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Susan Chaplin

"Paddler in the West Indies"

 

 

Susan Chaplin moved from San Diego to the British Virgin Islands in 1994. She now lives full time on the island of Tortola, which is twelve miles long, two miles wide and sixty miles east of Puerto Rico. Chaplin has no car, TV or microwave; she rides a bicycle over the island’s steep hills to do errands and buy groceries. Chaplin owns three paddleboards, two surfboards, a bicycle, a computer  and a camera. “I’m not a minimalist,” she says. “I have more of everything that matters than most people.”

Chaplin has been paddleboarding in the West Indies for ten years. She likes to cross inter island channels and connect islands in the Caribbean island chain. She furthers her solitary lifestyle on her paddleboard by paddling alone through the Caribbean for days at a time on her fourteen-foot long board, carrying with her just a passport, change of clothes, food and water and safety items like a GPS, VHF radio, and a cell phone.

Chaplin paddles the Caribbean’s favorite routes for cruising yachts In 1998, she toured her home in the BVI, paddling two hundred miles and touching all above water points; in 1999, she crossed the 100 open ocean miles between St. Vincent and Grenada; in 2000, she connected the major islands in the Turks & Caicos; in 2000, she paddled one hundred fifty miles from Great Exuma to Nassau in the Bahamas. In 2001, she paddled from Ragged Island to Nuevitas Rock, ninety-three miles through the remote, uninhabited Jumentos islands, which are sixty miles north of Cuba and south most in the Bahamas. Between 2002 and 2004, she was first to cross the four over twenty-mile channels between Guadeloupe and St. Vincent. Most recently, she is first to paddle sixty miles from Tortola to Puerto Rico.

“Paddling in the Caribbean,” Chaplin says, “is not about setting records.” The fun—and challenge—for a paddler in the Caribbean is in exploring West Indian islands. Island culture is different on each island. On Martinique and Guadeloupe, which speak French, and on parts of Dominica, where Creole is spoken, it is rare to hear the English language. West Indians do not have—nor wish to have—the same time constraints as more developed countries. West Indians are laid back but survival oriented. Seafarers, like paddleboarders, who do not fish, carry produce or paying tourists on their boats are not understood or respected by most West Indians. Shipping a paddleboard from the U.S. to a Caribbean country through foreign cultures and languages is an adventure.

Chaplin is a photographer and writer. Her writing and photos appear in sports publications like The Surfer’s Journal, The Surfer’s Path and SWIM Magazine. Chaplin writes for West Indian nautical publications like the Caribbean Compass.

 

Contact information:
E-mail: sfchap@surfbvi.com
T 284 495-4602
www.susanchaplin.com
 

    

   

Copyright © 2004 Susan Chaplin. All rights reserved.
May not be republished without permission.

  
Copyright © 2008 Eaton Enterprises. All rights reserved.