But to glimpse the future of Barbados, you could do no better than to head to deAction World, a surf shop/café painted in Looney Tunes colors. Owned by Brian Talma, a former professional surfer who windsurfed for Barbados in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, deAction is located on the south coast – at a safe remove from the island’s hedonic touristic nightmare at St. Lawrence Gap – an area that’s becoming increasingly popular with young locals and travelers who come for the world-class waves. As a result, a few new hotels and boardinghouses have recently opened, bringing considerably more affordable options than on the western Platinum Coast.
“When I opened up here 20 years ago, people thought I was totally mad – it was like the Wild West,” explains Talma, who at 51 still resembles a young beach bum, with his slender surfer body and mop of blond corkscrew hair. “But I kept insisting that the beach culture here is special. What we have now is an organic, healthy way of life that involves the local community – it’s thriving.”
As if on cue, a group of hard-core surfers from Ireland carrying boards stop on the beach to ask where the best waves are breaking. While Talma prepares to show an Aussie novice how to paddle out, he responds in his Bajan lilt that “Bathsheba” – an alluringly choppy beach on the rugged Atlantic coast – “is where deaction is.” A young black couple from San Diego ask about the best place to eat nearby. “Chicken Rita’s!” shout a chorus of local surfers sitting in the shade, referring to the legendary rum shop where punters patiently wait for the best fried chicken in town. Meanwhile, a well-turned-out older British couple approach, holding hands – a picture of gentility marred only by the Rottweiler they restrain on a tight leash.
As he begins the surfing lesson, Talma tells his pupil not to overthink it, to leave it all out in the water. “Out here,” he tells him, “we’re all the same.”