Our featured blogger, Ashlea, reveals more than she intended to went she went 'jet surfing' on St Maarten's infamous Maho Beach.
I was fighting with all my might to keep vertical, squinting my eyes in the wind and shielding my face from the rocket sharp stabs as each grain of sand came pelting towards me. I’d anticipated it being quite a blast – not quite to this extent though – but at no point did I expect to end up naked. I guess that’s what happens when you stand behind a 747 jumbo jet as it’s revving up to take off.
I guess I should explain. A few years back I was lucky enough to tag along on a weirdly exciting family adventure to the Caribbean. I call it weird because, believe it or not, it wasn’t the white sandy beaches, the clear waters nor the intrigue of island life that motivated my dad to book the trip. Nor was it the allure of cruising with Royal Caribbean's latest and greatest ship to grace the waters – the Oasis of the Seas. My dad was dragging us half way across the globe to sit on a beach and watch some planes come and go.
To be fair to my dad, it wasn't any old beach. It was Maho Beach, the infamous stretch of sand that lays less than two car lengths away from the Eastern Caribbean's second busiest airport, Princess Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten.
No doubt you've seen pictures of jets coming in to land over Maho beach. The runway at Princess Juliana Airport is only 2180 metres, so jets have to swoop in at minimum altitude, skimming right over Maho beach and casting an epic shadow over any beach-goers. You can literally lay on the sand and throw a rock up to the plane. That’s how close they are.
Unsurprisingly, the beach is a popular haunt for thrill-seekers. It's probably the only place in the world where you can line yourself up directly behind a plane, dig your feet into the sand and feel the magnificent force of being blasted into the sea. Youtube is full of fantastically funny clips of tourists a-flyin'. My favourite is simply titled Plane vs Japanese Tourist.
Be wary though. Taking on a jumbo jet isn't for the faint hearted. There are numerous large red warning signs stuck up along the fence warning and advising the potential for bodily harm or death via jet blast. Yes, death via jet blast. The beach has become quite a tourist destination in its own right with little Caribbean beach bars being opened up for business, some even sporting large arrival and departure signs to notify tourists exactly when the next 'show' is about to begin. The beach cafes I visited went as far as broadcasting the live radio transmissions between the approaching pilots and the control tower!
A word for the wise. Don’t make the same mistake I did and wear a strapless dress on the day you plan to visit Maho Beach. Mid blast, eyes squinted, sand pelting from all angles and holding on for dear life to my father’s arm, I could feel my feet begin to lift off the floor. In the three seconds it took to be lifted, swung and flung back on the sand, my dress flew off. Thankfully, my father had a strong grip and I didn't go cartwheeling naked down the beach. And he quickly came to my rescue by protecting my modesty with his shirt. But not before two German tourists had captured the entire sequence on their video camera.
Somewhere, on big wide web, there is footage of my shame. You're welcome, YouTube.
I'm Ashlea. This Little Nomad is where I share the ups and downs of my journeys and the knowledge bank I’ve collected along the way. I've been exploring the world with no real savings, worked on three different continents and currently find myself living on an island in The Maldives. I hope this blog will inspire and motivate those who wish to get moving. It's easier than one might think!