Exploring Eleuthera Island

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Exploring Eleuthera Island

If you drive the island of Eleuthera, a sliver of land in the eastern Bahamas, there is a bridge where you can see the calm turquoise Caribbean Sea to one side and the chop of the gray Atlantic on the other. This meeting of the waters feels like the yin and yang of the island—a convergence of standup paddling and surfing. I was more enticed by the placid yin of Eleuthera and wanted to explore the pocked limestone shoreline and its series of coves that give the island its amoebic shape. But first, I needed to stand among the emptiness of the turquoise sea, where only a sailboat and a single speedboat trawled across the horizon.

I paddled straight out, a good half mile from the remote island, balancing above the desolate waters made all the more blue with the white sand serving as its backdrop. The lack of reef would have made it easy to spot a large-bodied predator lurking beneath and the thought of such a thing occurring—compounded by the thought of being alone—made me paddle closer to the shore.

For miles, I followed the low-tide coastline. The bottoms of the rocks just above the water were half eroded by the relentless sea, leaving a one-foot gap as a geographical timeline. It gave the impression that the rock of Eleuthera was a giant pumice stone levitating above the turquoise seas.

Like the empty sea floor and the space between rock and water, the porous cliffs were mostly barren, too, dotted with the occasional white home situated among the young pineapple trees and patched in places with waxy green island ficas, large-leafed sea grape bushes and other desiccated Caribbean flora.

I explored the shallows where a pair of red starfish gripped the sand, appearing rusty like sections of the gray limestone. I paddled through narrow channels formed by the rocks separated from the limestone cliffs. In those crevices, I came upon thousands of minnows moving in unison among clusters of baby mussels. Two, blue tubular fish swam at the surface. Back in the deep waters, where the seas had grown choppy, turtles migrated across the white sand floor.

The only ostensibly overbuilt area that I had viewed from the board was the resort where I stayed. The Cove Eleuthera was comprised of a few dozen white villas that sat atop pyramidal wooden steps. It was an island and resort of inactivity. Even the hammocks strung between the transplanted palms and leafless, red-barked Kamalame trees hung vacant. But as the sun began its retreat, a few guests at The Cove gathered on the grassy knoll that jutted out between the two beaches.

The turquoise water glimmered with its fresh coat of orange. I dipped my paddle into the ocean like an alchemist stirring golden liquid.

—Noah Lederman

More Field Notes.

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