletes. â€œIâ€™ve always envisioned Barbados having paid athletes,â€ he explained. â€œBut, for some reason we have just neglected that entire spectrum of sports. â€œWe have world class athletes, but they tend to just get there on their own. There are no steps for them to take. Itâ€™s happened in surfing too, so thatâ€™s why we tried to create a Caribbean tour, which faltered a little bit too.
â€œSo, weâ€™re still missing a very critical step to get surfers competing in Barbados against their peers to going on the international stage.â€ Still hopeful, Clarke thinks surfing can become just as important as cricket is to Barbados, with education, awareness and the growing achievements of the islandâ€™s young surfers in international surfing competitions.