Hang ten on Grand Cayman’s man-made waves or skate to your heart’s content on your family island vacation.
My family is at the Black Pearl Skate & Surf park on Grand Cayman, looking in awe as a wave machine pumps 16,000 gallons of water per minute over an aqua-colored, padded foam surface, about 25-square-feet in size with a backdrop that curves and rises well above our heads. As the pumping water shimmies up the backdrop, it creates an enormous simulated wave that reaches as high as 11 feet.
The arid land and cement parking lot behind us are a dead giveaway that this wave is not the real thing, but heck, it’s got the gusto and velocity of the best Hawaiian surf. Better yet, it’s a controlled environment, and when I fall, it’s a soft landing with no sharks in sight. How sweet it is.
Black Pearl Skate & Surf is one of only a handful of such surf parks in the world, the other locations are in places like San Diego, Santiago (Chile), South Africa and Dubai. But here on Grand Cayman, the simulated wave is believed to reach higher than any such simulated waves in the world. The wave machine can create waves at four levels of intensity, level four being of world-class quality. It’s “like a fantasy for surfers,” says Douglas Cameron Jr., co-manager of the surf and skate park.
My family chooses moderation with level one, and Doug proceeds to instruct my 9-year-old daughter, Anya, on the right technique for riding the waves. Though Anya attended surf camp in Florida this past summer, Doug starts her out on her stomach on a boogie board to get a feel for the waves. We’re all laughs as she careens backwards, propelled by the wave, gliding up and over the back wall then spurting out around the bend in a fit of hysterics.
The rest of us follow suit. It’s so much fun that we grapple with the idea of whether we should even bother standing up to surf at all. But we try, some more successfully than others. Then Doug gives us a demonstration of how to really work the waves, looking like one cool dude turning tricks on an 11-foot swell.
We then take a tour of the adjacent skate park. At 52,000 square feet, this park is one of the largest in the world. I feel like I’m looking at the moon with the gray cement vastness full of peaks and valleys, bowls and boulders. The park is full of kids, some as young as 5, careening and cavorting. I’m told that in the coolness of dusk, there are often more than 100 enthusiasts hitting the ramps and pipes with courses from beginner to expert levels.
Every Friday evening at Black Pearl there also are free skateboarding exhibitions. Discussions are underway about the possibility of holding world-class competitions at the park.
Surf park rates are US$62.50 per hour. Instructor rates are an additional $62.50. All-day rates at the skate park are US$20. Helmets, pads and boards are available for rent at an additional charge.
Destinations: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Themes: Beach Vacations, Family Travel
I guess the tourism industry in Cayman has grown a lot. Everybody wants to go here to enjoy the island life. I also enjoyed it a lot when I was there for a short stay with my kids and family. My kids enjoyed a lot of Cayman watersports. For more information you can visit