SUP Women: Paddle Barbados with Sarah Ruggieri Cole

When Philly native Sarah Ruggieri Cole visited Barbados to learn to surf, she wasn't expecting her life to change entirely. Then she became captivated by the island—and her surf instructor. Now, five years later, Cole is married to the instructor that first got her riding waves, and she's living the island life while running her SUP school, Paddle Barbados, as well as her charity, The Bright Water Kids Foundation. —Shari Coble
SUP: How did you get involved in SUP?

SRC: In 2010, I visited Barbados to learn to surf, and instantly fell in love with my surf instructor and his beautiful island. Without much thought, I tossed my high heels and pencil skirts, grabbed flip flops and bikinis, and headed back to Barbados to start a new adventure.

At the time, SUP was gaining popularity around the world and I wanted in. My surf instructor—now husband and business partner—Jason Cole, taught me the basics of SUP and I was immediately taken by the mental and physical perks of paddling. Always health conscious and looking for fun ways to stay fit, I knew this sport would become a lifestyle for me.

I took a PaddleFit course with Brody Welte’s team, where I learned a lot in preparation for the opening of our SUP school, Paddle Barbados.

How’s the SUP scene in Barbados?

Simply put, Barbados is a true paddler’s paradise. There are a just a few top-notch schools spaced along the south and west coasts that offer quality lessons and equipment rentals. They're easy to find with a quick Google search.

Tell us about your business, Paddle Barbados.

Paddle Barbados sits on Pebbles Beach of Carlisle Bay. This is where the south coast meets the west with four kilometers of protected bay offering glassy flatwater and occasional waves when the conditions are right.

The long lefts produced in the south of the Bay are just in front of our shop and offer a mellow ride for any SUP surfer. The sand bottom makes this location ideal for beginners and families with children. Three major shipwrecks rest in the Bay just 50km from our shop window, where you can SUP, snorkel over shipwrecks, swim with the turtles, ride waves and join in SUP yoga classes.

What conditions does your area offer?

Barbados is fortunate to have year round waves. Between the south and east coasts, you're pretty much guaranteed a wave somewhere anytime of year, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to surf a north swell on the west coast.

The best time of year for beginner/intermediate surf is December through April on the south and west coasts. The east coast is premium during hurricane season, with big, solid, Atlantic-powered waves from August through November for the pros.

Barbados also has gorgeous flatwater stretches, and bays with glassy surfaces and clear turquoise water all along the west coast. The south coast is great for downwinders, and with a strong wind on your back and a little powering up to catch the bumps, you will get gliding easily.

What do you hope to see for the future of SUP in Barbados?

I'd really like to see more Barbadian children swimming and standup paddling. A shocking statistic shows that the majority of Barbadians can't swim, and as a result, they don't take part in water sports. I want to see that statistic reversed in my lifetime and I want to help make the change.

My husband and I recently co-founded The Bright Water Kids Foundation, which aims to empower Barbadian youth through ocean-based programs. This is our chance to give to the community and make positive changes for the future. Our program will teach underprivileged Barbadian children how to swim and take part in water sport camps with Paddle Barbados.

I also hope to see a strong SUP racing community in Barbados someday, multiple Barbadian World Champions for SUP racing and surfing – both male and female—and definitely some Olympian paddlers when the time comes.

For more information, visit:

More SUP Women.

Barbados Sarah Cole