Exploring the wealth of water sports activities in the BVI

It’s hard to imagine anywhere more idyllic to staycation than the beautiful British Virgin Islands. Clear waters, warm weather, deserted bays, live reefs, historical wrecks and thriving underwater life make it the perfect place for residents to explore in their downtime. Not just above the water but below it too, for a fresh perspective without ever leaving the Territory. This year, due to the lower number of visitors during 2020/2021 there is even more to explore under the sea, with reefs flourishing, sea life growing uninhibited, and record numbers of dolphin and whale sightings for those of us lucky enough to be here.

And it’s not just the natural beauty that surrounds us; we’re fortunate to have some incredible water sports and dive companies right here. Passionate instructors teaching safe end exciting ways to experience more of what the Territory offers. The summer season could be the perfect time to think about a new hobby, get back into a sport you used to love or learn the latest skill.

So, if you’re looking to use some staycation time to better explore the under (and above) water opportunities, here are just some of the BVI companies that can help. With trips, tours, lessons, camps, excursions and more, we’ve spoken to some of the most exciting water sports organizations, and the instructors that run them, to find out why they love getting out on, or in, BVI’s waters. And how you can safely learn to do the same.

Ride above dive below with Up ‘n’ Under BVI

As the name suggests, Virgin Gorda-based watersports instructor Nick Hall focuses on teaching kiteboarding up above the water and free diving underwater. The perfect activities for someone looking for a little more adventure this summer. With no prior experience necessary, the team at Up ‘n’ Under can offer instruction and introduce you to the best kiteboarding locations in the Territory—aiming to get you up on a board by your second or third lesson and feeling more confident and independent by lesson four. The team uses brand new two-way radio helmets to coach you every step of the way.

With over a decade of experience teaching thousands of students worldwide, Nick arrived in the BVI in 2015. He had previously been living and teaching kitesurfing and diving in nine different countries but found that none of them came close to the natural beauty of the British Virgin Islands. With picturesque islands and incredible kiteboarding conditions, he was hooked, and fell in love with his new surroundings. He says that as soon as he “discovered what lay beneath the waves, a huge variety of reefs and wrecks [he] fell in love all over again”.

Nick first developed a passion for freediving and started to hone his skills spearfishing and snaring lobsters for dinner while working in Mexico in 2011. He has now been exploring the depths of BVI waters for years, safely teaching students to dive down on a single breath. While it sounds scary, with the proper instruction, following some key breathing safety points and techniques, you too can enjoy this exhilarating single breath sport. If you choose to push your snorkelling skills to the next level, Up ‘n’ Under can guide you to some of the most beautiful reefs and interesting wrecks in the BVI. The team will meet you with their private 18ft RIB at any of the North Sound moorings or resorts.

Consider diving Nick’s favourite reef and wreck on Virgin Gorda, the Kodiak Queen at Mountain Point.

“Flat calm conditions with stunning coral and underwater caves lining the rocky cliff walls and then the 155ft Kodiak Queen just a stone’s throw into deeper water.” He describes it as “perfection for freediving and scuba”.

Explore underwater with BVI SNUBA

Elaine Couper has been based in the British Virgin Islands for 21 years and is excited to be involved in the only SNUBA (Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus) opportunity in the Territory. Having over 20 years of experience as a diving instructor and boat captain, Elaine’s the consummate guide to lead your SNUBA excursion.

The perfect blend of snorkelling and diving, SNUBA is a unique way to enjoy the underwater world, allowing people that don’t have their dive certifications to get more of an immersive experience than they would have while snorkelling. There is no cumbersome or complicated equipment: SNUBA allows you to submerge to a maximum depth of 20ft while connected to an air supply on a raft at the surface. SNUBA is suitable for children as young as 8 years old, which makes it an ideal, family-friendly way to give enthusiastic swimmers a first dive experience.

Introducing newbies to the underwater world is one of Elaine’s passions. “I love taking people on their first underwater adventure. It’s something they will never forget, and the pure joy on our guests’ faces afterwards is exhilarating and rewarding.”

After a comprehensive equipment and safety briefing topside, divers can choose the depth they feel most comfortable, whether it’s 2ft, 10ft, or 20ft. Elaine leads the group, makes sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience and helps point out the sea life during the session. The tour lasts approximately 45-60 minutes, depending on the air usage. All of the tours are private to provide a safe, personalized experience so that guests can go at their own pace and comfort level.

Elaine notes that the “lack of tourism over the past year and a half has allowed the reefs and sea life to bloom”. SNUBA groups are seeing “huge schools of fish, octopus, rays, turtles, and nurse sharks” with “the hard and soft corals, sponges and underwater terrain creating a masterpiece of vibrant colours.”

Flying high with Kitesurf BVI

Kitesurfing instructor Eloy Derze has been teaching since 2014 and based in the British Virgin Islands since 2017. Originally from Uruguay, Eloy participated in the GKA World Tour for several years and now shares his experience and love of kitesurfing with students in the BVI, transforming his passion for watersports into a business.

Based out of Long Bay, Tortola, Eloy was originally a surfer but, once he tried kitesurfing he never looked back. The adrenaline and the speed immediately had him hooked. He says that “once you kitesurf, and you can manage the kite and enjoy the wind, it’s hard not to love the sensation, the speed, the sliding over the water and, if you jump, well you are literally a bird!”

Now he travels the length of the Territory running kite day trips and guiding students to his favourite kitesurfing locations, including Anegada, Sandy Spit and the North Sound. For those looking for intensive kiteboarding instruction Kitesurf BVI also offers three-to-six night kite camps with daily lessons to help quickly advance your skills.

An excellent form of exercise, kiteboarding is known to increase strength, coordination, balance, concentration and reflexes as you work the whole body. It is particularly useful for toning your upper body and abdomen. Anyone can learn to kiteboard and Kitesurf BVI will take students from eight years old. This year Kitesurf BVI added wingsurfing to their repertoire and now offer wingsurf lessons.

When asked what he loves most about kitesurfing, Eloy says that “learning how to kitesurf gets you so focused that all your problems and burdens stay on the shore and you can, for a few hours, feel freedom”.

Paddle on with Breeze Paddlesurf BVI

Maybe you’re looking for a more relaxed way to explore some of the bays in the British Virgin Islands. A chance to dial down and take in the landscape in a slower, more serene and detailed way. Try joining an excursion with Breeze Paddlesurf BVI.

Breeze Paddlesurf BVI provides stand-up paddleboard sales, rentals, lessons and tours based out of Cane Garden Bay, Tortola. From novices to professionals, they can create your perfect SUP experience.

Less focused on action and more on spending time on the water, stand up paddleboarding is an excellent way to help your balance and core strength. It’s a perfect low-impact, full-body workout including upper body training and leg work, that boosts your cardiovascular health. It corrects posture, improves flexibility and offers a fun way to get out on the water. You can cover surprisingly large distances and take in the views at a more leisurely pace. Additionally, since you stand at full height on the board, it offers an ideal vantage point for seeing what’s under the water and out on the horizon.

In conjunction with local yoga teachers, Breeze Paddlesurf also offer SUP yoga and fitness classes—so you can truly challenge your balance—and organize regular SUP events and races.

Lee Donovan at Breeze Paddlesurf first got into stand-up paddleboarding because of his natural love of the ocean. His favourite place to get out on the water in the BVI is the 12 miles from Trellis Bay to Cane Garden Bay.

Whether you are looking to dive the wrecks or ride the waves, watersports activities in the BVI abound. Something for those wanting adrenaline and adventure, or those simply looking to reconnect with the water.