The first and last time I saw Rihanna—in a swimsuit, no less—was at the airport. Her likeness was just behind the customs booth, hanging in a place typically reserved for government leaders.
I had expected to see Barbados’s most famous daughter many, many times over the course of my weeklong stay. But I quickly discovered that the locals aren’t especially caught up in Rihanna’s allure. They’d rather focus on people and places that the rest of the world hasn’t already discovered.
Barbados has always been a bit of an outlier in the Caribbean. Geographically, this former British colony is the region’s easternmost country, a pear-shaped island jutting far out into the southern Atlantic. (It is so far east, in fact, that it is usually spared by hurricanes.) And though the Caribbean-facing western coast has long been popular with well-heeled Brits who fly in for the polo, the five-star resorts, and the pristine beaches, the windswept, Atlantic-facing eastern coast is still wild and unpolished. It draws a bohemian, international crowd of hippies and outdoorsy types, who come not only for the laid-back pace but also for the spectacular surf—something that few Caribbean islands can claim. The breaks in Barbados may not be on the same level as the Gold Coast of Australia, but the country is slowly gaining international cred, as evidenced by last spring’s Barbados Surf Pro, the first-ever professional tourna