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Trinidad’s Land & Water Sports

Trinidad & Tobago Soca Warriors captain and star striker Kenwynne Jones

Trinidad & Tobago Soca Warriors captain and star striker Kenwynne Jones congratulates his teammates. Photo courtesy the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation (www.ttffonline.com)

Trinidad’s Dynamic Sporting Scene

Trinidad has a healthy appetite for sport. Give us sufficient time and space and there shall be sport. And with an eye for developing a sports tourism industry, Trinidad — like Tobago — has been expanding and fine-tuning sporting infrastructure.

Drive past any recreation ground or open field on an evening or weekend and you’ll see people engaged in some type of sporting activity, most likely football or cricket. For example, most evenings this can be observed at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, where the capital’s games players and fitness enthusiasts will congregate: walkers, runners and cyclists, united in lycra-clad diligence; casual games of football and cricket; the occasional flinging of a rugby ball or Frisbee.

Sporting events in Trinidad are more than just occasions to support home-grown teams — they’re also an opportunity to turn up the music, share some eats and drink, and generally lime the day away. If participation is your preference, there are associations to support most sporting predilections. Nor is there any rule against the simplest way of getting involved: ask the people playing if you can join in. Just remember the usual rules of engagement in sport: if the players are wearing uniforms, the match is probably not open to passers-by.

But Trinidad has its share of activities to please adrenalin junkies as well. On beaches and on village and city savannahs it’s common to see “fete-matches” in progress, whether it’s “small-goal” football, rugby or cricket, and during international football and cricket matches the action on the field is often matched by equally enthusiastic partying in the stands.

But if your game is motor racing, cycling, adventure racing, power boat racing, basketball, kayaking or keeping in shape at the gym, you needn’t skip a beat: Trinidad has the facilities — and fellow enthusiasts — to keep you on the right track.

National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) govern various sports and manage the development of athletes. As a result, the country has been well represented on the international stage in track and field, football, cricket, hockey, boxing, martial arts, swimming, motor sports and shooting. In 2010, the country’s athletes won 44 medals at the Central America and Caribbean Games, easily breaking the previous 1966 record of 24.

The sports calendar is packed, with tournaments and meets throughout the year. While sports tourism is not yet fully developed, many events do include foreign competitors.

For those who want to watch, the major spectator sports are cricket and football, with Trinidad taking the lion’s share of sporting events over Tobago. Local listings — newspapers primarily — will quickly get most visitors acquainted with the variety of events available in any given week or month.

Some Trinidadian sporting heroes

  • Stephen Ames: former world top 25 golfer with four major PGA titles, including historic victory over all-star field with Tiger Woods at the Players Championship (2006)
  • Ato Boldon: four-time Olympic medallist (2 silver, 2 bronze for 100m and 200m, 1996 and 2000), and 200m World Championship gold medallist (1997). Now a commentator with NBC, and named the best sports analyst of 2016 by Sports Illustrated
  • George Bovell III: the nation’s first Olympic medallist in swimming, winning Olympic bronze in the 200m individual medley (2004), and several other international medals
  • Hasely Crawford: our first Olympic gold medallist, winning the men’s 100m (1976)
  • Brian Lara: multiple record-holding cricketer with two test match score records (375 runs not out in 1994 and 400 not out in 2004); highest first class score (501 not out, also in 1994); and all-time leading run scorer in test cricket
  • Keshorn Walcott: two-time Olympic medallist (gold in 2012, bronze in 2016). He’s the youngest male athlete (and the first black one) to win a gold medal in javelin; the first individual track and field athlete ever to win World Junior and Olympic titles in the same year; and he holds the North, Central American and Caribbean junior record
  • Rodney Wilkes: nation’s first Olympic medallist for weightlifting (silver in 1948, bronze in 1952).

Athletics

T&T has always been a quiet force in track and field, with athletes winning coveted hardware at the Olympics and other international meets. Its athletic prowess lies largely with sprinters, but increasingly in field events. Locals get to see their stars in action at the annual Hampton Games, held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain: participants have included Jamaican phenomenon Usain Bolt and American sprinter Maurice Green. There are 45 clubs nationwide: the Southern Games at Guaracara Park is one of the biggest annual meets. National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad & Tobago: naaatt.org, 679-3276

Basketball

Increasingly popular, efforts to start a professional basketball league have encouraged interest. Professional or not, basketball is played nightly on community courts nationwide, as well as in seven zonal leagues and on national teams. The Sport and Physical Education Centre on the university campus in St Augustine seats over 1,000 people and is often heavily booked. There are other venues in Maloney, Pleasantville, and Port of Spain (the Jean Pierre Complex). A Miami Heat court opened in Fanny Village, Point Fortin last year. Major events are the Super Ten (October to early December) and the National Club Championship. National Basketball Federation: 646-1663, www.nbftt.org

Body building

Great entertainment for the merciless crowd—but participants in the junior and senior championships take things very seriously. Darrem Charles is among the best known, having ranked in the top 20 of the IFBB men’s Bodybuilding Professional Rankings list. Lawrence “the Beast” Marshall holds the annual bodybuilding show SportWorld Classic. Trinidad & Tobago Bodybuilding Federation, T: 678-9166

Cricket

Perhaps the only sport to rival football’s popularity, cricket has gained new interest and new fans thanks to the Twenty/20 format in which the national team is considered a regional powerhouse. This is also the home of Brian Lara, the former West Indies captain who has held just about every record available to a batsman. Introduced by the British in the 1800s, cricket has become a West Indian institution. The Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain is one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful cricket grounds and the venue for international Test and One-Day International matches. The Oval is the capital of the nation’s cricket activities. Cricket is also played on savannahs and village pitches all over the country. The Oval hosts international as well as regional and top local league games, and has been home of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club since 1896. For a popular match, be prepared for a long wait outside the ground. The Oval is the largest capacity cricket ground in the Caribbean. Most of the time, it is permitted for spectators to bring food and drink — in abundance — into the ground. There’s food on sale within the grounds as well. For cricket to be played there must be several hours of good weather, conditions which are also to the benefit of spectators. Dress for comfort, and be ready to jump and wave — cricket watching in the Caribbean is a participatory experience. Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board: 636-1577, www.ttcricketboard.com

Cycling & mountain biking

T&T has seen a cycling resurgence of late, and is one of the sports designated to be part of the islands’ sports tourism thrust. The Easter International Grand Prix and National Championships (at the Arima Velodrome) are highlights of the racing calendar. The construction of a new world-class National Cycling Veldrome in Couva is due to be completed in 2016. The Beacon Cycling Series and West Indies vs the World have been major annual events in the past, but have not taken place for the last few years. Trinidad & Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF): 679-8823, www.ttcyclingfederation.com

Mountain biking

A popular and challenging sport in Trinidad that’s gaining popularity from locals and tourists alike. Local authorities have also planned a 1,000km biking and hiking trail along the north coast. Trails in Chaguaramas are ideal for beginners. Chaguaramas’ forest paths, old military and agricultural roads are a popular mountain biking area, offering an encounter with exotic flora and fauna while negotiating varied terrain and trails. In fact, the Cycling Federation (TTCF) presented its first evet MTB XCE (Cross country eliminator) in January 2016 at Bellerand Park in Chaguaramas. Other popular mountain biking locations include the Santa Cruz valley and Matura to Matelot stretch. For a lung-burster try the Blanchisseuse to Morne La Croix Road. Bikes can be rented from several places, but there are no trail maps, so check with a guide like Kerry Williams in Chaguaramas. Trails are muddy and slippery after heavy rain, so the best time of year is the dry season. Kerry “Max” Williams, T: 735-5634 • Geronimo’s Cycle and Sports, T: 622-BIKE • Kayak Centre, Chaguaramas, T: 633-7871

Diving

Trinidad cannot match Tobago as a diving destination, but there is diving all year. The best is around the islands off Chaguaramas, particularly Chacachacare, sheltered from the muddy waters of the Orinoco. The north coast and Gulf of Paria are other sites. Dive TnT conducts all-day diving trips most weekends. Contact a dive shop like Rick’s Dive World or Dive TnT to ask about current conditions before you make solid plans. Dive Specialist Centre, T: 628-4524 • Rick’s Dive World, T: 628-1913

Drag racing

Drivers and fans eagerly awaiting a new track in Cunupia. There are five different rallying locations in south and central Trinidad, e.g. the popular Zig Zag and Indian trail tracks in Couva. The Rally Club hosts legs of the Caribbean Speed Stages Rally Championship; American autocross defensive driving competitions, Solodex, are held in the car park of the Santa Rosa race track, as are Karting events. Zorce Magazine: www.zorce.com • Trinituner: www.trinituner.com

Dragon boat racing

A young sport which caught on in 2006 for Trinidad’s Chinese Bicentennial celebrations; the national team since has won several medals at the International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships. Regattas take place in both Trinidad and Tobago, mainly around Chaguaramas and Pigeon Point. Trinidad & Tobago Dragon Boat Federation: www.facebook.com/TTDBF

Fishing

“People from all over the world come to Trinidad to fish tarpon,” says Sid Johnson, of the Trinidad & Tobago Game Fishing Association. “You can find tarpon in these waters all year round but they are particularly active during the rainy season.” On-shore fishing in Trinidad is popular in Chaguaramas, Las Cuevas, Galera Point and the Nariva river mouth. Popular boat-fishing spots include the Chaguaramas islands, where fishermen “troll” for carite, kingfish and cavalli and “bank” for redfish, salmon and croakers (or grunt). Pelagics such as marlin, sailfish, tarpon, kingfish, and wahoo are highly prized. Fishing tournaments are held year-round. Trinidad & Tobago Game Fishing Association: 632-6088, www.ttgfa.com

Football (soccer)

Probably — alongside cricket — the sport most dear to Trinidadians, who follow the fortunes of the national team with a great deal of (often anguished) interest, as well as several international clubs. Several of our talented footballers are also doing us proud at international club level. Trinidadian footballers like Carlos Edwards and Kenwyne Jones currently play in the English Premier League. Trinidad and Tobago was the host of the highly successful FIFA World (men’s) Under-17 championships in 2001 and Women’s Under-17 FIFA world championships in 2010. And our Soca Warriors team represented T&T as the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup in 2006. The fortunes of our national team, the Soca Warriors, have ebbed somewhat since qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, but it is reliably one of the better sides in the Caribbean. With a male and female national team (Soca Warriors), professional and secondary school leagues, and clubs for children of all ages, football is a truly national sport. The Hasely Crawford Stadium (a multi-purpose facility in Port of Spain) and Marvin Lee Stadium (Macoya) are home to Trinidad’s football team: Pro League matches (April–December) are played there and at the Larry Gomes (Arima), Ato Boldon (Couva) and Manny Ramjohn (Marabella) stadiums. Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation (TTFF): 623-9500, www.ttfootball.org • T&T Pro League: 645-4489, www.ttproleague.com

Golf

Trinidad has three 18-hole courses: Moka’s St Andrew’s Golf Club, Trincity’s Millennium Lakes and Petrotrin’s Pointe-à-Pierre Golf Club. Nine-hole courses exist at Brechin Castle, Usine St Madeleine and Chaguaramas. Chaguaramas Development Authority: 634-4227, www.chagdev.com • Millennium Lakes Golf & Country Club: 640-TEES, www.milleniumlakes.com • Trinidad & Tobago Golf Association: 629-7127, www.ttgolfassociation.org

Gyms & fitness

Gyms are everywhere, including some of the larger hotels and malls; many offer weekly, monthly and daily passes which allow visitors access to group exercise classes, yoga and pilates, aerobics and spin, etc.

Hashing

Started in 1984, the Port of Spain Hash House Harriers has evolved into a 100-strong bi-weekly event – with a healthy emphasis on the social side.

Hockey

The hockey year is split in two: the indoor season September-January and the outdoor season (on Tacarigua’s astroturf) March-August. Trinidad & Tobago Hockey Board: www.tthb.tstt.net.tt

Horse racing

Santa Rosa Park is Trinidad’s only horse racing track, and it has an AmTote betting system. Thoroughbreds pound the dirt nearly every Saturday and public holiday (2008 saw 46 race days). There are about forty race days annually, all on public holidays or Saturdays. They include New Year races, Derby Day, Diamond Stakes, Midsummer Classic, President’s Cup and the Santa Rosa Classic. Santa Rosa Park: 646-2450, www.santarosapark.com • Trinidad & Tobago Racing Authority: 646-1986

Horse riding

Dressage and show jumping instruction is available from Bays & Greys Riding Centre (Santa Cruz); Jericho Stables (St Ann’s); Goodwin Heights (the St Ann’s 250-acre former coffee and cocoa estate in of Margaret “Muffy” Auerbach); Birtwyck Park (Piarco); Saddle Valley Stables (Santa Cruz); Sandy Hill Stables (Freeport); Valmont Stables (Santa Cruz); and Horses Helping Humans (Maracas). For trail riding, contact Hidden Valley (Chaguaramas) or Bonanza Stud Farm (Arima). Trinidad & Tobago Equestrian Association: www.ttequestrian.org • Horses Helping Humans: www.hhhtrinidad.weebly.com

Kayaking

River kayaking is best in the wet season when rivers are full. The Yara and Marianne Rivers on the north coast are popular spots (Eric Blackman rents kayaks at the mouth of the Marianne). Caribbean Discovery Tours takes visitors kayaking in the Nariva Swamp. The Godineau River takes you through saltwater mangrove swamps and freshwater marshland. For sea kayaking, the Kayak Centre in Chaguaramas offers the sheltered waters of Williams Bay, and provides equipment. Take extra care in rainy season. Kayak Centre, T: 633-7871 • Caribbean Discovery Tours, T: 624-7281 • Eric Blackman (Marianne River), T: 669-3995

Martial arts

A plethora of martial arts is practised, including kung fu, karate, bushido, aikido, judo, jujitsu, tai chi and kickboxing. Several dojos teach martial arts styles, from Kung Fu to WuShu. Purple Dragon, founded by Professor Don Jacob, teaches Trinidad’s only indigenous form of Karate, Don Jitsu Ryu, and operates several schools locally. Other styles: Capoeira, Bushido, Aikido, Judo, Ju-Jitsu, Tai Chi and Kickboxing. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is also gaining popularity. Once unregulated, it is now a “respectable” sport in the Caribbean. CUFF (Caribbean Ultimate Fist Fighting) organises events featuring professional athletes from all corners of the globe competing in an authentic eight-sided cage. CUFF has held a number of local events and presided over 22 matches since its first MMA event in 2010. Purple Dragon: 675-1688, www.purple-dragon.com • Shoto Kan Karate Do International Federation: www.skiftt.com

Motor sports — Rally Trinidad

Rally and drag racing are both very popular, with locations in south and central Trinidad like Couva and Preysal. The Rally Club hosts a Championship Series and an International Rally, among other events, like legs of the Caribbean Speed Stages Rally Championship. Rally Trinidad is perhaps the biggest motor sports event in T&T, attracting fans and competitors each March from all over the region. Rally Tobago entered its second year in 2010. Drag racing is popular, though it is yet to find a permanent base. There are five different rallying locations in south and central Trinidad. Trinidad & Tobago Rally Club: www.rallytrinidad.com; T&T United Drag Racing Association (TTUDRA): facebook.com/ttundradrags

Netball

At the international level, netball has been Trinidad & Tobago’s most successful team sport. We won the World Netball Championship in 1979 and our women have excelled ever since. Trinidad & Tobago Netball Association: tntnetball@yahoo.com

Sailing

Trinidad has one of the largest racing fleets in the Caribbean, and Chaguaramas is a major sailing hub. The racing season begins around November–December and continues till May–June. Dry season winds are stronger (northeast trade, consistent force 4-5), while in the wet season they tend to be lighter (1-3). The Sailing Association hosts 16 races, including general handicap races where any boat can take part. Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association, 634-4210, www.ttsailing.org

Surfing

From November to March, north coast beaches including Sans Souci provide favourable swells. Las Cuevas, L’Anse Mitan, Grande Rivière, Roughside and Salybia are also popular. In March, the Surfing Association stages the CSN Sans Souci, the first event in the cross-Caribbean Carib Challenge Cup series, with an international surf festival in May and national championships in July. The main season is November–March, but patience is needed—even then, surfing isn’t possible every day. But the hurricane season often produces waves well worth the wait. Surfing Association Trinidad & Tobago: www.surfingtt.org

Swimming & aquatics

Competitive swimming always had its fans, but the glory of local hero George Bovell III (four-time Olympian) has increased its popularity. A new world-class National Aquatics Centre was completed in 2016, intended to be a hub for local sports including water polo and diving, as well as to attract international swim events as part of a sports tourism thrust. Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad & Tobago: 643-2813, www.swimtt.com

Tennis

Tennis is a vibrant sport in Trinidad, especially at junior level. The recently completed National Tennis Complex (Tacarigua) is the centrepiece of the sport. There are also public courts at Nelson Mandela Park in St Clair; and courts for hourly rental at the Trinidad Country Club and some hotels. Reservations are needed to use public courts: if you are only staying for a short time, contact a coach through the Tennis Association—they have regular time slots. Courts at the Trinidad Country Club (Tennis Patrons Association) and at the Trinidad Hilton can be rented by the hour, but those at Tranquillity and Westmoorings require yearly membership. In 2006, Trinidad’s highest-ranked junior player, Lendl Smith, won the International Tennis Federation singles title. Also as part of the nation’s sports tourism thrust, a National Tennis Complex is being constructed in Tacarigua. Trinidad & Tobago Tennis Association, 625-3030, www.tennistt.info

Yachting

With its well-serviced marinas and boatyards, Chaguaramas is the hub of yachting activity. Immigration and Customs are based at Crews Inn. Chaguaramas’s sheltered harbours have turned it into Yacht City, with strings of maintenance and repair yards and marinas. The Yacht Club at Glencoe is a private marina, but temporary memberships are available for foreigners. Smaller marinas, like Tropical Marine and Sweetwater, provide basic facilities—Tropical Marine also does fibreglass repairs. Boater’s Directory, W: www.boatersenterprise.com; T: 634-4938 • Yacht Services Association of Trinidad & Tobago: 634-4938, www.ysatt.org • Trinidad Yacht Services: www.trinidadyachtservices.com • CrewsInn: 632-4542, www.crewsinn.com

Yoga

There are dozens of yoga studios across the country – Akasha Studio, Bliss Yoga and The Sangha among them – offering classes in various traditions such as Kundalini, Ashtanga and Hatha. Most studios are open-air, though some are quiet air-conditioned rooms. Classes are generally very affordable, and some are even donation-based. There are classes for kids and teenagers too.

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A team of of writers discovering Trinidad & Tobago for 25 years and counting!

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