On the northern shore of Tortola, in a small crook of coastline, sits Josiah’s Bay. When the offshore winds blow in from the northeast, the groundswell builds and the beachbreak forms, and before you know it, the waters are full of surfers, bobbing in the swell while they wait for their perfect wave. And watching it all, from their surf school on the beach, sit our friends Steve Howes and Brittany Meyers.
“I came to the BVI from Australia, so I was in a pretty nice place beforehand. But the first time I walked on this beach, I thought, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable. This is something amazing.’ And I haven't looked back really,” Steve said, a smile appearing from beneath his long beard. Steve has warm eyes, when they’re not covered by his sunglasses, and long, shaggy hair, lightened by the sun and styled by the sea. “I came here to help set up a lifeguard service initially, and I did that for five or six years, training local guys to become lifeguards. Over that period of time, it became apparent that this would be a good place to set up something of my own. [Josiah’s Bay] is the perfect beach for teaching intermediate and advanced surfers. So in 2012 I dropped that lifeguard scene and I opened up my own little surf shop.”
From behind the desk of his aptly named Surf School BVI, Steve watches the waves. These conditions, considered by many to be the best surfing in the BVI, have drawn folks from all over the world to Josiah's Bay. One of those people was Brittany Meyers. “I started bringing my kids to the Surf School, and then some of my girlfriends were like, ‘We're going to do a surf lesson.’ And I thought, ‘Well, why not start surfing at 40?’ So, I did,” Brittany said. “I've always wanted to surf, but growing up in Chicago it's not a thing that we do. I wouldn't call myself a ‘surfer,’ per se, but I can surf and I love it. And watching my girls do it is the coolest.”
Brittany Meyers spent more than a decade living aboard her sailboat and cruising up and down the East Coast and throughout the Caribbean.
“I first sailed through the BVI in 2012, when my daughter Aila was a baby, and I just loved it—I loved the vibe, the lifestyle, the ease of cruising between islands and beaches and how family-friendly it was. So I knew I wanted to come back,” Brittany said. “It's a beautiful, simple place that can give my kids a very natural, simple childhood. And I love that. So when I got pregnant with the twins in 2013/2014, and it became clear that I couldn't keep sailing around the Caribbean and needed to put roots somewhere, this place made the most sense and felt the most like home.”
On an island the size of Tortola, it’s only a matter of time before everyone meets everyone else. And for Brittany and Steve, it was the Surf School that brought them together—first as friends, then romantically. “So, we met on the surf lesson, and then we were really good friends for several years. Both of us had our own things going on, relationship wise, but we always talked and hung out and I knew I loved being around Steve—he's very calming and really chill, which is good for me as my life is a little hectic,” Brittany said with a smile. “I always enjoyed being here, it’s a happy place for me and my girls.” Now, Brittany and Steve are setting their sights on a home on land, the surf school, and—most importantly—a new baby.
So, what is it like living aboard a sailboat with a small family and running a surf school on a small Caribbean island? Like many things in life, there are challenges, and there are benefits.
“My biggest challenge in relocating to the BVI is that at the end of the day, you’re living on an island. There are modern conveniences in the States that we take for granted that just aren’t here. Recently I wanted to get ingredients to make cookies. I had to go to five different shops to get what I needed. In the States you could just go to one store, or get it delivered to your house,” Brittany said. “It's not easy to live here. As an outsider, it's a little bit of a process. You can't just up and say, ‘I want to buy a house and live in the BVI,’ and move here. There's a lot of red tape, hoops you need to jump through, stuff like that. But overall, the tradeoff is worth it. Having lived on a boat for 10 years, I’m pretty used to doing without a lot of modern conveniences. But again, it’s a tradeoff. I don’t sweat it so much.”
“The good things that you get from this place outweigh any kind of challenges that have been put in front of us, really,” Steve said, nodding in agreement. “So it's been worth it every day. The surf school has been a roller coaster right from the start. I mean, there's hurricanes we have to deal with down here, that kinda took us out for a minute. Obviously there’s COVID now. Getting boards is a challenge. In the States, you can go to a surf shop and grab whatever you need. We don’t have that, which is a challenge and a benefit. It’s hard to get things, but a lot of people come here for whatever they need to surf, so if we have it that’s a bonus.”
But at the end of the day, despite the challenges, there’s no place these two would rather be. “Having a beautiful time with my kids, watching them play in the water and spending quality time with them and Steve, it’s simple fun in the sun,” she said. “And I love every minute of it.”
“Like Brittany said, it’s a tradeoff,” Steve told us. “The good things you get from this place outweigh any kind of challenges. It’s worth it every day. I can’t think of doing anything else.”